REVIEW: Babyteeth #8

BABYTEETH #8 / Writer: Donny Cates / Artist: Garry Brown / Colorist: Mark Englert / Letterer: Taylor Esposito / Cover Artists: Garry Brown and Mark Englert / Release Date: February 14, 2018

Donny Cates is the man of the hour. He is writing some of Marvel’s best titles (Doctor Strange, costarring Loki the Sorcerer Supreme, is a treasure), Reactor is off to an awesome start, and I do not know a single person who did not lose it over God Country. For me though, Babyteeth is his best title. Babyteeth follows the story of Sadie Ritter, a sixteen year old mother who narrates the crazy journey of her life to her newborn son, Clarke. It is worth mentioning that Clarke is the Anti-Christ and the reason Sadie’s life is uprooted into a fight for survival against demons, cultists, assassins, and rich men trying to prevent the end of the world. Sadie Ritter was the best narrator of 2017 and continues to be in 2018, with a strong voice full of youthful exuberance, verbal mannerisms, and a strong criticism of everything.

Sadie’s journey leads her from Salt Lake City, Utah to an underground coven in Maine, lead by her absentee mother, Christine. Sadie’s mother is the figurehead of a religious order called “The Way”, who wants to help Clarke bring about the End Times. This issue is centered around a conversation between Sadie and Christine, delivering a lot of answers about the nature of Clarke and Sadie’s family lineage. As her mother delivers a torrent of End Times related exposition, Sadie responds with all the class of a 16-year-old running on limited sleep. I do wish Sadie’s reactions are a little stronger to some pretty big revelations about her family, but she continues to be the same bitterly charming character I adored in 2017.

While Sadie and Christine converse, Sadie’s sister, Heather, and father, Michael (prefers ‘The Captain’) also have a family reunion of sorts with a hereto unknown sibling. There is definitely an implication of quasi-incest that issue conceals through strategic placement of information, but in a post Game of Thrones era does it really carry the weight it used to? Regardless, Heather and The Captain are two strong characters who have to overcome a lot of personal faults to help Sadie protect her child. This family unit is strong and is probably soon to come under fire if Christine gets her way.

Babyteeth also boasts a strong artistic team in the form of Garry Brown, Mark Englert, and Taylor Esposito. Brown’s pencils are strongest when it comes to the environment. His background details are insane,  often foregoing blank backdrops in favor of tribal patterns. Englert does an excellent job of coloring in his backgrounds, creating a scale of dark blues and stark reds that create a visual dichotomy to amazing effect. And when the panels are blank, Englert does a superb job of using shadows to hide any shortcomings in Brown’s art; this is a team that works in sync to lift the other up. There is a real obsession with smoke and steam in this issue, but it cuts through Englert’s shadows to prevent them from becoming overbearing. Perhaps my favorite visual touch of the issue is how fire casts an orange glow, instead of shadows, over nearby characters; this is so rarely done in comics. This is moody art with some hella moody colors over top and it works perfectly.

The character work in Babyteeth is not as strong, but still far from bad. Brown’s figures fit nicely into the world he creates, but his facial expressions need work. Despite emotive eyes, sometimes facial features are condensed in a way that is almost comedic, which undercuts the tone of the issue. The Captain has the best reactions in the issue and Brown does a really good job of conveying the sternness that comes with his age. There is also an unexpected death in the issue and the way fire splits and cracks the character’s skin is awesome. Brown does a great job with charred corpses and demons and that is something the series needs from him.

Taylor Esposito is a more polarizing part of the artistic team. He does a strong job with the dialogue lettering. There is a distinction in levels of volume when characters are yelling or whispering and he does a really good job of emphasizing key words in the dialogue to make Sadie’s dialogue pop. At the same time though, his sound effects leave a lot to be desired. They are rather flat and fail to enhance the scene they are placed over; it would be cool to see the fire sound effect whoosh up the character, rather than just sit to the side of the character. There is at least some diversity in the color scheme of the effects, but I want to see more interactivity with the panel in future issues.

Babyteeth #8 is a slower issue in the series, focused on the Ritter family and explaining some of the universe’s rules. This series is full of vibrant characters that we do not see here, but the Ritter family continue to be the strongest members of the cast. Garry Brown and Mark Englert are a strong artistic team that enhance each other’s work and Esposito does a really good job of dialogue lettering while his sound effects leaves more to be desired.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 Vomiting Demons

Shaun Martineau is a young Canadian father and undergraduate with a BA in Cultural Theory and Creative Writing. He has reviewed Marvel titles for nine years but broke away in 2017 to focus more on smaller publishers like Aftershock, Black Mask, and Action Lab.

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