In “Sweet Tooth” #40, Jeff Lemire brings the story of a little boy with antlers to a most satisfying conclusion. While there are potentially more adventures and events of Gus’ life that could be told, the end of this issue leaves the reader with the certainty that “Sweet Tooth” has reached its natural conclusion and that Jeff Lemire has shared the most critical moments of Gus’ life.
The final issue opens with a tense chase, which organically leads to the revelation of Hybrid society’s evolution and an explanation of their current relationship with humankind. Throughout the issue, Lemire drops in narration to help set the stage and inspire emotion as each scene is intended to evoke certain reactions. This isn’t simply a story about a boy with antlers who found a man with guns; this is a story of remembrance, survival and the good left in the world. This is a story of hatred, desperation and war. This is a story of compassion, family and peace. The narration boxes Lemire writes could just as easily apply to the entirety of the series as it does specifically to the scenes in “Sweet Tooth” #40.
Lemire’s artwork in this finale is nothing short of inspirational. While, some of the figurework is lose and sketchy and many of the scenes are heavy in shadow, it’s the visual presentation Lemire has developed for “Sweet Tooth” since the first issue — and it certainly works for the story. Jose Villarrubia and Lemire combine to boldly add color to Lemire’s art, with emotional watercolor flashbacks that reflect on the series and the adventures of Gus, Bobby, Wendy and the other Hybrids. The color and linework combine to make “Sweet Tooth” #40 beautiful in its simplicity and simply beautiful.
Perhaps most impressive is how the art and story meld together perfectly in “Sweet Tooth” #40. While some writer-artists would skimp on narrative in text form in order to promote unhampered visuals, Lemire has found the perfect balance of both in this single issue. What Lemire delivers to the readers is, quite simply, a story that can only be told in comics. In “Sweet Tooth” #40, however, the unrefined line of Lemire’s art, washed in the emotional spectrum of watercolors and more traditional coloring for modern scenes, coupled with details and introspective thoughts transmitted in caption boxes adds depth and gravity to the adventure, truly rounding this comic book into a mighty example of the potential comics have for storytelling in a variety of genres.
This series is a timeless tale of warning and acceptance, determination and challenge. Through that tale we’ve seen not only the characters, but also the creator grow. As a comic book professional, Lemire has been able to shape his career through his work on “Sweet Tooth.” He was already critically successful before this series, but the writer comic book fans enjoy on “Animal Man” and “Justice League Dark” wouldn’t exist if not for Gus. It’s only appropriate that Lemire give such an emotional, well-crafted sendoff to his critically acclaimed creation.
Regardless of depth of familiarity with the concept or the characters, Lemire places enough care and creativity into this issue to make “Sweet Tooth” #40 complete and compelling. “Sweet Tooth” has enough depth and development within to consider it a fairytale, thanks to the lessons imparted and morality emphasized. I have no doubt readers will set up their back issues to relive the entire tale once more after closing this issue, while those who came late to the story will undoubtedly seek out the entirety. This series has been unique and heralded as such, but “Sweet Tooth” #40 is, quite simply, the best single-issue story in the story of the boy with antlers.