Review by Karl Verhoven
Such is the narrative shift opening this book that those reading on directly from Endangered Species might wonder if they’ve somehow chanced upon mispackaged content. The story rolls back a century with the regular cast nowhere to be seen. It’s a brave move on Jeff Lemire’s part, and this is no brief detour of a few pages, but a revelation occupying almost half the book. It delivers many answers, but these aren’t all obvious until later events play out.
So, we’re introduced to Dr James Thacker in 1911 via his journals. He’s been despatched to Alaska by his sister, who’s also the fiancée of Louis Simpson, his one time classmate. “It’s under rather absurd and quite frankly still unbelievable circumstances”, he writes as his journey begins to find Simpson who, as far as he knows, has become a missionary. Locating Simpson is an arduous journey through terrifying conditions with a reluctant crew, and Thacker’s eventually embroiled in tragic events key to those occurring in the present day.
Lemire’s such a compelling storyteller that within pages Thacker’s concerns have supplanted questions about the previous characters. The weakness here, though, is that this entire section is illustrated by Matt Kindt. He’s a decent artist with a sketchy style, although occasionally slapdash, but can’t approach the emotional depth that Lemire’s art supplies. Kindt’s characters are standard material, and it’s the captions alone that deliver the punch.
When the story returns to the present day there’s tragedy, triumph and disclosures aplenty. It retains the slightly off-kilter tension, but there’s an odd shift of emphasis from the two cast members who’ve propelled the narrative to date. Unnatural Habitats delivers a big revelation that underpins the entire series, and while it certainly fits the nature of Sweet Tooth, there’s also an element of disappointment in that it induces a shrug of the shoulders rather than being a punch the air moment. As a whole Sweet Tooth might have been better off without this revelation, and Wild Game concludes the series. Alternatively, both are combined as the third Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition.