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Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods - Book Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt www.femlitica.com jennifermuirhead.wordpress.com/
Published November 6th 2013
sweet tooth, comic, graphic novel


A deadly plague has wiped out most of humanity. The few children born to survivors are animal/human hybrids, basically human but with fur, ears or tails. Since they are immune to the plague people hunt the hybrid children to try and discover their secret. Gus, nicknamed "Sweet Tooth" is a nine year old boy with antlers. He has lived his whole life hidden in the woods with his father, never seeing any other humans. When his father finally succumbs to the plague Gus is left to fend for himself. He is nearly captured by hunters, but is rescued by a stranger named Jepperd who promises to take him to the Preserve, a safe haven for children like him. The innocent Sweet Tooth has little choice but to trust Jepperd. It remains to be seen whether the boy can soften the old man's heart before the hardness of the post-apocalyptic world crushes his own sweet spirit.

Sweet Tooth is Vertigo comic series written and illustrated by Canadian artist Jeff Lemire. The art is a little loose and sketchy and the colours are mostly muted blues, greys, browns and dark greens, in pretty stark contrast to the brightness and clean lines of some Marvel or DC books. I am probably reading to much into this, but there are a few little visual things that I thought might be symbolism or foreshadowing, but which might mean nothing at all. For example in a couple of panels of Jepperd where the pattern of shadows makes it look as though he has only one eye. Silhouetted against gnarled black tree branches this old man with his one eye saying "ain't no god here" made me think of the Norse god Odin.

The story is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, with the characters searching for the remnants of hope and human decency in what remains after society has crumbled. It's not as dark as the road or as other post apocalyptic comic series like The Walking Dead but there is plenty of violence, mostly meted out by Jepperd trying to protect Gus from just about everybody else. While Jepperd can be brutal you want to like him. I kept hearing his dialogue in Clint Eastwood's voice, the gruff reluctant hero as in Unforgiven, but it remains to be seen whether Jepperd is ultimately one of the good guys.

If it was a movie Sweet Tooth would not pass the Bechdel Test, a test named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The test measures the representation of women in films by three simple criteria. To pass a film has to have more than one woman in it and the women have to talk to each other about something other than a man. Sweet Tooth is a story about a man and a boy in a male dominated world. The only female characters in it are a handful of prostitutes and their madam who have half a dozen total lines among them and who are not important to the plot. This doesn't mean Sweet Tooth is not a good book, just that it is not a story about women, so if you are looking for interesting female characters look elsewhere.

Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods is a promising start to the series. It ends on something of a cliffhanger so I will be hanging out for the next one, Sweet Tooth: In Captivity.

Rated: 8/10
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