A Sweet Year

Before Jeff Lemire had a DC exclusive contract, before he was writing the Atom, before he was handed Superboy, there was Sweet Tooth. Even before that there was The Nobody, and way back in the past (ancient history, by now) was the modern classic Essex County- a trilogy that received just as much press for its rural setting as it did for its moody inks and deeply beautiful characters- but those things are, right now, unimportant. All that matters right now is Sweet Tooth, because it seems that Vertigo is at something of a crossroads: several relatively popular and incredibly well-regarded titles from the imprint are about to disappear. There are no apparent replacements and, thus, Lemire's story about a deer boy named Gus in a post-apocalyptic world is one of the few young titles left in the imprint's stable.

Long time readers will remember that one of my first reviews for this site (almost a year ago, if you can believe that!) was the series' first issue. Yesterday, it completed the full circuit around the Sun with the release of issue #12. It's a mostly silent stand alone, punctuated only by supporting character Dr. Singh's narration at the bottom of each page, and it details the history of the plague, fills in some blanks, and suggests that Gus, good old Gus, is the cause of everything that has been wrought. It's a pretty effective technique, particularly because it allows Lemire to tie up some ends from the book's first year as well as remind us of exactly who Gus is, of what drives him. It's almost refreshing, after an arc that brought Jeppard's tragic past to the fore, to see that little glint of hope, tempered as it is by Singh's speculation. It's a little terrifying, too, because it doesn't really suggest anything about the book's future, and thus allows Lemire to be wildly unpredictable, inventive in a way he has not been, as of yet.

That's mostly been Sweet Tooth's problem, up until now- it hasn't blown anyone away. Month in and month out it's good, consistent comics, but it's never anything that you have to share, always sort of a private joy. Issue #12 is no different, but the experimentation with the form as well as the plot's ambiguities suggest that Lemire has something up his sleeve- and I have no idea what that thing might be, which might just be the kick the book needs. As long as he continues to play to his strengths, the book will be solid, month in and month out. He may need something more than that, though, to take his story to its conclusion and, because I believe in Jeff Lemire, because I was as taken by Essex County as I was by Blankets, because I know he has it in him, because of all that I believe in Sweet Tooth and I hope that it, unlike Air or Unknown Soldier, reaches its natural end.

Here's to more years of Gus.

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