Review: Sweet Tooth: The Return #5
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Colors: José Villarrubia
Letters: Steve Wands
Reviewed by: Seth Singleton
In Sweet Tooth: The Return #5 Mel discovers her brother Earl is alive. Then she returns Penny to her parent’s house and Earl and Gus hide in the caverns. Meanwhile, Father learns that one of his own freed Earl, Gus, and Penny but he does not seem as worried as he should.
Penny is a powerhouse. She and Mel do not know what the reader witnessed in the last issue. Penny’s father was thrown from a balcony by Father and died. Confused? So are Mel and Penny. Penny is at first shocked and then angry. In the end, she demands to find Gus and Earl so she can help them escape.
Mel discovers that someone has a secret past working for Father. Despite her anger, this revelation might provide the answers they all need to escape. But can they get back to Earl and Gus before Father finds them in the caverns?
Father is a brilliant villain. He is methodical and calculating. A digital clock reveals the depths of his patience. Panel after panel features a digital clock that would be at home on top of a dresser in many modern bedrooms. The only difference is that this clock is counting down. What is counting down to, is the manifestation of a dangerous plot.
Earl can’t talk. This means that pairing him with Gus is an opportunity for them to bond. But the reader can only hear Gus telling his side of the story. There are few moments in real life when a monologue seems plausible. Jeff Lemire takes full advantage of the moment. Steve Wands’ lettering brings out the subtle emotions expressed by Earl’s soft trumpeting.
Penny losing her father is heartbreaking. The scene when she first discovers he is dead is stark. Lemire and Jose Villarubias render jagged lines and pale colors. The panels feel washed out and evoke the cold that fills a room when someone dies. Sensitive readers will note the emotional weight. Those unencumbered by sentiment will appreciate the brevity and quick transition.
Sweet Tooth: The Return #5 knowingly addresses common storytelling arcs. It avoids them by deliberately taking the less obvious route when the opposite is most often expected. By changing the expectations of the reader the sense of mystery is sustained. Lemire’s storytelling choices and lines are given life and vibrancy by Villarubias’ colors.
The final pages of this issue offer up a wonderful backward glance at the story’s trajectory. Father’s patience and cold contemplation is a shocking revelation to Gus’s longest defender. Gus and Earl are the unwitting participants in a Trojan horse scheme. Their pursuit of a way out from the underground caverns has become a danger to them and everyone around them. Gus is afraid of the danger he might pose because of Father’s experiments. But his limited understanding of Father’s nefarious plan could make him complicit to the end of the topside world.