Review by Karl Verhoven
Unnatural Habitats revealed, to the reader at least, much of the background to Sweet Tooth as a whole, not least the origin of the plague that’s wiped out most of mankind, and continues to ensure all children born are some form of animal hybrid. This revelation was both disappointing and not necessarily required. Apart from anything else, if the reader knows the secrets it rather undermines the emotional involvement in the cast trekking to Alaska in search of them.
There are many thrilling moments in Wild Game, and several brutal intermissions as the cast diminishes toward a final showdown, but the surprises are few, and there’s a sense of Jeff Lemire re-treading old ground. There’s another chapter told as text and illustration in landscape format, there’s another dual simultaneous narrative, and there are more elusive dreams for Gus. When Lemire does depart from his established methods it’s to slip far deeper into action thriller mode. Although there have always been thriller elements, this total submergence is an odd departure, and contributes to a sense of coasting towards an end point that’s been determined not by the story’s requirements, but a fixed number of chapters. Shorn of mystery, the story is weaker.
The one element that’s remained consistently excellent throughout the series is Lemire’s emotionally compelling art. Gus has grown and learned as the series progressed, but his essential character remains wide-eyed and accepting, always seeking the best in anyone, and this is beautifully conveyed by Lemire. Nate Powell steps in to illustrate the history of the Abbot brothers, and while he’s good at telling his chapter in the style of Lemire’s layouts, he falls short of being able to convey emotional fragility in Lemire’s manner.
Criticism of Sweet Tooth is really only relevant when comparing this concluding volume to what preceded it. Lemire’s talent and standards are high, and this is in no way poor, just slightly disappointing. An extended final chapter restores the uncertainty and wraps things up in a manner surely satisfying to anyone who’s read the entire series. It ties in with the revelations of the previous book, and introduces a more spiritual atmosphere. “The Gods stopped listening to your kind a long time ago” one hunter is told, as society is reconfigured. Should it have been required, it also set the stage for further visits to the world Lemire created for Sweet Tooth, but the passing of time renders this increasingly unlikely.
If preferred, the series is now available in three bulkier volumes titled Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition.