Sweet Tooth, Vol. 5: Unnatural Habitats by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It was two NY Comic Cons (2012) ago when I heard Jeff Lemire speak about the eventual end of Sweet Tooth. It has been one of my favorite series and though it has been a while since I read Volume 4, things slowly started coming back to me as I read about Jeppard, Dr. Singh, Lucy, Sweet Tooth and the others. There’s a well placed twist in the story here involving the inhabitant of the dam that they discover in Volume 4. It’s difficult to discuss without dropping a spoiler, but I can say I wish there was a little more backstory about the inhabitant (maybe it’ll be in Volume 6?)
The first half of the book is set in the distant past (early 1900’s/late 1800’s) before the virus that produced “animal children” and then proceeded to wipe out most of the earth’s human population began. The crew of the merchant ship Aberdeen has been hired to escort Dr. James Thacker to Alaska in search of his brother-in-law-to-be, Louis Simpson. Louis had left England for Alaska with a group of missionaries intent on bringing “civilization” to the native “savages” (the Inuits). Up until half a year ago, Louis had written James’ sister regularly. When his letter’s stopped, his sister fell into a depression and now James is on a mission to bring him back or at least find out what happened.
Part of what’s interesting about the Sweet Tooth series is how society has remade itself since the mass infection. While I am definitely curious about why Sweet Tooth doesn’t have a belly button and anxious about the insertion of “mystic forces” into the story (as alluded to in the first half of this Volume), it is sometimes more interesting for me to wonder about the “normalcy” the secondary characters have chosen for themselves. In Sweet Tooth you are presented with an assortment of loners and various “tribes” (gangs, armies, communities). Each has chosen a particular way of coping with ongoing loss and dangers of the remade society.
I want to know how it ends. I want to read Volume 6. I am worried though that Lemire will take the story on a mystic/supernatural direction as opposed to science fiction one. So far the story has interpreted events from a scientific perspective. It’s how we meet Dr. Singh. But there’s been a hint of religion and mysticism since Singh discovered Sweet Tooth’s father’s “bible”.
With regard to the artwork, I think this is the first time another artist has drawn Sweet Tooth. If not, I think in all of the volumes there has been an identical look and feel. The “Taxidermist” story that begins this Volume has a slightly different look and feel. It was done by Matt Kindt. The lines are fuzzier and the faces less angular, which works as the story takes place in a whole other time and generation. On page 15, there is a depiction of a sled dog on the top of the page that looks almost like a picture taken from a children’s book (simple lines and soft colors like looking a something that is ever so slightly blurred or the difference between a color pencil and a crayon). I like this effect because it allows you to interpret it as a sort of dark and sad children’s bedtime story.
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