Bitter Root #5
Writers: David F. Walker & Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Bitter Root is beyond storytelling; it’s a chronicle of resilience and strength in the face of adversity. Each issue of this series holds so much to say about the roots of hate and ways it shows itself. Layers of impact from the Black experience in America shine through its characters who face these struggles daily. I don’t have enough praise to give to this team or enough critical analysis to go through every imaginative piece. Instead, all I have is utter love for this series. The most I can do is tell you to buy this series, whether as single issues or trade paperback. This is a book you do not want to miss.
The end of the first arc gives a satisfying conclusion while leaving readers clamoring for the next one. The first page opens on Cullen after falling through the portal and a wave of hands coming after him. As he hits the ground, a stranger in steampunk attire picks him up saying “I have you Cullen.” The second page hard cuts to the craziness occurring in Harlem as the Sangeryes face Dr. Sylvester’s horde. Chaos reigns as mouths snarl, finger tentacles fly, and alchemy is let loose. The thrilling fight is edged up by Uncle Enoch and Dr. Sylvester’s conversation; we learn Dr. Sylvester thrives on pain. Though the best part is after the initial battle when the Sangeryes take care of those hurt by the fight.
There’s no such thing as winding down for these protectors as they help Harlem by serving soup from their home. Having just left the fight against the Jinoo, Blink believes they should be out there rounding them up. The brilliance of writing in this book comes from moments like this. Ma Etta’s response to Blink isn’t “no, we aren’t going out there.” It’s “We gonna fight the fight. But we also gonna feed the hungry, we gonna comfort them that’s scared and we gonna heal the sick.”
This is a woman who spent her life rising above all the hate and bigotry against her, supernatural or otherwise. Ma Etta’s lesson to Blink is simple: we’ve got to do more than bring violence against violence to stop it or heal from it. Honestly, there are so many fantastic characters to love but Ma Etta has to be my favorite character in the book.
I tend to judge art on facial expressions and what they convey since action is usually about the thrill for me. That moment between Blink and Ma Etta, where each is speaking their mind so the other can understand, is astonishing. Blink is incredulous as her jaw near drops speaking to Ma Etta at first. Renzi and Greene make that first moment memorable, showing her disbelief that Ma Etta could be so blasé.
The following panel wins the issue for me. As Ma Etta gives her speech to Blink, we see her grizzled face with understanding eyes but no compromise. She knows exactly what is at stake and exactly where she needs to be to fight the good fight. We don’t see Blink’s focus shift after that panel, but we can definitely feel it. It’s a powerful display that only these artists could create and the book is legendary due to their talents.
I can’t say it enough, Bitter Root is going to go down as one of the best comic series out there. There’s too much to love about this issue and the series itself. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s the time to get on board.
Bitter Root #5
Bitter Root #5 is a stunning conclusion to Book One of what promises to be a significant and memorable series.