Sweet Tooth 1: Out of the Deep Woods

Jeff Lemire’s post-apocalyptic tale of a boy (with antlers), orphaned and alone in a cruel world on the edge of survival

Sweet Tooth - Gus and JepperdThe cover of this book might make the series look a little twee, picturing as it does a young boy, with the antlers of a deer, eating a chocolate bar. But take another look at the expression on his face. That’s not the face of a boy who lives in a sylvanian paradise. That’s a look of fear.

Gus is a mutant, born in the aftermath of an apocalyptic catastrophe. Raised for nine or so years in a wood hut, deep in a north American forest, his father teaches him everything he needs to live the rest of his life in seclusion. This deeply religious man tells Gus that he must never leave the forest, as the outside world is consumed by the fires of Hell. But Gus can’t see the flames from his visits to the edge of the forest, and doesn’t understand that his father might be talking metaphorically.

Sweet Tooth - GusWhen his father dies, Gus has barely buried him before the outside world comes crashing in. He ends up being saved from hunters by Jepperd, a gruff man who claims he knows of a sanctuary where children like him, with animal mutations, can live safely.

Lemire’s story is crammed with surprises and twists. Just when you think poor Gus is safe, another violent obstacle is thrown in his way. It makes for an emotionally turbulent ride, with equal mixes of horror and suspense, made all the more gut-churning by Gus’s innocence.

The artwork is raw and dynamic, but strikes a fine balance, with enough detail to paint a vivid picture, particularly in the effortless emotion Lemire piles into his characters’ faces. The world may seem a little vague around the edges, but we’re exploring it as Gus does, in a blur of strange new experiences.

Sweet Tooth is a compelling take on the post-apocalyptic genre. It’s early doors for suggesting whether it can go on to become a classic, but the cliff-hanger at the end of this volume will certainly have anyone with a shred of compassion eager to move on to volume two to see what happens to Gus.

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