Story & Art: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)
Well well, another new Vertigo series, and one that continues with the excellent pricing policy of just $1 for the first issue to entice readers in (other companies trying to launch / re-launch a series at a $3.99 price point please take note – though little chance of that happening I know). Indie writer / artist Jeff Lemire brings forth his newest creation, Sweet Tooth, about a young boy named Gus who lives deep in the woods with only his father, completely isolated from the world outside. If that sounds simple enough, then the situation is complicated by the fact that this outside world has been hit by some form of destruction or apocalypse… oh, and Gus has been born with antlers, and apparently he isn’t the only one.
I could go into more detail into the developing plot of this first issue, and indeed Mr. Lemire even goes several stages further by revealing even more of the background and future roadmap for the book in a fairly open final-page editorial. But to be honest, it will only ruin your reading enjoyment, and hey, it is only a dollar…
As you can probably guess from the above, the pace is certainly fast-moving; in today’s era of decompressed storylines, you would have expected the whole issue to reveal probably no more than the first ten or so pages of this book, while hinting at the mysteries to come. More than simply making a refreshing change, this generates a rewarding element of surprise in the direction of this unfurling story. There are still plenty of unanswered questions of course, but overall it reads like a satisfying 20-page adventure, albeit with the requisite cliff-hanger ending.
While the page layouts are simple and the story-telling straight-forward, the artistic dynamics are impressive, with a rewarding dichotomy between the images and the text building a picture of the mystery that surrounds Gus’ family, and his place (or lack of it) in this new world. One double-page spread in particular really shows off Lemire’s artistic ability in both style and delivery. With both words and pictures, the creator infuses his characters with real humanity and emotion which fulfil the imperative of drawing the reader directly and wholeheartedly into this rather gripping adventure.
Ok, so on the surface this is another post-apocalyptic coming-of-age comic book, and perhaps it could be argued that we really don’t need any more of those. This could develop into a rather run-of-the-mill genre tale, with just a few minor gimmicks (antlers and chocolate bars) to try and differentiate it. But I don’t think so. Lemire has put obvious effort into constructing something which feels new and original, despite playing on some common sci-fi themes, and the artwork – understated but expressive – infuses the whole package with a promise of more quality comic book reading to come.