A refresher on the phenomenal line Bitter Root, mixed with a Spoiler-free Bitter Root #11 Review
Bitter Root is one of those comics I don’t see talked about often enough.
(I sure hope it’s talked about more than I see)
It’s been a while since we’ve had a new issue, but it’s BACK! And honestly, thank god this issue focuses on reminding us who everyone is and what’s happened because I didn’t re-read the last few issues before this, like I should have, to remind myself. A LOT has happened!
The good news is, there doesn’t seem much to spoil in this issue, since it’s laying down the groundwork of what has already happened and reintroducing us to the characters, so I kind of want to spend most of this review reminding YOU about Bitter Root, because I know I needed the reminder- even as a big fan of this line.
Bitter Root takes place in 1925 Harlem. What’s amazing is that, though they provide the text confirming this, it really isn’t needed once you see the art of this story. Gosh, the art. It is utterly amazing how they captured the tone and essence of the Harlem Renaissance in this book. It’s amazing how REAL each person looks. Furthermore, it’s fantastic how this art style works for the realistic, fantastical, AND horror elements. It’s not often you see an art style that can convey all of these in one story, but man oh man does it feel like winning the jackpot when you do! I’m also a huge sucker for the 1920’s era, and it’s nice to read something that’s -not- focused on all the white people. You’d think, with all the influence Black people had on that era specifically (and well, our entire history, right?) we’d see more stories told in the 1920s about Black people, but- nope. Nope nope. I think we all know why, sadly, and I’m glad to see we are finally getting more.
Now, if you think this is a realistic fiction story, you’re wrong and right. This story is most realistic in its characters and emotions and makes you feel them painfully so. It’s most realistic when it talks about people whose grief and trauma turn them into something awful and when it talks about people whose hate and intolerance turn them into something awful as well. We all know people in real life whose grief/trauma/hate/intolerance, or any combo of those, get to them and get them to do terrible things. In this story, though, that’s also where the fantastical elements kick in- those that let their grief/trauma get to them become literal
monsters called Inzondo. These are often people whose families were wronged, hurt, etc, and they couldn’t get past the hurt. This is where the writers (David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene) get to put emphasis on how (forgive my language here, it’s most likely not academically correct) ancestral pain and hurt last so long- the most common use of this we see in common media is with slavery and how Black people can still be hurt by the fact that they have family members who were slaves, causing them actual, and 100% valid, pain. Bitter Root explores more than just that though and it’s incredibly eye-opening for people like me who are not Black and do not understand/live what it’s like to be Black, and, based on other reviews I’ve read, it seems to be incredibly validating to Black people who finally see someone understanding them (It’s like, having Black people write for Black characters is actually helpful or something, crazy, right?? -full sarcasm-). In this story, those who are consumed by hate and intolerance become Jinoo, and this issue definitely takes a step forward at showing -what- level of hate/intolerance will consume you and what part of you it will consume. Does it take over your body? Your soul? Something BIGGER than your soul? It seems the possibilities are endless, and I am beyond curious as to what could be bigger than the soul if anything!
Additionally, the fantastical elements go beyond mixing with the realistic- they mix with the
horror elements when we see the physical monsters come to play, when we see people go to other realms, when we see people going to war not just on Earth, but in hell too- there is SO much happening in this story, and it’s a great balance to all the social and psychological commentary this story makes. I love how this line focuses on the -ROOTS- to everything- both literally and figuratively.
Sh*t, I almost forgot to say something about the characters- there are so many of them, and rightfully so, because with all the themes tackled in this line, there have to be many perspectives too, yes? The writers do a fantastic job introducing us to many different points of view and writing all characters honestly and thoroughly. I don’t want to say much more until at least the next issue, but let me tell you, the characters and their development are fantastic in this line too.
Can you tell how much has gone into this comic? And I’ve only scratched the surface of it! At the end of each issue of Bitter Root, there is a commentary on the social/psychological elements in this line, which helps people like me (and anyone) understand how to put all these themes together. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and hard to understand what all is happening, especially in terms of transposing fantastical/horror elements into what they could represent in reality, so I really appreciate the different people that do these after-commentaries because it is SO helpful. If you thought I was all over the place trying to explain everything as concisely as I could, then 1) you’re right and 2) you should give this line a shot and definitely stay for the after commentary. It is so helpful and beyond worth it. It’s not some throw-away interview addition that some people don’t care about, ya know?
This line really just is utterly fantastic. They put their entire hearts and souls into this and it shows. This is a MUST READ, right up there with Killadelphia (so if you’re a Killadelphia person, pick up this book, coward). You can get the first two trades and catch up! This new arc JUST started so you aren’t far behind, and whew, what a start it is!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Bi gives this:
5 out of 5 Finger Guns
(because I'm bi)
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