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.
Fuck, is exactly how I felt towards the end of this volume. While the sentiment may not be professional, it’s definitely warranted. Sweet Tooth: Unnatural Habitats by Jeff Lemire, Jose Villarubia, and special guest Matt Kindt has solidified my love for this book. I feel lucky, considering the first two Run Through’s I’ve done have been about two fantastic series’. This volume was especially insightful, lending more to the word’s history, providing opportunities for some characters, making me chuckle, and worrying me about one particular thing.
Matt Kindt begins this issue providing art for a story predating Gus and Jepperd. A taxidermist in 191 1England sets off to find his missing future brother in law, finds him, and then discovers the source of the illness, though he isn’t aware of the implications just yet. There’s a baby deer boy involved, but at the moment we’re not sure if it’s Gus. While the question of “where did the illness come from?” isn’t usually one I care to ask, but when there’s a world populated by hybrid animal/human children, I become a little curious. As good as Jeff Lemire’s script is here, Matt Kindt’s art is wonderful. Like in Endangered Species, his watercolors change the tone of the story, lightening it without eliminating the gravity, and even adding sound. I swear I could hear the snow. Grotesque and violent scenes stand out even more because of this, and his color palette is impeccable for the mood. Specifically, his use of pink in the background of a massacre was jarring, but a massacre probably would be.
Half of this volume is about 1911 Alaska, while the other half is modern day Nebraska. The revelations from the last arc have come to full fruition this time. The surprising part here is that a month has passed, and everyone is relatively safe. While the truth about Walter, or better yet, Haggerty, takes a while to slip out, it’s Wendy’s physical state that is shocking. This is where I’m worried. We know this illness is life threatening, and I won’t say whether she dies or somehow miraculously lives, but a death could lead to an all too common trope. Woman dies, man has epiphany, man becomes better for it. Realistic, yes, but it’s such a throwaway of a potentially good character. Yet, at the same time, the removal of the disease, or even just the lack of sickness within the group, would lessen its danger, as I said during the last volume.
But there is something I absolutely loved about this volume: they didn’t need Jepperd to be saved. Even more so, Jepperd had a satisfying story that didn’t involve ripping someone’s spine out. Gus, Lucy, and Bobby protected themselves valiantly, especially with the nervous leadership of our good ol’ Deer Boy. Becky was treated to some abuse, which I’m not a fan of. I’m waiting for Becky to progress in her character, and I believe she will after this volume, though I hope it’s of her own accord and not because of some evil man.
As for Jepperd, his story was a little different, and all the better for it. While he spends the first half of his story doing what he always does, it wasn’t until he’s captured that we see the start of something hopefully inspiring. While he’s had to be the sole savior of everyone in his group, this new character can definitely protect himself. What this will lead to remains to be seen, but I only imagine beers, if they can find some, will be involved, alongside some serious ass kicking later on.
Jeff Lemire’s art is always amazing, but what really stood out this issue was his paneling. The use of blank space and angular panels focused a scene and quickened the pace, respectively. Panels are usually meant to be invisible and direct the flow of dialogue and action, but deliberate sections like in this volume do wonders for the reader's sense of movement, tension, and the dynamics of the story. If anything, panels are ignored too often.
I'm completely enamored with Jose Villarubia's colors. He keeps the word grounded, but is able to use pops of color in such wonderfully fulfilling ways. I've talked about his choice for background colors before, but it's simple things like Jepperd's black eye or Gus' scarf that really stand out. It brings so much more life to what would have been a very muted comic otherwise.
And that brings the fifth volume to a close, with only one more left! I know I missed Ghosted: Books of the Dead last week. Yell at me, please. But I assure you it'll be up this week, and then next week I'll finish with Sweet Tooth: Wild Game. I don't know if I'm ready.
Fermin Gonzalez needs to step up and do his work. Blame him for everything on Twitter @koky_sorta.