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Once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, the Sangerye family specialized in curing the souls of those infected by hate, but those days are fading. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins split between curing monsters and killing them. Now, with a new breed of monster loose on the streets of Harlem, the Sangerye family Once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, the Sangerye family specialized in curing the souls of those infected by hate, but those days are fading. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins split between curing monsters and killing them. Now, with a new breed of monster loose on the streets of Harlem, the Sangerye family must come together, or watch the human race fall to untold evil. Collects BITTER ROOT #1-5


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Once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, the Sangerye family specialized in curing the souls of those infected by hate, but those days are fading. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins split between curing monsters and killing them. Now, with a new breed of monster loose on the streets of Harlem, the Sangerye family Once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, the Sangerye family specialized in curing the souls of those infected by hate, but those days are fading. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins split between curing monsters and killing them. Now, with a new breed of monster loose on the streets of Harlem, the Sangerye family must come together, or watch the human race fall to untold evil. Collects BITTER ROOT #1-5

30 review for Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    First Read: Re-Read 11/15/2020: This was just as good as the first time that I read it. Bitter Root is more than just a comic book that follows a Black family that practices Root Magic; it is an exploration of the consumption of the soul by racism. The Sangerye family is responsible for healing the souls of those who have become so invested in the tenants of racism that it consumes their soul. As a result they turn into these creatures called Jinroo. The Sangerye family has been through a lot by First Read: Re-Read 11/15/2020: This was just as good as the first time that I read it. Bitter Root is more than just a comic book that follows a Black family that practices Root Magic; it is an exploration of the consumption of the soul by racism. The Sangerye family is responsible for healing the souls of those who have become so invested in the tenants of racism that it consumes their soul. As a result they turn into these creatures called Jinroo. The Sangerye family has been through a lot by the beginning of this comic. The reader quickly discovers that they have lost family members in their battle against the Jinroo. While handling a situation, one of the family members is attacked by something that is otherworldly but isn't Jinroo. They then have to race against time as the city becomes infected with both Jinroo and other wordly creatures. This comic book is so complex, but really speaks to the Black experience especially in terms of how we attempt (as a Black community) to handle breaking down the pillars of racism. There are those in the Black community that are peaceful while there are those who want retribution because of the pain and fear that has plagued and traumatized their life. These different view points come to a head in the comic and it was interesting to watch it play out. This story also makes reference to some important historical moments for Black Americas like the Tusla Riots or the Red Summer. This makes the work as a whole even more impactful and even more emotional. There is this sense of hopelessness at some point in the story and I resonated with that because how do we defeat racism when the whole concept of race itself was developed by men. It's not supposed to exist. That makes the work that the main characters in this book attempt to do even more difficult but even more worth praise and admiration. It shows that we, now, in the 21st century still have a lot work to do ourselves. I think that most people will enjoy the story of this comic, but that a lot of people are going to have to take some time and adjust to the art style. While I enjoyed it, there were panels where there was too much going on and it was hard to keep up. There is also a heavy use of earth tones in both the foreground and background which makes the "lighting" of the entire work fill dim. I enjoyed the somber feel it evoked, but I know that everyone won't enjoy that. Overall, this was great as always and I hope that more people pick it up.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    "All art is propoganda and ever thus shall be"--W.E.B DuBois A 2020 Eisner series winner! The premise is on the face of it simple: Something is infecting people and making them into monsters. The source? Racism. And the focus of the story is Harlem, during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. The Cure? Well, the Sangerye family specializesin curing the souls of those infected by hate. On the one hand this feels like a simple allegory, with a kind of war for the soul of the country and the world at "All art is propoganda and ever thus shall be"--W.E.B DuBois A 2020 Eisner series winner! The premise is on the face of it simple: Something is infecting people and making them into monsters. The source? Racism. And the focus of the story is Harlem, during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. The Cure? Well, the Sangerye family specializesin curing the souls of those infected by hate. On the one hand this feels like a simple allegory, with a kind of war for the soul of the country and the world at stake. The art is very busy with allusions to the time period and to African American culture and I see some hints of Walt Kelly and probably black cartoonists/storytellers I don't yet know. The southern gothic. The supernatural. Racism as American horror, as I also saw in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. The panels are garish and crowded and loud, and the action seems very much apocalyptic good guys vs. bad guys, but the unique angle here is that this is a mythic-superhero horror story told from the heart of the black American experience. I like it and I like all the essays that contextualize the work in African American history and culture and art. Black resistance, black invention, with some joy!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    Taking place during the Harlem Renaissance, Bitter Root is the story of the Sangerye Clan. The family has rooted out and cured Jinroo for generations. Jinroo are racists so filled with hate that they actually become monsters. There's some really cool world building here. I love the idea of this family working together to root out monsters. And I like how they mix in real historical events like the Red Summer and the Tulsa Race Massacre. The back half of these 5 issues just becomes one big fight Taking place during the Harlem Renaissance, Bitter Root is the story of the Sangerye Clan. The family has rooted out and cured Jinroo for generations. Jinroo are racists so filled with hate that they actually become monsters. There's some really cool world building here. I love the idea of this family working together to root out monsters. And I like how they mix in real historical events like the Red Summer and the Tulsa Race Massacre. The back half of these 5 issues just becomes one big fight though and the message is muddied. Sanford Greene's chaotic, frenzied art actually works well in this instance. I didn't like Rico Renzi's muted colors at all though. It flattened out the art instead of drawing the eye to the context of each panel. It gave all the pages a sameness that all ran together giving you nowhere to focus on.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    I was going to give this book a 2-star rating after finishing the main feature, because despite the interesting start and showing us horror through an African American prism, the story quickly became a lot of slam-bang action scenes with one-dimensional characters fighting monsters. It felt like I was skipping all the other episodes in the season and just watching the cliffhanger finale of Supernatural. Who are these people and why are they all fighting? But the book was saved by the many scholar I was going to give this book a 2-star rating after finishing the main feature, because despite the interesting start and showing us horror through an African American prism, the story quickly became a lot of slam-bang action scenes with one-dimensional characters fighting monsters. It felt like I was skipping all the other episodes in the season and just watching the cliffhanger finale of Supernatural. Who are these people and why are they all fighting? But the book was saved by the many scholarly articles in the end matter. A lot of thought provoking notions were raised there that I hope the creators of the comics will start to integrate more fully into their narrative.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trike

