Issue #4 begins with all-out carnage, action, and horror sprayed on every page. You can feel the panic and the hurry continuously building as each of the panels reveals more and more of the chaois the Jinoo release throughout Harlem. Of course, the Jinnoo, it turns out, are the least of our characters’ worries, as the Sangerye family may end up losing one of their own.
Bitter Root is one of those comics that just hooks you in through its unique artistic flair while keeping you entrapped on its pages with its familiar, yet refreshing, story. This is the kind of story that any sci-fi fan will absolutely love: 1920s steampunk Harlem, a cast of diverse characters, a story subtly influenced by various forms of horror, and a team that knows exactly what they’re doing.
You can’t help but appreciate the fact that a horror story has so many vibrant colors, and each character is given a distinct look that sets them apart from each other. It isn’t just their appearance, but, rather, their personalities. You can relate to any character, and if not, you at least know someone that can. It’s a testament to writers Walker and Brown’s work that the characters are so well developed. Many stories have trouble developing characters this well so early on; Bitter Root can easily be used as an example of how to create and develop an inclusive cast of characters in a comic book.
I do have to admit, however, that the appearance of the Jinoo is a bit lacking; despite the amazing background, each one appears to have the same eyes and mouth with at least three different variations of heads. Now, it shouldn’t be expected that Bad Guys #6 and #7 will appear all that different from Bad Gus #3 or #4, but the impact the Jinoo originally had in the first issue just doesn’t seem to carry the same weight in this issue. This may all be a little too nitpicky, as the story and the art direction is fantastic, and finding little nuances like those just proves that Walker, Brown, and Greene are on the right track.
I do have to note how persistent the underlying themes have been. The story is an analogy of racism and the beasts we become when we surrender to hate. It’s a lesson that we, as a people, need a constant reminder of, especially during this heated time in our country. While a comic book may not change the world, stories like these that can help to shine a light on the machinations of the past and how they still influence us all these years later.
Bitter Root is a story that is set against the backdrop of American history, where the creativity of and brutality against a minority group walked hand in hand. It shows us the hard truths of those times and how they’re not so different from today. It’s a story that knows what it’s doing, and it’s doing it well.
Creative Team: David F. Walker and Chuck Brown (writers), Sanford Greene (artist), Clayton Cowles (Letters), Heather Antos (editor)
Publisher: Image Comics
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