With a vibrant backdrop and unique story of a once united demon-fighting family, Bitter Root delivers a riveting story with deep meaning and purpose.
I started reading Bitter Root back when it started in 2018, but money started getting tight so I had to eliminate my comic book spending. Since then I've been wanting to pick it back up but my local comic shop was always out of the issue where I left off. I figured at this point I would just wait for the trade and I FINALLY got my hands on it so I could finish reading it! Happy times, yay! Bitter Root is an exquisite book by an incredibly talented collective of comic creators: writers David Walker and Chuck Brown, artist Sanford Greene, colorist Rico Renzi, and letterist Clayton Cowles.
When I heard what Bitter Root was about I was sold immediately. Bitter Root takes place in the 1920's Harlem with a supernatural twist. It follows the Sangerye family business and the business? They fight demons. No big deal. You're probably thinking demons aren't THAT interesting Josey. Normally I'd agree with you but these demons are a little different and let me explain why. They're called Jinoo and Jinoo are demons that USED to be humans. Whatever evil a particular human may have turns them into a Jinoo. Traditionally, the Sangerye family fights and rehabilitates the Jinoo by injecting them with root medicine only they know how to make. However, we find out certain family members feel rehabilitation is no longer possible. It's a business that's been handed down from generation to generation but the family business isn't what it once was. So we get to follow a very human story in a supernatural backdrop. Can the the Sangeryes put aside their past and differences to defeat and coming storm of evil?
I really love the story for Bitter Root, don't get me wrong, but where I think this book shines is the collaboration between Sanford Greene and Rico Renzi. Sanford Greene's work is exactly what I look for in a comic book. Simply put, it's story-telling at its finest. Sanford Greene is an exceptional artist but he excels at drawing facial expressions and conveying energy on a page (which is really hard to do with 2D art!). If you look at the pages above and below and remove all the dialogue, there is absolutely no question about what's happening on the page. The facial expressions along on the characters give the reader the mood of each panel.
I believe both Sanford Greene and Rico Renzi collaborated on colors for this book and they are absolute perfection. Storytelling doesn't stop at line art; the addition of colors helps set the tone/mood even further and Bitter Root is a prime example of that. I also love the use of color stories in this book. If you look at the page below, you can see all the colors used are different shades or yellow or light brown even going into some green/grays. Everything compliments each other and it's almost cinematic in the way they color/light pages and panels.
Using colors for different scene or scene changes is incredibly clever and executed so well in Bitter Root. Take the page below, for example. The panels on the right are in tones of purple, establishing outdoor locations. But the four panels on the right have a completely different color story than from the other panels. There are some purple tones here and there but it's mostly brown. As the reader we might better differentiate that the purple panels are outside and the brown panels are indoors. Neat, right?!
I'm not really going to go into the story like I did with Magic Order because there's a lot more backstory in Bitter Root. There's also WAY more important characters and with different character stories converging into one. My assumption is that if you're reading this then you've read the book already. But if you haven't, you most definitely should! I guess my point is that I wanted to share aspects of the Bitter Root that makes it one of my favorite comics I've ever read.
For me, Bitter Root raises the bar for indie comics across the board. Original comics of this caliber are getting picked up by film and TV production companies so it was no surprise to me when I heard Legendary Pictures acquired the feature film rights to Bitter Root. With Ryan Coogler leading the charge for developing the book into a film has me even more thrilled.
Have you read Bitter Root? I'd love to know your thoughts!