If Cormac McCarthy teamed up with David Lynch and Gus Van Sant to conceive of a comic book series that provides the antithesis to the thesis of “Y the Last Man,” I’m convinced that “Sweet Tooth” would be the result.
Assuming they brought Jeff Lemire in to draw it.
Lemire, who first gained prominence — at least as far as my bookshelf is concerned — with the Xeric-winning “Lost Dogs,” has carved a career for himself by telling stories about tough old men, stark landscapes, and the relationships between the past and the present — the relationships between the young and old.
Lemire’s stories take place far away from the urban centers, and his characters are men and women, boys and girls, of suggestion rather than statement. Their depth tends to come from what they don’t say, from their hints of meaning, from their lack of response. That doesn’t mean the characters are ciphers, it just means that they prove themselves mostly through their deeds, not their words.
And in this story — in this series about a bizarre post-apocalyptic world in which a boy with antlers and a rugged man with a mysterious past trek across the landscape looking for something called “The Preserve” — the deeds are direct, simple, brutal.
Issue #3 ended with a bedraggled bunny-eared girl on a bed, and this explores the outcome of that scene, as the girl is revealed to be wearing fake rabbit ears, the room a trap. Mr. Jepperd, the old man who protects the antler-sporting title character, convinces their captors to let them go, but he surveys the situation, and he goes back to take care of business before heading back out into the wilderness.
Lemire’s visual style is distinctively his — it’s a clunky, lumpy, thickly-inked world. It’s raw in the best possible sense. And between his words and pictures, he presents one of the few idiosyncratic voices in monthly comics.
“Sweet Tooth” may unfold a bit slowly for some readers accustomed to page after page of visual excess and heroic declarations, but if you can settle in to the Lemire rhythms, you’ll find a story that lingers. This is a series unlike anything else on the shelf right now. It has its own feel, its own look, and it deserves your time and attention. Like Sweet Tooth himself, it might be bit odd, but it’s damn endearing.