Pick of the Week
What did the
Don’t expect to get blown away by Jeff Lemire. It doesn’t work that way. Now, I’m not saying the work doesn’t have impact, but Lemire’s comics don’t work the way others do. They don’t smack you in the face. Instead, they linger, and tug at you, and make you go back and read them again, and they make you wonder. At the conclusion of the first issue of his new series from Vertigo, Sweet Tooth, I’m left wondering, in the best possible way.
You could spend your dollar (and you really should) on Sweet Tooth #1 and buzz through it, and maybe even enjoy it, but maybe you’re not walking away with the feeling that you’ve seen something amazing. But then, I started thinking about it, making me read it again, and take stock of what we’ve actually got in our hands here. Lemire is covering plenty of ground he’s explored before: themes of loneliness, the noise that exists under the silence of words not being said, and the cruelty of ignorance. But he’s doing that in a new context. Essex County was in our world, and grounded in reality. The Nobody certainly has a foot firmly placed in science fiction, but again, the story was largely set in our world. Such is not the case with Sweet Tooth.
It might have started as our world, but that was a while ago, and things have changed quite a bit. We just don’t know what they are yet. We know there was an “accident” and the few kids born after the accident are “special,” presumable like our young protagonist, Gus, who seems to share some traits with a deer. Gus is confined to a fenced-in, wooded preservation with his widowed and deathly ill, very religious father. He’s seen nothing of the world outside, and neither have the readers. Like Gus, we don’t know what’s out there. We don’t know what the world is like, and that fear, fascination, and curiosity is transferred to us with all the creepy silence Lemire can muster. As I said, I’m left wondering, and want to go along with Gus on the journey he’s surely about to take. It’s a great set up for a story, and I have the knowledge that Lemire has absolutely nailed his past stories to spur me along for this one.
It will be plain to anyone looking at this book that Jeff Lemire doesn’t hail from the same art background as most of the mainstream superhero work out there. His work is much more evocative and expressive than it is bombastic. I go back to the word “quiet” to describe how it feels. There are all sorts of organic, scraggly, sketchy lines that convey emotion and tell a story more than they necessarily resemble something lifelike. It isn’t pretty, but it makes the reader feel something. It sets a mood, and lets you know where these characters are coming from a great deal faster than most creators could do with words. You can watch the tone of the art shift ever so slightly as the tension ramps up at the end of the issue. The angles get more extreme, and the stillness and coldness of the first half of the book are replaced by fear and motion. Again, it’s subtle, and it doesn’t hit you over the head, but it’s there, and it works very well.
I had wondered what sort of difference we would see in Lemire’s art once it was colored, but I was pleased to see that it works just fine. Colorist Jose Villarrubia managed to color the book very effectively, in a way that works with Lemire’s artwork. Too much detail and noise would have ruined the work, but instead the color fleshes out the world just a bit more, and works with the art and story seamlessly.
The thing is this. I don’t really know what this story is yet. I even declined to read Lemire’s essay/pitch for the book in the “On the Ledge” editorial section. I don’t want to know anything I’m not reading in the pages of the book itself. It’s a more satisfying and pure experience in that way. My recommendation is to that single dollar bill you’ve got somewhere, or even gather some change from under the car seat, and give this a shot. After you read about it, think about what was actually there, and how the book made you feel. Don’t expect to be blown away all at once. If you’re like me, you’ll be left wondering. The blowing away comes later, and it’ll be even better.
You ever seen a deer-one before?