Jeff Lemire’s work on Vertigo’s Sweet Tooth has been nothing short of remarkable. Within a year, he’s established a series with alternative comics quirk, immense heart, and compelling characters that tug at your heart strings and disturb your senses. With the release of Volume 2, In Captivity, Lemire expands our notions of what this story was going to be about.
With volume 1 (read our Sweet Tooth Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods review), Lemire introduced us to a mysterious post-apoalyptic world in which human/animal hybrid children seemed to be the mysterious cause of a plague that wiped out nearly the entire world. At the center of it all is Gus, a boy with antlers, and Jepperd, the loner with ulterior motives that brings Gus to what is essentially a concentration camp for these hybrid kids. Despite our utter hatred for Jepperd’s betrayal at the end of volume 1, In Captivity... captivates us as Lemire explores the background of the character.
While Gus’ story moves forward as he meets new kids at the camp and undergoes tests to determine his role in the plague, In Captivity shines best when it’s focusing on Jepperd. Lemire tells the tragic tale of Jepperd’s past as he and his pregnant wife search for a safe haven amongst the chaos that the world has fallen into. This angle creates a sympathetic feeling towards the character that many readers might not have felt after the way he treated Gus earlier in the story. The amount of time between Jepperd’s wife’s death and the present is undetermined, but Lemire shows Jepperd’s deterioration as a character in both his dialog and the way he draws him. Jepperd, as we know him, speaks curtly and rather brashly. He’s full of wear and tear, a certain harshness in his visual characteristics. In the flashback story, he’s significantly less worn and is more open to conversation. In fact, he’s a source of stability for his wife. It’s remarkable to see these two vastly different sides of a character within the same story arc as Lemire leads us through how he got from point A to point B.
The Gus portion of In Captivity is less interesting than Jepperd, but still continues to deftly evolve the character. Stuck in the prison camp, Gus quickly learns the cruel nature of human beings outside of the woods, as well as some clues to his past. Lemire begins to work towards a big reveal in regards to exactly what happened to the world, and in the process builds up some great new characters.
Sweet Tooth continues to be a great new addition to the Vertigo catalog, delivering something that is entirely different to every other property currently running under the imprint.