    The current HBO series Watchmen, loosely based on the comic, is predicated on the idea that the 1921 attack on the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma — an area known as “black Wall Street” — has long-lasting effects on not just the survivors of that white-on-black race riot but also on their descendants. This comic postulates a similar thing, where hatred and greed turn a person evil and monstrous, into what is called a jinoo. The Sangeryes family are survivors of Greenwood, and they have, in The current HBO series Watchmen, loosely based on the comic, is predicated on the idea that the 1921 attack on the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma — an area known as “black Wall Street” — has long-lasting effects on not just the survivors of that white-on-black race riot but also on their descendants. This comic postulates a similar thing, where hatred and greed turn a person evil and monstrous, into what is called a jinoo. The Sangeryes family are survivors of Greenwood, and they have, in the 3 years since, tried to help others overcome the effects of their hate by synthesizing a treatment that purifies their soul sickness, turning the creatures back into people. But other survivors can’t get over those events, and they embrace the monstrous changes in order to advance their own agenda, which involves a heaping helping of vengeance. This is the sort of thing comic books excel at: talking about serious subjects like racism and mass murder by looking at them through the lens of allegory. In this instance, it’s a Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style story of a family of monster hunters. The twist being not that they are black and this is 1924, but that they are trying to cure these people rather than kill them. It is altogether very well done, but the 25+ pages of historical context in the appendix essays really elevates the comic itself.

  6. 4 out of 5

    James DeSantis

    A nice monster clash comic-like-movie with huge racial underlines. This is about a family who doesn't seem very connected but all working together to purify monsters or in some cases kill them. Most of these monsters are broken souls tainted by darkness to do horrible acts of violence. However, when one of their own in the family is infected they most band together to find out what is happening. I really enjoyed this for the most part. Fast read, easy, and super fun. I like the message, and the A nice monster clash comic-like-movie with huge racial underlines. This is about a family who doesn't seem very connected but all working together to purify monsters or in some cases kill them. Most of these monsters are broken souls tainted by darkness to do horrible acts of violence. However, when one of their own in the family is infected they most band together to find out what is happening. I really enjoyed this for the most part. Fast read, easy, and super fun. I like the message, and the racial issues it covers work really well here. I also dug the atmosphere here, very urban-fantasy which is my favorite type of fantasy mixed with solid humor. But I expected that from David F. Walker. A 4 out of 5.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Darth

