In The Run Through, we’ll be looking at completed comic book series, one volume, one week at a time, from the critically acclaimed to the virtually unknown. The goal is to provide our readers with something new to bite into. This isn’t a review, it’s barely a recommendation. It’s an informal glance at comics that made it to their final issue, and we want to read the stories arc by arc, as they were ultimately intended to be consumed. While there may be minor spoilers, any major developments will be vaguely referred to, so don't worry. No stars, no bashing, just what we did and didn’t like. And yes, we want to hear from you too.
Jeff Lemire left me nervous last week, and I’m still not sure how I feel. The end of the second volume, Sweet Tooth: In Captivity, had an unfulfilled but intrigued tree trunk of a man, a small, darling boy with antlers, and left me with plenty of questions about the world. I don’t mind the questions, nor do I mind Gus, but Jepperd had me on edge. I knew he’d have a tragedy in his story, and that he was angry, but I didn’t know how broken. His redemption intrigues me, but is it enough to detract from how expected his character has been so far?
Also, who the fuck is Gus’ father?
The entire arc is spent in a prison, for both characters. Gus remains inside the preserve, as Jepperd called it, though in actuality it’s a militia camp focused on finding a cure for the disease that has killed billions. Gus is still small, delicate, but seems to have stolen some bravado from Jepperd. He protects some of the other hybrids in the camp, and feigns some courage. He hasn’t distanced himself from crying and huddling in a corner, but a slice of bravery like this is enough to make me believe in the kid. We learn about his father, about his possible connection to the disease, and why Gus says he predates the epidemic. I’m beginning to care for little Gus, and I want him to fight back some more, hopefully with the help of Jepperd.
That’s if Jepperd is any better off than Gus. Arriving from the first volume to the second, it’s an easy assumption that the reader isn’t on Team Jepperd. After selling Gus off for a duffel bag, containing who knows what (actually, you find out rather quickly), Jepperd returns home, and we begin to understand the man behind the rage. He has a legitimate anger, even if legitimacy is usually never a factor in a post-apocalyptic world, and it overtakes him. He breaks halfway through the arc, and we relive his life after the sickness.
Unfortunately, I’m still not sold on Jepperd. I don’t want him to be the overplayed character I’m thinking he may be. A man, broken by his past and the things he’s had to do to survive, finds a path to redemption through a would-be son. Then again, I’m always toting the idea of concept vs. execution and that execution always wins. And if I have to bet, though I don’t do it much, I’ll bet on Jeff and Jepperd.
If for whatever reason the story doesn’t hold you in, the art will. Jeff Lemire is able to translate so much more through his art than his writing, at times. Darkness and lighting seem to be his best friend, and not just for the scenes inside buildings. Outside, the oranges and blues simmer down to something soft and poignant. The scene with Jeppard and his shovel is especially heart wrenching, as we see him realize more and more what kind of man he is.
Terror is a close second best friend, if people have those. The messy, widened eyes that Jeff Lemire creates are startling, especially in his larger pictures. Covers that show Gus larger this home, and a walk with the doctor on top of his antlers does well to tell us about Gus. He sees himself as a giant, threatening to his home, and this doctor, who’s leading the way, seems to know Gus’ body better than Gus does. I’ve mentioned cliffhangers and how I hate them, but this creator does it within the issues with a cringing execution. Seeing Gus injected with some kind of anesthetic literally made me turn away.
I’m teetering. I want more of Gus, more of Jeff Lemire’s art, and I want Jeppered to have redemption worth the time. This volume definitely pushed me towards enjoying this rather than not, and maybe volume three will as will. To be honest, I have to return if only to find the answer to one question:
Who the fuck is Gus’ father?