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Sweet turns sour
on November 18, 2012
The first half of the book takes the story back to 1911 where a wealthy young Englishman goes in search of his brother-in-law who has disappeared after going to Alaska to spread the word of god to the native Eskimos. But what he finds in the snowy wasteland is the beginning of the end for humanity... Meanwhile back in the main storyline, Gus and Jepperd find out the real story behind the Evergreen Project.
The biggest problem I had with the book is in the first half of the book where it's revealed how the plague that wiped out most of humanity started and where it came from. I won't tell you what it turns out to be but it's really disappointing. I read it and thought - that's it? I was expecting something a bit more complex, a bit more innovative maybe, but not what it turns out to be. It was so disappointing it diminishes the entire series for me. Whereas once I was excited about the storyline and what Jeff Lemire might do with it, now I've seen more of the whole picture, I'm far less excited.
As for the rest of the storyline, it feels strangely gridlocked. For those who read Book 4, the focus remains in the dam. The one character in the book who tries moving the main plot forward gets pushed out of the story and instead the book focuses on all the secondary characters you don't care about who are now inexplicably dictating the series' direction.
Lemire announced earlier this year that the series ends on issue #40 which, as I write in November 2012, is the next issue to be published, so there's going to be a Book 6 and that's it. Reading Book 5, it feels like Lemire has totally run out of ideas. Both storylines in this book are badly written, poorly characterised, and plotted in a slapdash way. And the art by Matt Kindt is just horrible, the less said about this guy's work, the better.
The storyline with Gus and Jepperd is just as bad - the main storyline, of Gus following his dad's Bible to the location that reveals who he is, etc. goes nowhere in this book, sidetracked entirely by a pointless side story.
On a more general note, now that the series is wrapping up I can look back on the 5 books and say that Gus aka Sweet Tooth is a pretty poor main character. He's perpetually startled-looking, standing around reacting to things while his guardian Jepperd saves him from all manner of threats. He's probably the least involving main character of a comic book series ever created and I like and care about him less and less with each book. Lemire seems to sense Gus' passivity as he addresses it in this book but even so it's a token gesture that doesn't make up for 5 books of Gus more or less being a pawn pushed around by all the other characters.
Lemire's had a prolific year, "Unnatural Habitats" being his 5th book published in 2012 after DC's New 52 series' "Animal Man" and "Frankenstein", the Top Shelf-published "The Underwater Welder" and Book 4 of Sweet Tooth, "Endangered Species" - so maybe because he's stretched thin on so many projects, that's why the book feels so rushed and poorly put together, but still, for a penultimate volume this is weak stuff. Instead of ramping up the excitement and intrigue for a big finale Lemire manages to deflate the series with some uninspired plotting and feeble storytelling choices. "Unnatural Habitats" is a let-down for fans of the series and I have lowered expectations for the final book.