    It was okay. I enjoyed the use of traditional Black folklore and history in the plot and was pleased to see how much love and research the creative team put into the story and the characters. Bitter Root follows a family of monster hunters who're trying to root out/find the root of all evil in their world. The story deals with hate and love and loss and racism and forgiveness. It's certainly a much needed and inclusive entry into the world of comics. But. There were some problems I couldn't igno It was okay. I enjoyed the use of traditional Black folklore and history in the plot and was pleased to see how much love and research the creative team put into the story and the characters. Bitter Root follows a family of monster hunters who're trying to root out/find the root of all evil in their world. The story deals with hate and love and loss and racism and forgiveness. It's certainly a much needed and inclusive entry into the world of comics. But. There were some problems I couldn't ignore and some that bothered me as a POC. The world building was a tad lacking for me and, at times, it was difficult to figure out what exactly was going on/what exactly the timeline of this story was. And while I do think it was a great decision to include the numerous essays that delved deeper into the themes/messages this comic was trying to portray, I wish those messages actually found their way into the comic itself. Obviously those essays made this comic much more impactful, but I question how this comic would be received had they not been included. I'm also really on the fence about the idea that hatred and racism turn people into literal monsters. Monsters who, when they are "set free"/exorcised, awaken confused and innocent, as if they are not to blame, at all, for their own hatred or racism that turned them into monsters in the first place. I guess, to me, it feels a little cheap, as if this comic is absolving those who are racist from being seen as a perpetrator in the first place. Instead, they're seen as totally innocent victims of hatred. Which, I mean, don't get me wrong, is a very interesting way to tackle the problem and plays into that theme of forgiveness. But that's only because I read the essays at the end. I don't know. Without those essays at the end, the message of racism and hate becomes lost in translation and devolves into a message that racism and hatred aren't human traits, they're created by supernatural forces only Black people can control and exorcise. And I definitely don't think that was the creators' intention at all.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is a wonderful book. It is full of allegory, nostalgia and history. The only detraction I have found is that it is part of the "to be continued" genre of comic book. In my opinion, one of the detriments that contributes to declines in the popularity of comics and graphic novels is not getting a full story when you spend 25 cents, one dollar or seventeen dollars for a publication. I do encourage people to check out Bitter Root because it is a wonderful premise and is full of action. This is a wonderful book. It is full of allegory, nostalgia and history. The only detraction I have found is that it is part of the "to be continued" genre of comic book. In my opinion, one of the detriments that contributes to declines in the popularity of comics and graphic novels is not getting a full story when you spend 25 cents, one dollar or seventeen dollars for a publication. I do encourage people to check out Bitter Root because it is a wonderful premise and is full of action.

  9. 4 out of 5

    RG

    Took awhile to get there but the world building seemed a little slow and confusing. Great characters though.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Read for Popsugar 2020: Book Set in the 1920s Dang, I really wanted to like this more than I did. I've been so excited to read this since it came out, and I felt a bit let down by it. The art is -amazing-, so freaking good, I can't handle how good it is. The worldbuilding in the first issue is really enjoyable, the family members are dynamic and interesting, but somewhere around the halfway point I lost the thread (and my enthusiasm for the book). Will I read the eventual Volume 2? Almost certainl Read for Popsugar 2020: Book Set in the 1920s Dang, I really wanted to like this more than I did. I've been so excited to read this since it came out, and I felt a bit let down by it. The art is -amazing-, so freaking good, I can't handle how good it is. The worldbuilding in the first issue is really enjoyable, the family members are dynamic and interesting, but somewhere around the halfway point I lost the thread (and my enthusiasm for the book). Will I read the eventual Volume 2? Almost certainly, if only to clear up some confusing plot lines.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lukas Holmes

    Now this is a 'universe' I want to spend a lot more time in. You've got at least five different wide character arcs going. Endless directions and depth for this story and some great world building. You've got the horrors of racism mixed with action, horror, romance and more. I really can't wait to see where this goes. Now this is a 'universe' I want to spend a lot more time in. You've got at least five different wide character arcs going. Endless directions and depth for this story and some great world building. You've got the horrors of racism mixed with action, horror, romance and more. I really can't wait to see where this goes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lata

    Weaving multiple strands of African American life in Harlem during its Renaissance, the authors create a vibrant and kinetic story, of the Sangeryes family Pershing monsters and returning them to their (white) human aspects. Their work is dangerous, and they work on their own to keep the streets of Harlem safe. Grandma Etta works her magic with her root remedies, and supports her community in umpteen other ways also, with her apothecary being a central location for people in need. Her grandchild Weaving multiple strands of African American life in Harlem during its Renaissance, the authors create a vibrant and kinetic story, of the Sangeryes family Pershing monsters and returning them to their (white) human aspects. Their work is dangerous, and they work on their own to keep the streets of Harlem safe. Grandma Etta works her magic with her root remedies, and supports her community in umpteen other ways also, with her apothecary being a central location for people in need. Her grandchildren and other relatives, meanwhile, are engaged in the fight against monsters, whom it’s revealed are whites literally transformed by their racism into hideous monsters, wearing their hatred for all to see. The artwork has huge energy and style, and I enjoyed the essays that conclude this volume.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    This was a very cool and unique graphic novel that combined elements of horror, steampunk, sci-fi, and African-American history. A family passes down the magical tradition of battling the literal demons that take hold of humans' souls when they are tainted by hate and prejudice. However, during the course of this story a new monster arises that their magic cannot touch. Can they close the gates that are allowing monsters to spill into the physical world without losing any more family members? This was a very cool and unique graphic novel that combined elements of horror, steampunk, sci-fi, and African-American history. A family passes down the magical tradition of battling the literal demons that take hold of humans' souls when they are tainted by hate and prejudice. However, during the course of this story a new monster arises that their magic cannot touch. Can they close the gates that are allowing monsters to spill into the physical world without losing any more family members?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Dinges

