A one-off format change can be tricky. You’ve got to make the temporary shift/homage come across as something that isn’t a gimmick, but rather done for story purposes. So for instance, when “The Unwritten” shifted into a choose-your-own-adventure comic one month, it both fit with the theme of “The Unwritten” in general, as well as the nature of the character it was spotlighting.
This month’s “Sweet Tooth” has Jeff Lemire temporarily abandon a normal comic book format in favor of a hybrid between comics and children’s books. Everything is rotated 90 degrees, and about a third of the book is drawn in large full-page splashes with narration on top. And at a glance, this could come across as a gimmick. Fortunately for us, it’s definitely not.
By shifting format, Lemire uses this as an opportunity to delve into Gus’s head in a way that we haven’t seen before. Gus and Mr. Jeppard are now “The Boy” and “The Big Man,” and this new narration comes across in a sweet, almost innocent manner. We get a direct look into the emotional chaos that poor Gus is going through after being first betrayed, then rescued by Jeppard, as well as the ever-changing surroundings. It’s also an important reminder that Gus and the other hybrids are just children; they may have to make adult decisions and choices, but they’re still not equipped to handle the fallout from those actions.
And while “Sweet Tooth” #18 may look to be all sweetness and nice, and just serve as an interlude, Lemire makes sure to pack in some important plot developments-like the presence of Dr. Singh in the group-and not make you feel like you’re wasting your time. “Sweet Tooth” is still moving forward and it’s a good set-up for the next big storyline around the corner. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Lemire’s art is beautiful as ever; coupled with Jose Villarrubia’s colors, it looks like a traditional painted children’s book, especially those final splash pages once they leave the shopping mall.
Lemire could have easily made “Sweet Tooth” #18 a quick, dashed-off time-saver, but instead his shift fit the series overall both artistically and thematically. For a book that had a slow start, I’ve come to love this book and care about its characters. (And it’s also a pleasure to see him write and draw all of the first 18 issues, although the guest-artist line-up for next month’s issue sounds fantastic.) This is a nice way to wrap up the current story, and to prepare for what’s up next.