January 28, 2020

Review: Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business

Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business by David F. Walker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I struggled to finish this, picking it up and putting it down several times, and about halfway through I figured out why: the art. I didn't like the art at all. The colors are thick and kludgy, laden with piss-yellows, puke-greens, and clotted-blood reds, and I didn't care for the style. Once I finished, I decided this would have worked better for me as a straight ahead print book, as the story is fascinating.

A tale of an African American family in the 1920's, in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance, who hunt monsters? Yes, please. There are two kinds of monsters here, the "jinoos" which per the description of one of the characters, are "people with corrupted souls," and actual demons streaming into the world through a portal, a la the Buffy-verse. Our family, the Sangeryes, has to tackle both of them: from the matriarch, the aged but still scrappy Ma Etta, to Blink, the younger female cousin who yearns to fight and finally gets to do so, to Berg, who tosses out four- and five-syllable words on the search for "sagacious insight." There's a great deal of backstory here just hinted at, and I would have loved to read more of it. (In fact, the essays at the end of the volume, from various African-American academics, were the most interesting parts, to me.) Unfortunately, I thought the off-putting art didn't set well, and that's fatal for a graphic novel. It's too bad.

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