    Bitter Root, Vol. 1 collects the first 5 issues of the series written by David F. Walker and Chuck Brown and drawn by Sanford Greene. A sci-fi/horror series about a family of Black monster hunters living in 1920’s Harlem, it felt like a natural fit to read this month. This isn’t the first time Walker and Greene have teamed up. I remember fondly their work on a run of Power Man and Iron Fist over at Marvel about 4 years ago. The Sangeryes are the aforementioned family of monster hunters. Their fam Bitter Root, Vol. 1 collects the first 5 issues of the series written by David F. Walker and Chuck Brown and drawn by Sanford Greene. A sci-fi/horror series about a family of Black monster hunters living in 1920’s Harlem, it felt like a natural fit to read this month. This isn’t the first time Walker and Greene have teamed up. I remember fondly their work on a run of Power Man and Iron Fist over at Marvel about 4 years ago. The Sangeryes are the aforementioned family of monster hunters. Their family business is to hunt Jinoo, which are humans humans whose souls have been corrupted and turned into monsters. The Sangeryes family holds the secret to purifying Jinoo using their serum concocted from the titular Fif’no root. This time around, the family is facing a threat from more than just your run-of-the-mill Jinoo. While the premise sounds like fairly standard horror/sci-fi material, what sets it apart is the book’s focus on tackling racism and Black history through a genre lens. I’m often guilty of focusing too much on the written portion of comics at the expense of the art. Not this time. David Walker and Chuck Brown have spun a fine yarn, to be sure, but Sanford Greene is putting in some absolute work in Bitter Root. His Harlem is both gritty and full of life. The steampunk aesthetic of a group of early twentieth-century monster hunters is quite imaginative. The action sequences and fights with the Jinoo are pitch perfect. The colors by Greene and Rico Renzi are well done. The sci-fi elements and monsters are vibrant against the muted backdrop and buildings of Harlem. Bitter Root is a visual treat. As a sci-fi/horror blend, Bitter Root is very effective. It’s setting and style make for a unique series. That’s always refreshing in the never-ending wave of repetition that can sometimes plague the comics medium. The book is heavy on the action. I felt like the story was pretty fleshed out, but it’s quickly paced and there’s a generous serving of splash pages. I think I might have had more issue with how the plot unfolded had I not known going in that there was more Bitter Root on the horizon. It works well as a standalone, but working with the knowledge that some of the unexplored threads are likely to be covered further down the road was comforting. Bitter Root is steeped in Black history. Taking place in 1920’s Harlem lends itself well to that effort, but the writers also make the Red Summer of 1919 and the Tulsa massacre in 1921 central to the story. The book expects that you’ll have already learned about these events or will be curious enough to research them on your own. Seeing as our educational system often ignores these important events in US history, you may have missed them, but I think they were given the right amount of weight in Bitter Root. A full historical re-telling would have felt forced, but weaving them into the story is sure to introduce them to some for the first time. My favorite character here was Berg. He’s got real Beast from the X-men vibes. He’s a whip smart doctor that uses a never-ending parade of large words from his vast vocabulary. When it comes time to throw-down though, Berg isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. There are further, more spoiler-y similarities with Beast too, but I’ll leave you to find those out on your own. The rest of the cast is pretty well-built out too. Ma Etta, the family matriarch, even gets to tangle with some Jinoo. I will admit I’d have liked to see more time spent on Blink. There’s a bit of her primary character motivations teased, but I think the action got in the way of spending more time on those themes in volume one. I’m hoping there will be more exploration in that vein in further volumes. This first volume has a ton of high-quality back-matter. I don’t typically spend a ton of time on back-matter, but Bitter Root’s was worth exploring. Firstly, the collection has all of the variant covers from a group of absolute all-stars, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Mignola, and more. The covers are cool but also included are quotes from famous Black writers like Toni Morrison and James Baldwin set to page against Greene’s early character sketches. Then there’s essays from Black academics exploring some of the folklore and themes that helped influence the creation of Bitter Root (including the coining of the great term “EthnoGothic”). The back-matter alone might be worth the price of admission. All told, Bitter Root is first and foremost just a good comic. It’s written well and the art is stellar. Beyond that, it exists as a commentary on racism by Black creators in a time where that feels more essential than ever. To pull off that balance of story and symbolism is no small feat. It’s no wonder this series was recently nominated for the Eisner for best continuing series. I can’t wait to read more.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robyn McIntyre

