Having a baby is an earthshaking experience for most parents, and never has that been truer than for 16-year-old Sadie Ritter, and expectant mom whose imminent child stands to rock more than just her own world.
Donny Cates and Garry Brown’s Babyteeth #1 tells the story of Sadie immediately before and after the birth of her very unusual baby boy, bookended by a foreboding framing sequence that foreshadows dark times following her son’s arrival. Cates’ story effectively borrows from well-known properties like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby to deliver a convincingly creepy devil-child story, while Brown palpably renders a bleak world on two fronts: that of Sadie’s world as a pregnant teen with an uncertain future, and that very same future that appears to be very dark place indeed.
While Cates’ overall concept is one that’s been seen before, his and Brown’s execution of its minutiae is what makes it a compelling lead-in for subsequent issues. The publisher’s own solicitation makes no secret that Sadie’s baby is destined to be the anti-Christ, but Cates and Brown ensure that there are some fresh elements attached to the notion, even if some of those elements themselves have been used elsewhere. The associated and far-reaching effects of Sadie’s labor pains add a sinister expansion to the story’s scope, and Sadie’s name for her son – Clark, based on her affinity for Superman – adds the familiar reverse-messianic aspect of Superman’s character to the mix. The final page of the issue, and its location, implies further religious and possibly political ramifications resulting from the baby’s birth that all combine to take a familiar trope and make it into something unique.
Like his art in Brian Wood’s post-apocalyptic series The Massive, Brown’s harsh, cornered lines are well-suited to the atmosphere of a troubled world – both Sadie’s internal one facing the burdens that undoubtedly come with being the teenage mother of the anti-Christ, as well as the external one that appears to have suffered since the baby was born. While his overall look typifies the hard realities at both a micro- and macro-level, his inking textures differentiate them – the lighter touch used on Sadie’s earlier world signifies her disheartened reality in a comparatively normal setting, while heavier inks symbolically portray a far darker future for both. Most disturbing of all, however, is Sadie’s otherwise adorable baby boy, given a rather demonic touch by Brown.
Cates demonstrates his versatility, as well — mother of the beast or not, Sadie is all-too convincing as an otherwise normal, nerdy and perfectly likable teenager, at least before becoming that mom. Afterwards, her words are decidedly mature beyond her years, with her character clearly seeing growth in that time, yet remaining true to what Cates had already established. Cates also paces the earlier timeframe of his story, gradually escalating it from casual teenage interaction, to the tension driven by the pending arrival of Sadie’s baby, to the climactic moments immediately prior to his birth. Cates delivers a gamut of emotions throughout, and the diversity of the issue heralds promise for subsequent issues of the series.
Babyteeth #1 most definitely has teeth, with far more bite than a baby’s. Cates and Brown provide a creative effort that proves to readers this comic isn’t something that they’ve seen before, even if they think otherwise going in.