If you haven’t heard of Sweet Tooth, we don’t really blame you. None of Vertigo’s output gets that much press attention; especially compared to the more mainstream stuff pumped out by DC. Every other week there seems to be an event being touted as the ‘Next Big Thing’ that never really amount to much apart from killing off a character that people might like, or potentially changing the status quo for a few months.
But if you want your comics a bit less vanilla, and a bit more like chewing a part of pig that you’ve freshly torn off Huxley Pig, blood included, then Vertigo is definitely the place for you to start looking. And Sweet Tooth is a pretty excellent book to start that search with.
So, who doesn’t love anthropomorphised animals (created by evil scientists) set against the backdrop of a post apocalyptic disease that has destroyed the Earth? Idiots, that’s who don’t like that. Sweet Tooth is just like someone smashed Adventure Time right into the gaping maw of The Walking Dead. Except where Adventure Time is churlish and endearing, Sweet Tooth makes you want to really think about your life a bit and wonder what animal you wouldn’t mind being in an apocalyptic nightmare. Collectively, we would probably be a sarcastic band of grey squirrels. No one ever expects grey squirrels to take over the Earth. Except red squirrels.
Set on an Earth not too dissimilar from ours, and inspired by writer Jeff Lemire’s hometown in Essex County, Canada, Sweet Tooth takes us from a father and son living in solitude and fear from an outside World and the dangers to what that might bring (we’re presuming the initial Emeli Sandé Virus killed most of the cast of TOWIE on impact) to the introduction of one of the better elements of the book; the man know as Jeppard.
At first, Jeppard seems like a rough diamond that selflessly takes Gus (the main character who is 9 and has the features of a deer; like that Fall Out Boy video, but not totally pants) to ‘The Preserve;’ a paradise for people like Gus, so he can run and eat as much grass as he wants in peace and harmony without the worry of Dick Cheney missing Harry Whittington and planting a bullet right in his bonce. But obviously that would a really boring story: hulking man leads deer boy to a haven of fields and adequate shade. The End. Dull. Jeppard has his own demons and motivations to be fuelled by, and, of course we won’t be spoiling that, but let’s just say that he was Kaiser Sozer all along, Rosebud was the name of his sled when he was a child and that Mark Wahlberg hasn’t made a film as good as Boogie Nights since. There. All spoilered out.
There’s conspiracies, mysteries and emotion running through the throbbing centre vein of this book and it doesn’t disappoint like the later series of Jonathan Creek do, and doesn’t rely on massive cliffhangers like The Walking Dead does to make people come back time and time again. Gus’ literal and emotional journey takes centre stage through the book and regularly makes you want to cry tears of actual sadness and frustration that this poor Deer Boy is never going to be happy and that he will never be a lovely slice of veal for someone.
If you want to sound clever, then Sweet Tooth is one of the books that you can claim to read to make people impressed and as long as you stay one step ahead in the conversation, or have an easy out prepared (like; is that my phone ringing? or MY PERIOD!) you’ll be fine. If in doubt though, you can probably use the following words to keep up the illusion: Gus, Jeppard, evil scientists, literary tropes, lots of blood isn’t there.