    In terms of theme, the book is pretty simple: racism and hate make people into monsters. The strength of this graphic novel lies in the relationships of the family members. Even though we are all acquainted with the drama and angst that familial issues cause, it doesn't alter the fact that we are drawn to them, even for the same reason. In this novel, the Sangeryes family has had its share of tragedy, even for a family whose business is to capture and purify (not kill) people who have been made in In terms of theme, the book is pretty simple: racism and hate make people into monsters. The strength of this graphic novel lies in the relationships of the family members. Even though we are all acquainted with the drama and angst that familial issues cause, it doesn't alter the fact that we are drawn to them, even for the same reason. In this novel, the Sangeryes family has had its share of tragedy, even for a family whose business is to capture and purify (not kill) people who have been made into monsters by their hatred. Decreased in numbers, they are in the middle of dealing with an explosion of new cases when they're confronted by a couple of new problems - portals from another dimension letting in more powerful true demonoid monsters and a transformed doctor (Sylvester) who, because of his own pain and loss, is trying to eliminate pain by eliminating the ones who cause it. Set in Harlem a few years before the Renaissance flourished, the book jumps into action right away without time spent on the cultural and intellectual growth of that time and how it might be impacted by the racial hate that caused the killings of the Red Summer of 1919 in Harlem and the massacre that was the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. But those events are mentioned: the Sangeryes lost family during the Red Summer and the doctor-turned-monster lost his family to white vigilantes in Tulsa. There's much push and pull related to the characters trying to find their balance in such an environment. The Sangeryes continue to help others regardless of race, even as they argue about it amongst themselves. Doctor Sylvester starts out as somewhat admiring of the Sangeryes, but then becomes dismissive as his own hate grows to eclipse his desire to cure the new infection from the demons coming through from another dimension and causes him to decide to use it, instead. There is despair as white policemen who know the true story, avoid speaking up out of fear, but there is also hope in a young white member of a KKK group becoming a follower of one of the Sangeryes. The artwork is so good and the pacing is very quick, moving from one member of the family to another until the point where all of them converge in the streets of Harlem to find both a daunting challenge in Doctor Sylvester and the new - intelligent - demons, and renewed strength through family reunion. I don't know that I will continue with the series - I found the story to be less challenging than I like - but I enjoyed this book and consider the time on it spent well, if only for the reminders of our bloody history of racial hate and the ways people have of surmounting it and still flourishing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adam Stone

    I enjoyed the characters in this comic more than I enjoyed the plot. It made for a fun commute to work read, following the adventures of a family combating magical monsters who are transformed from people to monsters by spilling blood as an act of hate. It's kind of a cool premise. I read a review that was upset that the white characters are the only ones who can turn into the hateful monsters, and how the writer thinks that's racist. He fails to take in account that the people of color CAN also t I enjoyed the characters in this comic more than I enjoyed the plot. It made for a fun commute to work read, following the adventures of a family combating magical monsters who are transformed from people to monsters by spilling blood as an act of hate. It's kind of a cool premise. I read a review that was upset that the white characters are the only ones who can turn into the hateful monsters, and how the writer thinks that's racist. He fails to take in account that the people of color CAN also turn into monsters, they just turn into a different type of monster. If you're focusing on the metaphor, let's say it's the difference between being a bigot and being prejudiced. The difference between being a racist, and being affected by institutional racism. Not all the white people in the book are monsters. In fact, a white supremacist who is definitely a bad dude, hasn't ever participated in killing anyone, and thus doesn't ever transform into a monster. He's a person who ends up aligning with the protagonists to avoid being the monsters he sees the other white supremacists turning into. I wish it wasn't so timely. Like, all of the time. This isn't a perfectly plotted book. The last issue reveal was interesting, but it felt a bit like Rick Remender's Black Science, Vol. 1: How to Fall Forever, in that I like and trust the writer is going to somewhere interesting but I'm not going to be shocked if I'm disappointed, either. If you enjoy magicy/sci-fi-ish adventure stories enough to forgive some confusing world building, this might be the book for you. While I enjoy the metaphor/message behind it, I also think it stands on its own as a decent comic adventure story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Benji Glaab

    3.5🌟 Once the Sangeryes were known as the greatest monster hunting family of all time. Their specialty? Curing the souls of those infected by hate. Things have been put into motion and monsters are corrupting people that are in the heat of the moment committing hate filled act's. Now much more than ever the Sangeryes family has taken many casualties recently and are in danger of losing their craft altogether. They need to pull it together to save all of humanity from falling into a hate filled ev 3.5🌟 Once the Sangeryes were known as the greatest monster hunting family of all time. Their specialty? Curing the souls of those infected by hate. Things have been put into motion and monsters are corrupting people that are in the heat of the moment committing hate filled act's. Now much more than ever the Sangeryes family has taken many casualties recently and are in danger of losing their craft altogether. They need to pull it together to save all of humanity from falling into a hate filled evil. The whole racism metaphore didn't really jive well with me. I think there are many ways for people to be hateful. I'm not sure why it had to focus so much on black people vs. White people, and I don't think it's fair to say so since it was set in 1924 in Harlem. Sure racism can turn you into a shitty person, but I personally don't focus on race very much and would just like the world to move on already. Bitter Root is fast paced as hell. For a first volume it establishes it's self quickly, and I loved the setting jumps with action simultaneously unfolding. The characters, mainly the monster hunting family were fantastic. I already see there is a deep family dynamic that can hold lots of story to come. Visually this was amazing loved the panel layouts and art style. It's very busy with hordes of monsters up to 20 people battling it out on the page looks like a royal rumble up in there. And yet the detail never faltered. I will give volume 2 a go for sure

