Writer and artist Jeff Lemire (Black Hammer, Animal Man) and colorist Jose Villarrubia have returned to continue the tale of one of the best original comic stories of the past 20 years with “Sweet Tooth: The Return” #1. This new chapter of the sequel to the late-era Vertigo masterwork Sweet Tooth is packed with every bit of charm and storytelling intrigue that Lemire packs into basically every first issue he’s ever written, combined with his signature perfectly quirky art style. While some may find this issue frustratingly confusing, The trust in Jeff Lemire as a storyteller along with this issue’s obvious quality make this a completely enticing first issue that makes me want to see this mystery through to the end.
“Once upon a time there was a little boy named Gus. He had antlers and lived with his father in a little cabin in the woods. Then his father died, and the big man with cold eyes took Gus away. Gus went on many great adventures, found friends, love, happiness, family, and acceptance. Now, years later…it begins again. A young boy with antlers and deer-like feature wakes in a bizarre and completely foreign world where the last humans struggle to survive. They tell the boy he is special, he is chosen, and that he alone can lead them back to a world dominated by the oppressive Hybrids. “Sweet Tooth: The Return” is no re-hash of the original series, but rather a bold re-imagining of the Sweet Tooth mythology; taking elements of the original series and remixing them into something familiar, but totally new. A divided world. A planet long ago past the point of devastation. And at the center of it all, a child who didn’t ask to be born into any of this, but who has no choice but to try and forge some life for himself. His visions and dreams may not be real at all…they may just be fiction. But they are hope. And sometimes hope is enough.”
Writing & Plot
I find anymore that jumping into anything written by Jeff Lemire affords a kind of assurance of quality. Almost everything the guys puts out anymore is comics gold, and I have no doubts with “Sweet Tooth: The Return” #1. Lemire always seems to start a series with an enticing amount of mystery. From Black Hammer to Gideon Falls, and even to the original Sweet Tooth series, he knows how to present just enough info to get a reader acquainted with a world and its basic rules, all the while building an impossibly engaging mystery inside the narrative. The same goes for “The Return,” but with the added element of confused familiarity. The basic plot of this comic is so similar to that of the original opening issue of Sweet Tooth, but it contains so many weird variations. It’s almost as if Lemire forgot about the original Sweet Tooth, then played a game of telephone with a big group of people where the first person described the original comic’s plot and Lemire wrote down what he heard. This issue is a strange distortion of the original’s first issue, and this comic being a reimagining makes this all really intriguing. While I can see this being a delectably strange treat for fans of the original series, I’m not so sure new readers will get as much from the experience. So much of what makes this mystery work so well is that it’s rooted in what the reader already knows about the prior series. It’s certainly still a smartly paced issue, where Lemire wisely holds back as much info as he can while still offering plenty of story and character bits to keep the reader strung along. New readers will be treated to a strange world full of questions, much like people who read the original series’s opening issue were. However, those of us who did read the original comic will be reintroduced to that world, but with the additional sensation of knowing we’ve seen this before but knowing everything is out of place; and we desperately need to find out what has happened. I mean, it’s Jeff Lemire. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be a journey worth taking.
Not only is Lemire orchestrater of “Sweet Tooth: The Return” #1’s narrative and dialogue, but he also crafts the world with his own artwork. Lemire’s visuals are intimate and quirky, filled with fantastic character-focused detail and a lo-fi visual style. The aesthetic of Sweet Tooth as a whole will definitely not be for everyone, especially those who prefer more conventional or higher-fidelity visuals. However in my opinion, and I wager also the opinion of most Sweet Tooth fans, Lemire’s unique pencils are inseparable from this story, and “Te Return” couldn’t possibly pretend to be Sweet Tooth without them. To complete the visuals is returning colorist Jose Villarrubia, whose gorgeous watercolors range from pleasantly appropriate to downright euphoric based on the scene. The lettering from Steve Wands offers the same sort of professional roughed-edged aesthetic that the rest of the comic contains. The main font is partially classical, but with a rough-hewn design to it that fits the dialogue of Sweet Tooth himself as well as the rest of the cast (who I’m sure we’ll meet soon). The effect lettering uses a similar kind of unfinished design that matches with Lemore and Villarrubia’s visuals perfectly. This is exactly what any fan of Sweet Tooth could want in terms of the artistic vision of a new series in this world.
“Sweet Tooth: The Return” #1 is an opening chapter that is constantly posing questions to the reader. This comic’s status as both a reimagining and semi-sequel to the original series makes the mysteries it opens an entertaining lure for new readers, and a genuine mind-bender for fans of the original series. Jeff Lemire’s ability to open a story with a fine balance between thoughtful characterization and an intrigue-shrouded plot holds strong on this opening chapter. His unrefined but charmingly intimate visual style feels like coming home when opening pages to return to the world of Sweet Tooth. Whether you’re a fan of the original series or if this is your first time seeing a hybrid, you owe it to yourself to pick up this new #1 when it hits your local comic shop on 11/3!