The final 2/3 of the Sweet Tooth series by Jeff Lemire, which started off gloomy but promising: a dark, post-apocalyptic story about a disease that wiped out most of the population, leaving few humans behind, along with all new babies born with animal features. The remainder of the series aims to answer some of the questions posed by the beginning of the series, all while continuing with the grim mood, with glimpses of hope splashed within.
The 2nd book collecting story arcs “Animal Armies” and “Endangered Species”, with the 3rd and final book containing arcs “Unnatural Habitats” and “Wild Game”. We catch up here with the young deer boy, Gus, along with some other hybrid children in captivity after the man, Jeppard, brought him to the military compound. The children attempt to escape, while Jeppard struggles with what he has done to Gus. We also see the scientists trying desperately to find out why the disease began, and what Gus may have to do with it beginning.
The plot that follows is reasonably predictable if you’ve watched/read any post-apocalyptic stories before, but there are still some twists to be found in this story. There is also the inclusion of some religious iconography and Native American spirituality, which takes an interesting turn in revealing the source of the disease. It’s maybe a little fantastical, but there are animal-human hybrids running around, so I like to not be so choosy. There isn’t really a full mapped-out explanation as to what exactly happened and the progression of what happened with the rest of the country at this point, but it’s enough to satisfy and feel like there really is a reason. The big reveal, however, comes pretty early in book 3, so the rest of the story is a pretty predictable showdown and then extensive denouement which maybe lays out the ending a little too perfectly and nicely. I don’t want to say it’s preachy or has a really forced “message” but it almost veers into that territory. Gave me some Jean Valjean vibes in the end there, honestly… But I digress. I do like the expansion on the future world, however, and the hopeful, rebuilding that is presented for this new world emerging due to the events of the series. I also liked how as the series grew on, the children became more and more capable themselves: sure, they still had help during the major events of the novel, but in the end they needed to make their own choices for how the future would go, as we see in the last few segments of the final book.
I’m still not 100% sure the art style is for me, but it is visceral and gloomy enough to suit the overarching tone of the books. Some of the cover pages for issues included inside, however, as well as different versions added to the ends of the books, are pretty neat. I love all the different takes and styles people will use for the same stories.
Overall, this is an interesting and enjoyable series, if you’re into post-apocalyptic tales, though it may be a little predictable at times. That predictable or typical nature didn’t stop me from zooming through them all pretty quickly though!