‘Bitter Root #2’ Keep Your Soul Clean

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Bitter Root #2

The Story So Far:

Bitter Root #2 picks right up where Bitter Root #1 left us, in the middle of some God-forsaken forest, in Southern Mississippi, surrounded by Klan members…dead ones. Bitter Root #1 burst on to the scene in November in an incredible display of ass-kicking glory. We’ve met Berg, Blink, Cullen, and Ma Etta. All members of the Sangeryes family – an amazing family dealing with supernatural monsters and preventing them from infecting humans. The wisdom, talent, and commitment of the Sangeryes is all that stands between the citizens of 1920’s New York City and a monster apocalypse.

We also got a brief look at Dr. Sylvester and Miss Knightsdale who seem quite interested in the doings of the Sangeryes but we’ve no real clue as to exactly why. We know they are dealing with some kind of infection. Bitter Root also introduced us to new kind of monster known as the Jinoo and placed us face-to-face with an all too familiar monster – racial hatred. As I mentioned in my last review – this series is both ethno-gothic and incredible.

 

Creative Team:

Writers: David F. Walker, Chuck Brown

Artist: Sanford Greene

Cover A: Sanford Greene

Cover B: Michael Cho, Ashley Wood, Bill Sienkiewicz

Issue Rating: 4.95/5

I’d give it a five but I’m just being mad about what happened to Berg (Sorry, David and Chuck but I’mma pout for a bit over here). This issue has so much juicy story crammed into it that unpacking it all might be above my skill level. Still, I’m going to do my best. I’m not a fan of just any horror comic. I do have a taste for Gothic Horror though. I can look at a horror comic and tell you if it’s good or bad for the genre as a whole but even a really good horror comic may not make my pull list. I’m looking for more than unbridled violence and gore. Bitter Root so far is ticking off every check box and staying on my pull list.

Spoiler Warning: If you have not read Bitter Root #2 There May Be Spoilers Below

From MAJK’s Coffee Corner: 

Bitter Root #1 left us, in the middle of some God-forsaken forest, in Southern Mississippi, surrounded by Klan members. We faced the terror of being lynched and were relieved when salvation via a stranger with a gun appeared. Now here we are standing in the middle of a pile of dead bodies while the lone surviving Klan member and our mysterious savior exchange not-so-pleasant pleasantries. That lasts just until the bodies stand back up. To be fair any true horror movie fan should have seen that coming. That’s the one and only predictable moment in this entire issue

Keep Your Soul Clean

Bitter Root #2 introduces us to yet another Sangerye family member, Ford. Ford doesn’t play. He’s not interested in purifying and he’s not the most patient as the sole remaining Klan member, Johnnie-Ray Knox is about to find out. Johnnie’s a hot mess of racist mess but he’s never met a black man like Ford. Ford won’t tolerate his garbage but Ford is a fair man. It’s here that we get a hint of how the infection that turns people into Jinoo and racial hatred might be linked. Ford spares Johnnie because he’s never lynched a person and never spilled blood. Johnnie-Ray is far from innocent yet Ford spares him. Ford warns Johnnie-Ray to keep his soul clean before he leaves. This indicates that Ford believes in the potential for people to change.

During the sequence with Ford we learn a lot more about the Sangeryes and their purification. Ford shows us how he has weaponized the Fiif’no Root serum. He also explains his thoughts on purification of the Jinoo. I’m curious given what we learn in Bitter Root #2 about Ford’s family whether he’s Blink’s brother or some more extended relation of Ma Etta.

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What We Are Becoming 

It’s clear that Miss Knightsdale and Dr. Sylvester are not exactly on the side of the Sangeryes. They speak of them with a mixed of respect for their talents but mock their belief in the purification of souls. They seem to have some familiarity with souls that once purified became re-infected.  Whatever their experience, they are clearly out for themselves.

Bitter Root #2 really deepens the story in relation to these two. We see they share a deep affection for each other. We learn there’s some severe trauma from the past that almost cost Dr. Sylvester his life. We also see that they are infected with something.

Their encounter with Berg and Cullen makes it clear that they are not Jinoo, but exactly what they are and what that means for the Sangeryes family is yet another intriguing part of this enthralling story.

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 Art & Writing

Walker and Brown’s writing shine in Bitter Root #2. The analogy they’ve woven in the scenes that Ford and Johnnie-Ray share is so subtle and yet powerful. Bitter Root #2 wraps up this scene from Bitter Root #1 with the implication of a moral. The point made gentle enough to avoid being preachy but there’s no missing the penetrating truth. Nurturing hatred of a person or people based only on their skin-tone or ethnic heritage begets violence acts and the spilling of blood. This in turn infects the soul of the holder of those beliefs which twists them from a human into a demonic horror, or a Jinoo. Actually, it you’ve ever met someone who is steeped in hating people for their race, religion, or culture – that’s a pretty much exactly what happens to their soul and personality.

What’s so impressive about the writing is that all that profound truth is wrapped so tightly in an engaging and exciting story that if you want to turn off your brain and just read this as a cool monster story, you probably could. I can’t but partly because after reading John Jennings educational essay in the back of Bitter Root #1, a part of my brain is eager for the story within the story. I’m also enjoying the beauty of the talent that it takes to wrap perspective and modern day relevance in a tale of monsters and men set in the 1920’s. It’s really artistically impressive.

Speaking of artistic, Greene’s work remains a key piece of what makes this title so exciting. I only spoke briefly on his art in my review of Bitter Root #1, partly because I’ve got a very wide and eclectic range of art that I love. Still being as the cover art alone convinced me I needed to pre-order a physical copy of Bitter Root #1, I think I need to speak a bit more on how much I love Greene’s work. His art here has a very 1920s feel blended impeccably with an afro-futuristic vibe. The way he uses bold ink lines to add a sense of urgency, excitement, or deepen the feel of a scene really enhances the immersion. The rich texture that he adds to each character’s face communicates so much emotion especially when coupled with his use of coloring and lighting. The supernatural aspect of the book is highlighted in the way he uses the coloring. By bathing the scene in a neon shade of green or pink, we get a sense of the way the supernatural is bleeding through on to the normal and mundane aspects of the characters’ lives.

MAJK’s Age Recommendation:

Older Teens 17 +

Other Info: This is the 1920’s there’s a lot of racial themes that might be difficult for a young or sensitive soul to deal with, I’m neither and the lynch-mob scene in Bitter Root #1 got to me a bit. This is also a horror comic with a fairly complex story line. It also deals with / discusses / and is based on traditions that might be uncomfortable or offend some readers so fair warning. There’s a lot of supernatural in this comic and while I can’t say there are overtly occult themes – for more sensitive readers there are theme that may be interpreted as occult (monster, dead rising, etc.)

Best Line & Why

Best Line: Ford “Keep your soul clean, Johnnie-Ray Knox. Otherwise, next time I won’t leave you standing.”

Why: Ford spares Johnnie because he’s never lynched a person and never spilled blood. Johnnie-Ray is far from innocent yet Ford spares him. This speaks to the belief that people, even people infected with hatred can change before they go down the road of violence. Maybe I’m reading too much in to this but Johnnie-Ray chasing after Ford looks a lot like a man chasing either freedom or salvation. Maybe both; we’ll see in time.

Next Issue: January 9 2019

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