"Bitter Root #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Chuck Brown and David F. Walker
Illustrated by Sanford Greene
Colored by Rico Renzi and Sanford Greene
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 14th, 2018
Monsters have been living among us for years and the Sangerye Family has been keeping humanity safe. It's now the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance and the Sangeryes are stressed as the latest generation faces a crossroads. Do they continue to cure the afflicted of their supernatural woes? Or do they put these beasts down once and for all?
I was hooked on Bitter Root from page one. This comic hits you with a fantastic premise, intriguing characters, and some of the best artwork you'll see on the stands today to just pull you in completely. There's a large amount of mythology at work here and writers Chuck Brown and David F. Walker quickly lay out the rules and history in an organic way. This kind of groundwork can come through as dry as it could be very exposition heavy. That is definitely not the case here.
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More importantly, the characters are introduced so you get a good idea of who's who in the Sangerye Family and what role each of them plays. They all instantly become favorites as they feel like real people, especially with how they interact with one another. The young nervous Cullen wrestles with a monster while the large and well-spoken Berg looks on. Cullen is never going to learn if he doesn't do this himself. Meanwhile, their cousin, Blink, is frustrated that she's confined to the tamer aspects of monster hunting solely due to her gender.
This alone makes for an interesting read, but Sanford Greene's artwork catapults Bitter Root to untold heights. He has a dynamic layout that makes every page exciting to read. This is particularly true for the action sequences, such as when Blink busts in to show Cullen how it's done. That page is absolutely gorgeous, featuring a stunned Cullen in the center and a whole lot of badass monster-fighting surrounding that shot. Limbs extend past the panel borders, creating this awesome flow.
Similar sequences are used throughout the issue, but no two are identical. This varied layout keeps interest high. Coupled with the colors from Greene and Rico Renzi, makes for a moody and all around awesome comic. There's a dark, moody atmosphere for Bitter Root and it has the feel of a Mike Mignola comic in that respect. The supernatural elements are heightened, popping off the page with brighter, unnatural colors, such as the serum used to cure the monsters — or Jinoo as they're called here — that glows with a bright, radioactive green, like something out of Re-Animator.
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In addition to the good old-fashioned monster hunting, Bitter Root deals with racism in a very real way. For example, Cullen and Berg are confronted by two white police officers while trying to get rid of the now-cured Jinoo. This is a very tense scene as the cops' guns are drawn and they're incredibly nervous. To them, it looks like these two black men are disposing of bodies in the park where a number of attacks have been reported. The build-up to the eventual confrontation is a white-knuckled journey.
Letterer Clayton Cowles keeps this tension high as everyone starts screaming. The word balloons get bigger and the text gets bolder. Everything hinges on what happens in the next few moments and we turn the page with a shocking yell of terror from one of the characters.
Bitter Root brings something new to the idea of a monster hunter. While we've seen things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, this is an entirely unique spin. It's filled with fleshed-out characters, gorgeous artwork, and an incredible mythos. The creators are building towards something big, moving multiple pieces onto the board at once. We're just getting started too as we've barely scratched the surface as to the overall story just yet.