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The art in this book is fantastic, and I love the premise. I mean, of course I would love the idea of a monster slaying *family* in 1920s Harlem. This is obviously about racism, but in that way in which comic books can be blunt about such things, but it also manages to allude to differing experiences and opinions, especially because it has a large cast of characters (most in a family). Hey, there's even a token redeemed white guy for all those people who wouldn't be able to read a story that onl The art in this book is fantastic, and I love the premise. I mean, of course I would love the idea of a monster slaying *family* in 1920s Harlem. This is obviously about racism, but in that way in which comic books can be blunt about such things, but it also manages to allude to differing experiences and opinions, especially because it has a large cast of characters (most in a family). Hey, there's even a token redeemed white guy for all those people who wouldn't be able to read a story that only had non-white main characters (looking at you whoever decided the Black Panther film needed a token white guy, and you, the people who tried to add a white guy to The Farewell). That said, since this volume is almost non-stop action, it draws the reader in that way, but at the cost of fleshed out world-building and character development. This is definitely good enough to read more, between the art and the on-point, interesting essays about racism and black history at the end (originally published at the end of each issue). P.S. This book seems to have a disproportionately low rating, considering the art and how much action there is, in comparison with other comics. I can't help but believe that this is the Goodreads 0.5-1 star tax on books by and/or about BIPOC because (usually white) readers "can't relate."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Peterhans

    Comics and graphic novels are in dire need of more diversity, if only for equal representation, but better yet to tell new, original stories. Bitter Root starts with an interesting, original premise, to then tell a mediocre story you've read a million times before. There are a lot of characters, but there's not a lot of characterisation, beyond obvious characteristics (Berg is loquacious, for example). There is a lot of action, and a lot of characters explaining what is happening. And there is 'root Comics and graphic novels are in dire need of more diversity, if only for equal representation, but better yet to tell new, original stories. Bitter Root starts with an interesting, original premise, to then tell a mediocre story you've read a million times before. There are a lot of characters, but there's not a lot of characterisation, beyond obvious characteristics (Berg is loquacious, for example). There is a lot of action, and a lot of characters explaining what is happening. And there is 'root work', which I never had heard of, and I feel is such an interesting, tantalising idea, that seems strangely underused. There is a solid premise here, now all it needs is a good story.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Um... hell yeah. I can’t believe I slept on this till now. It’s a bit fast-paced, and there’s a lot to unpack, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There’s definitely re-read value, and I look forward to reading the essays at the back, and learning more about root work and the related folklore too. It looks like maybe the series stalled, but I hope it goes on for a while... can’t wait for book two. Edit: Looks more like an every 1-4 months kinda thing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Read more graphic novel reviews at www.graphiclibrary.org. ​ The Sangeryes, as a family, have been fighting evil demon creatures from breaking into our realm for centuries. At present, their operations are set in 1920s Harlem, and slightly in Mississippi. These demons can creep into a man's soul when hatred or fear takes over, and it's The Sangeryes' job to administer a serum that cleanses the soul back to normal. But, there are even deeper forces of evil at work. There are gatekeepers - devils wh Read more graphic novel reviews at www.graphiclibrary.org. ​ The Sangeryes, as a family, have been fighting evil demon creatures from breaking into our realm for centuries. At present, their operations are set in 1920s Harlem, and slightly in Mississippi. These demons can creep into a man's soul when hatred or fear takes over, and it's The Sangeryes' job to administer a serum that cleanses the soul back to normal. But, there are even deeper forces of evil at work. There are gatekeepers - devils who take the form of humans and guard gateways for other demons to come to Earth. There are also monsters who take over a soul when despair and pain set in, and the regular measures don't seem to work on them. And there's a whole world of evil just waiting to break into Earth. How will this family overcome their difficult past and protect reality? This was a really enjoyable story with interesting characters, and one heck of a cliffhanger. The family dynamic is slightly dysfunctional (what family isn't), but it's clear they all deeply care for each other and want to fight together. Ma Etta is super feisty and powerful despite her small frame. Blink is a champion for squashing gender roles, even though this is 1920s Harlem. This story also incorporates racism as a main plot element, as many of the demons take over the hearts of racist individuals. The coloring is wonderful - Harlem is full of purples, unless you're inside the Sangerye house, which is greenish-brown. Then there's Mississippi that has its own color scheme as well, and at one point, three separate storylines were playing out on the page at the same time, distinguishable only by the color schemes. Image rates this as a mature title. There is some language, and a good amount of gore. To get a peak at this title, read the first volume for free via Image's website. Sara's Rating: 8/10 Suitability Level: Grades 11-12

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    Fascinating world and characters - overall pretty enjoyable! Loved the essays in the back from various Black voices adding their take on the comic and content.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Waller

