Tony and Brendan have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. Brendan tends to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, their paths cross, but like most readers, they tend to stay in their own lanes.
New To You Comics is here to break up the pattern a little. Tony will throw some of his favorites at Brendan, and Brendan will hit Tony with some of his. Every NTYC title is brand new to one of them. Every once in a while a title will land with both of them. Not always. Sometimes. Rarely.
Thi week, Brendan introduces Tony to AfterShock’s Babyteeth: Year One, by Donny Cates and Garry Brown. Here’s what AfterShock tells us about the book:
‘Having a baby when you’re sixteen can be tough. For Sadie…it’ll be HELL!
Sadie Ritter is sixteen years old, nine months pregnant, and scared out of her sweet nerdy mind. Having a baby that young is tough, but with the support of her loving family behind her, everything should be okay.
Oh yeah—and also her baby is the Antichrist, who’s going to break open the barriers between the earthly and demonic planes and unleash eternal suffering to all of humankind.’
Brendan Allen: Publisher’s blurb sums this one up nicely. There’s Sadie, who’s a pretty normal kid, except for the one thing. She’s pregnant. With the Anti-Christ.
While that setup might naturally unfold in the exact opposite manner as the Nativity, it’s actually pretty sweet. In spite of the whole mystery of the baby’s father, the massive earthquakes that coincide with young Sadie’s contractions, and the destruction of the barrier between earthly and demonic planes, Sadie’s little family rallies around her. Her elder sister and father will sacrifice everything to keep her and the child safe.
So it’s a story about loyalty and family. And doomsday cults, powerful secret societies, and demon raccoons.
Let’s have it. Where you at on Babyteeth: Year One?
Tony Thornley: Going to be really straightforward. I struggled with this one more than any book we’ve done in the past year. There’s a lot to like here, for sure. The world building is very good, and the character work is fantastic. But it’s got one huge flaw that just pulled me right out of the story.
But I kind of want to talk about the positives first though.
Brendan: I think we’ve talked about the fact that I appreciate Donny Cates’ early work much more than his current stuff, and Babyteeth is no exception. Cates’s script is full of dark humor and terrifying reveals, but also some surprisingly tender moments between Sadie and her family, but also between a father/daughter team of assassins who come up a couple chapters in. There are a couple slick nods to 2014’s Ghost Fleet, which, in retrospect, we maybe should have covered first. It’s in queue.
Tony: I’m going into that one blind!
Brendan: That’s kind of what we do, right? Blindside each other with books?
Tony: I do think it’s a well written story. Sadie is a fantastic protagonist, and Heather and the Captain are both great in the role of deuteragonist. I really enjoyed how much the Captain in particular grew over the course of the story. He might have been the best character in the book. Also, the two surprise characters in the back half of the story added so much depth in the conflict of the entire volume.
Brendan: Garry Brown’s art is beautifully brutal. The depth of detail in the landscapes and scenery makes this fictional version of modern day Salt Lake City pop off the page. And I love the character designs. Brown’s characters are distinctive and authentic. The Captain, Sadie, Heather, the assassins, the demon rat thing… They all look like functioning humans with real histories and emotions. Okay, maybe the rat thing doesn’t look human. The rest of them, though.
Tony: Yeah, Brown did a really good job. His designs are very cool, especially for the fantastic elements of the story. The full page splash where Sadie learns Clark’s demonic secret is just horrifying and it might be one of the best moments of the entire book. I dug it.
But I said at the beginning that I struggled with it and well… This is an issue I’ve had with Cates before…
Tony: If you’re going to set a story in a real life place, you need to do some research on that setting and make sure you get at least the broad strokes right. I’m from Salt Lake City. I know this area. Hell, when I interviewed Cates about this book for another site a few years back he told me that he chose Salt Lake as the setting because he loved the place (which I’m sure is why Crossover also starts here in Utah).
I can forgive that Sadie’s school doesn’t look like any high school in Utah. I can forgive that the drive to hospital doesn’t look like any road here in Utah. But when there’s a satellite view of “Salt Lake City” and it doesn’t look remotely close to anywhere here, that pulls you out of the story if you’re familiar with the area. Or when a major plot point happens at a marina, and the closest any marina like that exists is three hours away?
For someone unfamiliar with the area, you’re never going to notice. But for any readers from the area a story is set in, not doing that little bit of research only helps the story.
Brendan: I think you’re going to run into some of that no matter where the story is set. Every reference can’t be spot on. Sometimes the setting just has to become an idea of the real place it’s based on. They really needed that pier, man.
Tony: Sure and I’m not saying it needs to be 100%. But a few minutes research will show that there’s no such pier anywhere near SLC, so maybe you need to do something else like a hunting cabin up the canyon. Or a quick Google Maps search of the Salt Lake Valley will show you how both the city and the Great Salt Lake is actually shaped.
I’m not saying don’t take creative license. Just that a little research goes a long way, especially when this is the second time I’ve encountered this EXACT problem in a book by Cates.
Brendan: I’m not saying I don’t get it, though. Did I ever tell you how irked I was when I saw that one episode of Big Bang Theory where they road tripped from Los Angeles to the Bakersfield Comic Con? I’ve been to the Bakersfield Con. Once, in the twelve years I’ve lived here.
It’s not anything anyone in their right mind would waste 4 hours round trip from LA to come out to. Had to finally let it go. Nobody who regularly watched BBT gives two shits about actual con culture, or that the Bakersfield ‘convention’ is less than stellar. There are so many other things in BBT to be pissed about. It just didn’t matter in the end. The road trip drove the story, so whatever. I just hope no one ever saw that one episode and hopped in the car thinking they’d end up at some cool ass premium event. Because it is not that.
Tony: Yeah that’s exactly the sort of thing I mean. You don’t have to do TONS when it comes to research, but a little bit goes a LONG way.
Brendan: Fair. Nothing on the mild blasphemy? How Clark plays into the grand Heavenly plan? How this kid needs to be protected in order for the End of Days to occur as prophesied? I thought sure you’d have notes on that. (Also a theme we’ll be exploring in BOOM! Studios’ Judas at some point down the road, btw.)
Tony: Look, I’m a religious person, and I thought it was clever as hell. The sequence was a little funny, a lot scary, and had a twisted logic to it that fit the story perfectly. I actually thought it was one of the best parts of the book.
Brendan: Word. I really liked the idea that, even when you’re dealing with the actual, literal Anti-Christ, there’s a lot of moral grey. No one sees themselves as the bad guy, and even when the side you’re fighting for is dead set on bringing forth Hell-on-Earth, there’s room for characters doing the right and moral thing, or things that appear that way at first glance anyway.
All right, so you hated the setting. Putting that aside for a moment, what did you think of the book as a whole?
Tony: I didn’t totally dislike it, but the lack of care that was put into the setting? It really pulled me out of the story to the point that I struggled with it. I thought the writing was generally solid, with some really great standout moments. I thought Brown’s art was just the right mix of gritty horror and character work. But man, thirty minutes of research by the creators would have REALLY made me enjoy it that much more.
Brendan: I’ll buy that. What’s up next week?
Tony: With a new series for the characters coming up this month, we’re going back to the Valiant Universe and taking a look at Shadowman Volume 1!