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.
So there’s a goal now: get to Alaska. No big deal, just climb the hill, take a slight left through Canada, and keep walking that angle until you hit water. Sweet Tooth: Endangered Species by Jeff Lemire, and special guests Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole), Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT), and Emi Lenox (Plutona, with, surprise, Jeff Lemire!), is moving everything forward by keeping everyone in the same place, and it's brilliant. The cast is growing, Gus is learning, and Jepperd is more than just a scowl.
This arc opens a little differently, turning the pages horizontally, like a flip book, and utilizing a simple typeface in place of balloons. The tone of the story changes for one brief issue. We still see some growing moments from Gus, as well as conversation between the other characters that allow for light exploration, but the end of the issue feels like Christmas. A gift for these characters is much needed, and the way they take something as simple as snow and revel in it is a wonderful thing.
Before we venture further, the guest artists must be addressed. Nate Powell keeps things a little more grounded, which works, considering the age of her character. The world is grim, to say the least, and the scenes are thick with tension. Becky’s childhood was bright and wide coupled big, bold eyes, skeletal mothers, and skull faces, Emi Lenox dances on the line between Becky’s horrific teenage years and her colorful childhood. Then we have Matt Kindt’s watercolors, which evoke a fairytale sense of wonder, telling us that the character still sees these not only these memories, but also current world, like this. While Becky isn’t much more than a child herself, Lucy still very much is.
Yet, their journey doesn’t end here, so they continue towards The Last Frontier (not to be confused with Final, Captain Picard). As they camp, Wendy, Becky, and Lucy regale each other with their experience with the beginning of the sickness. Each tale becomes progressively sadder, including snippets of the governments reaction to the hybrid children. This is exactly what the story needed at this point. We understand Jepperd, we understand Gus, but the world needed a few more souls. When Becky and Wendy were introduced, they didn’t seem like important characters, but their reintroduction proves how vital they are to this group. Had the other hybrid kids, Lucy and Bobby, been there without the older girls, Jepperd would have had a difficult time providing the care and nature such vulnerable children would need. It’s obvious he can protect them, but he isn’t a teddy bear. Not yet, at least.
Of course, the biggest turn of events in this arc was the introduction of Walter, Walter Fish, as he tells the girls. He immediately comes off...nice, and everything goes smoothly. He's disabled, quiet, and even has a home inside a water dam with ample room. As kind as Walter seemed, I only had one thought while watching him: who the fuck are you really? We learn about him, about his family, but we also learn that there's plenty he's leaving out. Tack on some incredibly creepy motions towards Becky, and I kinda want Jepperd to kick this guys ass. There's always more to the story, so nobody should be judge, jury, and executioner at this point, but I do have to side with Jepperd on this. Be careful.
One scene I adored especially was where Gus admits to Jeppered about having killed someone, specifically another hybrid. While it was in self-defense, Gus is a child and only thinks of God and forgiveness. When Jepperd promises Gus he'll never have to kill again, the care, anguish, and worry that is written on Jepperd's face is such a genuine turning point that I'm actually starting to have faith in him. On the other hand, I am worried for Wendy. A revelation in this arc could lead to one of two things: a moment for her character to be built up, strong, and for her potential to be realized and maximized, or she could become a plot point for Jepperd. If the latter happens, I'll be extremely disappointed. The revelation itself wasn't exactly expected, though it should have been. With the world being so damn screwed up, it was impossible for even this group to escape some of its horrors.
Lastly, Jeff Lemire's art left an insatiable hunger for more, as he always does. The moments in Gus' head was equally eerier and ethereal. A little too jarring for an entire book, but perfect for a dream sequence. Yet it isn't him I want to gush about this time. In my ignorance, I missed Jose Villarubia's name in the credits as the colorist. Any praise for coloring that was given to Jeff Lemire is immediately taken back and given to Jose Villarubia. In this arc especially, the colors are gorgeous. Transitions are smooth, color palettes are artfully chosen, and the dynamics of the book are always impeccable. Jose knows when to pull back, when to focus, and when to explode with his colors. I'm dreadfully sorry I missed his name.
Only two books left in the series. Apologies for the late post to all two of you who read this. Check out Ghosted: Books of the Dead this week, and Sweet Tooth: Unnatural Habitats next week!
Fermin Gonzalez needs to do his work on time, or he'll never be allowed to go outside and play. Next post will tell us where he'll be spending his time after school. Remind him to get to work on Twitter @koky_sorta