    5 stars, only because 5 billion wasn't an option. 5 stars, only because 5 billion wasn't an option.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Another week for my comic club and another Image comic. On the one hand, I admire that Image is willing to go outside the mainstream of capes and spandex and return to the gritty horror comics of the pre-code era. On the other hand, Image can get a bit heavy-handed with their politics. I feel like they end up preaching to the choir a lot. Image has maybe 10,000 readers and they're all extremely liberal. They probably don't need to be told that racism is evil. As an action comic, Bitter Root work Another week for my comic club and another Image comic. On the one hand, I admire that Image is willing to go outside the mainstream of capes and spandex and return to the gritty horror comics of the pre-code era. On the other hand, Image can get a bit heavy-handed with their politics. I feel like they end up preaching to the choir a lot. Image has maybe 10,000 readers and they're all extremely liberal. They probably don't need to be told that racism is evil. As an action comic, Bitter Root works quite well. It definitely has some Hellboy in its DNA. I had a lot of fun with the wild and grotesque monster designs and steampunk superweapons. My favorite character from volume 1 had to be Berg followed by Ford. Bonus points: It did do some research on the violent race riots and white mob violence of the early 20th century including the Red Summer of 1919 and the Tulsa massacre of 1921. Points deducted: That ridiculous plot point in which only white people can be possessed by the demons of racism because black people "don't have it in them". Although black people can be possessed by the demons of pain and loss, which white people can't. If racism were solely a white, American problem the world would be a far more peaceful place. Sadly, genocides inspired by racism and hatred continue all over the world. In just the last 30 years, there have been at least 3 major black on black genocides in Africa. There was the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the anti-Hutu revenge genocide during the first Congolese War, and the genocide committed against the Mbuti tribe by Congolese rebels in 2002-2003. American media doesn't care about Africa, so here's the short version. A rebel faction called the MLC decided that the short statured Mbuti people who live in the rainforest are sub-human and needed to be wiped out. A secondary motivation was the folk belief that Mbuti flesh granted dark magical powers. Yes really. In October of 2002, the MLC launched Operation Effacer le Tableau "Erase the Board". After just 4 months, they had systematically slaughtered 70,000 Mbuti pygmies or 40 percent of the entire Mbuti population! Sadly, racism is a widespread human problem. We are a MESSED UP species!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Meepelous

    The art of Bitter Root is extremely expressive, but still very easy to parse, which is a very cool combination. Not trying to be realistic, both the use of line and color was very expressive. Fully utilizing the visual elements of the graphic novel to tell us about the characters and scenes. I feel like it reminded me of Paul Pope, but I have not read anything by them of late so this is through the fuzzy lens of memory. I certainly felt like this story was a bit easier to follow then some of Pop The art of Bitter Root is extremely expressive, but still very easy to parse, which is a very cool combination. Not trying to be realistic, both the use of line and color was very expressive. Fully utilizing the visual elements of the graphic novel to tell us about the characters and scenes. I feel like it reminded me of Paul Pope, but I have not read anything by them of late so this is through the fuzzy lens of memory. I certainly felt like this story was a bit easier to follow then some of Pope's stuff. As far as sexuality and gender goes, it didn't appear to be something that the creators wanted to engage at all. There's a decent amount of what modern society tells me is an assumed cis woman and cis man, although one of these is more central to the action then the other, generally... Race is obviously a big focus of the book. Set during the Harlem Renaissance, I guess this is alternative history urban fantasy, urban alt. history fantasy? For interested parties there are, as I already mentioned, a number of essays at the end of the volume that talk about some of the different Afro cultural and spiritual traditions that inspired Bitter Root. We also have a white character who reminded me more then a little bit of Everett K. Ross of Christopher Priest's Black Panther fame. Thankfully he's not the view point character, but it did feel like Johnny-Ray Knox (cross my fingers I think that was his name) fulfilled some of the same roles. As you might have guessed from my mentioning the attempted lynching in the warnings, racism is something covered in this volume. It does go beyond that however, and really weaves the effects of racism into the more fantastical elements of the story as well as the plot. Reading a lot of more nonfiction stuff about race recently it was nice change to read through not only a fictional work tackling race but doing so in a creative sideways sort of way overflowing with creativity. As far as class goes, while (assuming I didn't miss anything) this volume doesn't really mention money at all the aesthetic read as fairly working class IMHO. Not much, but we get even less (aka nothing) for disability vs ability rep.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    I think a lot of comic creators do better work when it is not a work for hire contract (conversely some really are better at WFH than creating their own stuff). I think Walker work's on Superb has been good, but I really enjoyed the world he is starting to build with Bitter Root. Sure, it is a mash-up of a lot of genres, and sub-genres. A lot of times such concepts can be a lot of fun, and sometimes even very good. This is a title, like Hellboy, where I suggest the reader have some patience. Not I think a lot of comic creators do better work when it is not a work for hire contract (conversely some really are better at WFH than creating their own stuff). I think Walker work's on Superb has been good, but I really enjoyed the world he is starting to build with Bitter Root. Sure, it is a mash-up of a lot of genres, and sub-genres. A lot of times such concepts can be a lot of fun, and sometimes even very good. This is a title, like Hellboy, where I suggest the reader have some patience. Not everything is divulged at once, and some of this is a slow reveal as to how this world's 1920s Harlem differs from what actually took place. Plus, nice to get some diversity in the urban fantasy sub-genre in comics (yes I know it is slowly happening in standard prose market also). The Sangerye Clan has been protecting the world from demons (my interpretation of the creatures) called Jinroo, that can take over humans for generations (I mean Ma Etta is old, and also DO NOT mess with Ma Etta). The world is changing though, and this new threat so far defies classification. We're introduced to the family that with the 20th Century has begun to physically wander apart. Berg is practically a giant, but very erudite. Cullen is trying to find his place, while Bling struggles with what she wants in her role in the family (i.e. more active/hunter type) than what is expected of a woman in the 1920s. Some depth is give n to villain.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dakota Morgan

