Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Sweet Tooth Vol 6: Wild Game by Jeff Lemire Review

Gus, Jepperd, and co. leave Evergreen for good and head to Alaska where they find out the cause of the Plague that wiped out humanity. The Militia catch up with them and a desperate final battle takes place.

That's about it for this book. The big reveal behind what caused the Plague which we found out about in Book 5 isn't built upon in this book so there's no larger mystery unearthed for readers in this book. That disappointing explanation in Book 5 is it. Jeff Lemire even has Jepperd tell Gus something like "it's not about what happened, but about what happens now". So he's saying not to worry about the past and how things got to this point - even though that's been the motivation for these characters for so long!! It's such a cop out.

Most of the book is Jepperd (who's essentially Frank Castle, that's how original his character is) and a few other dudes preparing their final stand against the insane militia hunting them down. Lots of fighting ensues with the end as predictable as ever - what do you think, do the bad guys win or lose? Exactly. And let's talk about these militia: they're looking for a cure to the plague and they're doing this by exterminating every hybrid they come across. How do these two goals correlate in any way? Nonsense.

So with the big battle over and done with and the cause of the plague revealed (several issues ago in the last volume but whatever, we get a redux in this book), all of which takes up the bulk of the book, what happens next? Think the end of Return of the Jedi. Yeah. The story jumps ahead a couple decades as we catch up with Gus and what happens for the hybrids and humanity next. The upshot of it that made no sense to me was that with humanity alive, there will always be pain, suffering, war, etc. Which kind of makes sense because the hybrids in this series have been gentle, kind, and hunted unjustly. Except Lemire drops the ball again by making the hybrids as bad as the humans. And then when the humans are gone and it's just the hybrids, war, hatred, all that bad stuff is magically gone. WTF?! Kumbaya...

And what about Dr Singh, the Dr Mengele of the series? His experiments on hybrids, his long-term religious insanity, is all forgiven in the blink of an eye and he suddenly becomes one of the most valued members of Gus' group. Whaaaaaaaaaat? So all that evil stuff he got up to is forgotten? His insanity is suddenly cured? Gee, that's awfully convenient!

The ending itself, which I won't spoil here, ties everything up in a nice, tidy bow. It's too neat, too pat. It's the equivalent of "and they all lived happily ever after...". BARF! And as if to further underline the overly-sentimental tone of the story, Lemire resorts to repetition in the script. The last chapter has Lemire repeat "This is (fill in the blank)" over and over, eg. "This is a story about a man and a boy", "This is a story about survivors", "This is a story about forgiveness", until the last pages which repeats "This is a story" over and over and over again. It's so badly written, it reads like a high school kid writing what he thinks is "deep" poetry!

But if the writing is lacklustre and uninspired, the art more than makes up for it. Lemire draws nearly the entire book in his wonderful signature style that's fitting for the final book in his series. The excellent Nate Powell joins him to draw a few pages of Doug, the militia leader's, history, adding his brilliant art style to the mix - it makes me wish he'd drawn the Matt Kindt-illustrated sequence in the last book. The art is the best part of the book but unfortunately can't save it.

Sweet Tooth started off quite well back with the first couple of volumes but it's been increasingly shaky these last few books until the wheels fell off the bus with Volume 5 and the wreck crashed with Volume 6. Maybe it's Lemire's workload that's caused this series to lose its vitality and spark of originality? After all, when he started in 2009, he wasn't that well known to those who don't read indie comics. Today, he's been the writer of Animal Man, Frankenstein, Constantine, Justice League Dark, Trinity War and a whole slew of other projects for DC, all of varying quality. With so much going on, it's understandable that his other projects would suffer, like Sweet Tooth did.

Maybe it's because he originally planned the series to be 20-30 issues and it wound up being 40, that the series has had so many ups and downs as Lemire stretches a far shorter story into a longer one?

Whatever the reason for the dip in quality these last couple of books, the series went from promising and original to downright miserable and boring. The "tragic" angle of the story became almost a parody of what tragedy is as every single page became a tribute to the dark side of human nature in an almost unrelenting tattoo of depression. Gus and Jepperd's journey became disjointed and then dull, culminating in a predictable and forced conclusion that wasn't convincing. Riddled with clich├ęs, little or no original characterisation, and poorly written, the series has been disappointing and unsatisfying. Lemire's best work remains Essex County, the book he wrote/drew before he got involved with Vertigo/DC.

Sweet Tooth Volume 6: Wild Game

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