Unreliable But Loveable Narrator For The Win In Babyteeth #2

by Hannah Means Shannon

 

Babyteeth, from Aftershock Comics is one of the most intriguing comics being published right now, and I’m not alone in thinking so. We finally get writer Donny Cates handling occult and supernatural themes and he’s chosen a setting that’s semi-Western giving a whole different feel to Babyteeth than it otherwise might have had.

It’s not that comics don’t jump gleefully from setting to setting these days–that’s what comics can do cheaply that film and TV can’t do–it’s that making the center of things, the kind of magnetic focus of a story Western without making a big deal out of that is less common. And that’s good variety for comics.

But what I mentioned in my look at issue #1 of the series, and what comes to light even more firmly in issue #2 is how cool it is to have a really firmly embedded narrator trying to tell her own story to someone else–her son in this case. I don’t know about you, but as a college student, and later when teaching myself, stories with narrators were always my favorite. The language that’s used doesn’t have to attempt to be objective–it’s going to be laden with emotion, biased, funny, unpredictable, and much more human, when you have a narrator.

Here our narrator is the 16 year old mother of the Anti-Christ,  but hey, who better to tell a story that’s looming, scary, and confusing than someone who will be scared, confused, but ultimately devoted to that kid, whether he drinks blood or not. In this issue, Sadie is trying to situate her son–Clark–in time, but also the reader, and her skips and jumps, showing us things to come are both funny and interesting teasers.

But what we’re really going to get is her observation on ordinary life blended with dark humor as an actual teenager tries to look after a newborn while interacting with her overly helpful father and very strange but loyal drug-dealing sister. Artwork by Gary Brown, with colors by Mark Englert, guides us through these jumps and new settings succinctly, blending us back into the narrative when we return to Sadie’s life.

The issue doesn’t wholly get the Sadie-narrative treatment, since we also drift into another location and storyline that’s presumably going to intersect with Sadie’s life at some point, but not before Sadie creates a narrative bridge by filling us in about an arcane organization who takes it upon themselves to kill potential Anti-Christs when they are born all over the world. They “collect data from prior supernatural birth events”–and let’s remember that a huge earthquake marked Clark’s birth–and track things to their messy conclusion.

Presumably they’re doing this to save the world, but these guys seem a little dubious, as they would from Sadie’s maternal perspective. She calls them a “creepy evil Watchers Council”, in a nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Points to letterer Taylor Esposito for creating really strangely soothing narrative boxes in italics that never crowd the page through all this, too.

Sadie’s story of her first milestone discovery about Clark–that there’s a reason he’s not eating well, and that is that he instead is craving blood–is the wraparound narrative for the issue and shows a nice eye for pacing and closure. You feel you’ve been introduced to a fair amount of information, as well as new characters, within this issue, which still seems to be over too soon. That’s a very good sign for a comic–that it keeps the reader wanting more.

So, big shout out to the creative team of Babyteeth for committing so hard to a significant narrator role and keeping her as our not-so-perfect-but-always-honest guide through this series. It’s her story, of course, as much as Clark’s, we’re following, and that’s how it should be.

Also, this issue includes a hilarious creative team-introducing page which presents everyone’s baby pictures as head-shots, so you don’t want to miss that, either.

Babyteeth #2 is currently in shops. Issue #3 arrives on August 9th, 2017.