    Awesome art, kinetic action, and a somewhat intriguing mythology all make Bitter Root worth picking up. Some extremely on-the-nose themes and an incoherent conclusion to this volume make it a little less worthwhile. The Sangerye family has been hunting "jinoo" for generations. Jinoo are monsters formed from people who have been infected with hate - largely racists, as far as this book is concerned. Killing/curing racists is fine by me, it's just a bit too blunt, thematically, and a little odd th Awesome art, kinetic action, and a somewhat intriguing mythology all make Bitter Root worth picking up. Some extremely on-the-nose themes and an incoherent conclusion to this volume make it a little less worthwhile. The Sangerye family has been hunting "jinoo" for generations. Jinoo are monsters formed from people who have been infected with hate - largely racists, as far as this book is concerned. Killing/curing racists is fine by me, it's just a bit too blunt, thematically, and a little odd that the "curing" method makes it seem like some mystical other is the cause of hatred, not a person's own beliefs. Still, all the monster action is fun and great to look at. The author(s) stretch a little as they try to inject other types of monsters and a whole family of characters into the book in the last two issues. It's very hard to follow. I was also surprised to see a number of scholarly essays in the backmatter. After reading the exciting exploits of the Sangeryes, I wasn't exactly yearning for a dissertation on Zora Neale Hurston. Still, could be fascinating for another reader.

  28. 5 out of 5

    SuperSillySerra

    The family that slays together, stays together. Bitter root is thrilling story about a family who hunt supernatural beings consumed by hate. Its set in the 1930s, jumping back and forth between the south and the east coast. The story talks about how certain demons are the ones who control people who are filled with hatred and how theyre running hate groups across the country. With a new type of monster and an old foe on their tail, the Sangerye family really has to get creative if they want to The family that slays together, stays together. Bitter root is thrilling story about a family who hunt supernatural beings consumed by hate. Its set in the 1930s, jumping back and forth between the south and the east coast. The story talks about how certain demons are the ones who control people who are filled with hatred and how theyre running hate groups across the country. With a new type of monster and an old foe on their tail, the Sangerye family really has to get creative if they want to save the world. I really liked this series! Lots of action and it has a cool steam punk vibe to it. The art is great, the colors even better. Not much negative to say about it except that while reading it in issues there were a hand full of times where I couldnt tell which character they were focused on. It reads much smoother in volumes. Excited for the next arch!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Librarian

    Can this Black family of underground monster hunters survive 1920’s America? Incredible fantasy world grounded in the stark reality of American history. Action packed and thrilling! I can’t wait to keep reading!

  30. 4 out of 5

    molly

    "One of the greatest horrors we face is racism. It is an ignorant, vile, vicious monster that lurks in humanity's past, present, and, sadly, in our future. Bitter Root takes this monster and gives it a face and a body and an uncontrollable desire to kill. But this series also gives hope in fighting this vicious monster, and that hope comes in the form of the Sangerye family. The Sangeryes are fighting a never-ending battle to combat and extinguish the monster born out of racism, intolerance, and "One of the greatest horrors we face is racism. It is an ignorant, vile, vicious monster that lurks in humanity's past, present, and, sadly, in our future. Bitter Root takes this monster and gives it a face and a body and an uncontrollable desire to kill. But this series also gives hope in fighting this vicious monster, and that hope comes in the form of the Sangerye family. The Sangeryes are fighting a never-ending battle to combat and extinguish the monster born out of racism, intolerance, and hate. Bitter Root is filled with action, drama, laughs, and amazing artwork. But at its core, this series is a call to combat the bitter root of racism and hate.” - Chuck Brown and David F. Walker Bitter Root is a comic brought to life by three extremely talented Black men: David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene. It's an entertaining fantasy, but more importantly, it is a history lesson. The Sangerye family are keepers of the old ways. Rootwork. Conjure. Protectors. They handle the beasties that no one else can or even wants to, but something is changing. These new monsters are not the Jinoo they're used to. It's a fantasy that takes the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Migration, Black Wall Street and interweaves those very real histories with magic, demons, and the many practices of the African Diaspora. Ma Etta, Blink, Cullen, ♥️Berg♥️, and Ford are at the root of this story. (Roots, or ruts, are very much a key theme here. Pay attention.) This is more than just a comic, it's an education. At the end of each comic (or graphic novel as the case may be for you), there is an essay written by a Black scholar. Looking at racism through the medium of horror and the gothic, rootwork and conjure, Black Wall Street, folklore, and even a little Wakanda. Throughout reading this, I remembered a quote from the late Toni Morrison and it has never rang truer: “If I take your race away, and there you are, all strung out. And all you got is your little self, and what is that? What are you without racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Are you still smart? Do you still like yourself? I mean, these are the questions.”

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