REVIEW: Babyteeth #9 “Parental Chaos”

BABYTEETH #9 / Writer: Donny Cates / Artist: Garry Brown / Colorist: Mark Englert / Letterer: Taylor Esposito / Cover: Garry Brown & Mark Englert / Publisher: Aftershock Comics / Published: March 21st, 2018

Babyteeth #9 is that moment where the shit hits the fan. And in this issue, it comes from all directions. The Captain and Heather are in the midst of trying to rescue Sadie and Clark (the possible Anti-Christ) from Dancy (Sadie/Heather’s vampiric step-sibling) and Christine (their mother) who runs The Way, a cult based in Maine that wants to use Clark to bring about the End Times. While their rescue mission is underway, the Way’s headquarters is attacked by The Coyote, an assassin who until recently worked for a group called the Silhouette, who want to stop the End Times by killing Clark. The Silhouette sent The Coyote’s daughter (The Prairie Wolf) to kill Sadie and Clark, but she was in turn killed by a demonic raccoon that follows Clark around. Because of this, The Coyote killed many (all?) members of the Silhouette and seems determined to do the same for The Way. The chaos sees several members of the cast work with and against one another.

Honestly…it didn’t work for me. I can explain why. This series is all about family. Clark Ritter is the thing that seems to pull Sadie’s fractured family (in this case, The Captain and Heather) back together. Things are complicated when Sadie’s mother threatens to tear them all apart again in favor of her cult and the End Times. There is also the matter of Dancy, a vampire-like being that is implied to be the child of Christine; it is also implied that Dancy slept with Heather, his half-sister. There is so much going on with the Ritter family alone that when The Coyote’s family drama gets pulled into the mix at this junction in the story, it becomes too much to balance.

The tension between Dancy and Heather is ignored in an effort to shuffle one of them off the board permanently. The tension between Sadie and her Mother is ignored in favor of chaos caused by the Coyote. The Captain’s agency feels stripped from him, which is odd given his status as a one-man army in the previous issue. The scene between him and Sadie in the middle of the issue feels out of place, especially given where Heather finds herself at the same time. I am heavily invested in both Sadie’s and The Coyote’s family-driven storylines, but this is not how I wanted the two to collide.

Babyteeth #9 is Mark Englert’s moment to shine. While the script does a lot to create a sense of chaos, Englert’s colors truly sell this issue’s chaos. He does a lot of strong work contrasting both light and shadows against a chaotic red that is present on every page but one. This allows the one page to serve as a breather before a final scene that shifts the series’ emotional drive into high gear.

Garry Brown’s visual storytelling takes a hit for the script’s sake this issue. Key players are moved around off screen in drastic ways that makes it hard to root for Babyteeth this time around. The Coyote makes extreme moves and advances off screen as the script tries to juggle a bit too much. There is still some great framing and action beats in the story—especially when Heather is given agency—but there is not enough here to make up for the shortcomings this time around.

Taylor Esposito struggles with what the scripts asks of his sound effects. He tries to make the action seem chaotic but instead makes the panel feel jarring and overstuffed. At the same time, the positioning of specific sound effects is much better placed, such a click of a reloading gun coming from the barrel. Taylor, like Garry, is simply experiencing the side effects of a chaotic script.

This series is always at its best when it focuses on Sadie Ritter and her family. And Babyteeth #9 simply has too much going on to have a strong focus on any one aspect of this fascinating universe that Donny Cates and crew have created. The script, the art, and the lettering feel too chaotic to work this time. It is also so crowded that the series’ visual storytelling aspects takes a hit. Until this issue, my levels of hype in how the Coyote’s path would cross with the Ritter family were quite high; now I feel like it came too soon—and at the expense of the overall story.

Verdict: 2.5 Out Of 5 Flaccid Incestuous Vampire Penises 

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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