Just in time for a Netflix series adapting the comic's first series, creator Jeff Lemire returns to the world of Sweet Tooth with a reimagining that couldn't be more fitting for our times. As touted by the DC publicity team in the lead up to this series' anticipated return, Sweet Tooth: The Return isn't marketed as a "re-hash," but rather a "bold reimagining" of the story that came before it. Marketing lingo aside, that description is quite accurate.
From the second you open the cover, you find this story takes place "300 years later," suggesting that while it's a reboot of sorts, it seemingly still takes place in the same timeline as the initial story—and it opens in a place all-too-familiar for long-time readers of the series. Gus is here, and he's joined by another familiar character, but we won't spoil that reveal here.
The re-imagining is apparent from the start and the story makes that clear early. Through the first three-quarters of the issue, readers are treated to a storyline with some serious Handmaid's Tale-vibes. Early in the story they're led to understand Gus' new home is an artificial construct and robots swarm the woods to prevent the protagonist from going too far and seeing anything he should not.
In the debut issue, gone is the warm feeling of Americana as it's replaced with a cold, hard technological future that's reminiscent of Black Mirror episodes. With many other things from the mind of Lemire, there's plenty of mystery and complexity introduced from the start, something that could end as a slight turn off to new readers. Despite the layers of mystery, it feels like Lemire is still able to advance the story by leaps and bounds here, maybe even to a fault.
He quickly establishes the world for new readers before shifting them onto something else as our titular hero escapes the very land he wasn't supposed to leave. At this point, the mystery shifts from being "Is there an outside world?" to one where readers ask why Gus was held captive in a setting where only three other people even exist. At the very least, the pacing is solid enough throughout to demand your attention, even if it comes at the cost of shattering some of the in-world rules set up at the start of this issue.
Again, they promised readers a re-imagining and not a re-hashing, so you must applaud the creative team for taking creative risks with familiar characters and plot devices. What Lemire has introduced in these pages is interesting enough to return for a second issue, though this reviewer is underwhelmed with what could have been a much bigger debut. Luckily, Lemire dedicates enough space in his schedule to craft the artwork himself, as this world wouldn't be the same without him. It's a solid return, but Sweet Tooth: The Return #1 leaves a lot to be desired.
Published by DC Comics
On November 3, 2020
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Jeff Lemire
Colors by Josè Villarrubia0comments
Letters by Steve Wands
Cover by Jeff Lemire