Bitter Root #4

Writers: David F. Walker, Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Green
Colorists: Rico Renzi, Sanford Green
Publisher: Image Comics

Review by Jim Allegro

Some (white) people just aren’t worth saving. That’s the dilemma at the heart of the newest issue of the new horror series from Image. All hell breaks loose in Bitter Root #4, literally and figuratively, as the Jinoo wage all out war on the streets of Jazz Age Harlem. As if that wasn’t enough, the monster-hunter Sangerye family must now confront a new evil. The rise of the monstrous Inzondo adds still another dimension to the dialogue about racism, family, and history in this provocative comicbook.

The writing on Bitter Root continues to impress with a clearly-drawn and fast-paced story. The conflict that erupted in the last issue with the morphing of the police into Jinoo turns here into a full-blown riot. Blink, Cullen, and others turn out with Berg to battle the hoard. The action scenes are as energetic and as thoughtful as the book’s central metaphor: hatred and tribalism turn white people into monsters. David F. Walker (Power Man and Iron Fist) and Chuck Brown (Trench Coats, Cigarettes, and Shot Guns) do a fine job of paralleling the rioting Jinoo with past race riots such as the Red Summer of 1919. This is a comic that challenges our sense of history and racism without losing sight of the need to entertain.

The artwork makes possible this delicate balance. Jinoo bursting out of overlapping panels and angular lines to depict motion number among the many techniques used by Sanford Green (Power Man and Iron Fist) to illustrate the frenetic nature of the riot. And, Green joins Rico Renzi (Spider Gwen) to match a color palette to the story’s emotional tenor. Rich purples bathe the monsters in sinister mystery. Safe pale greens frame the matriarch Ma Etta’s attempt to aid Berg and others afflicted by the mania. Alarming reds warn readers about a new layer of storytelling in the form of the Inzondo.

This new monster stands in for the effects of racism on the African-American community. Just as the Jinoo manifest the monstrous in a racist white community, which the Sangrerye realize in Bitter Root #4, so do the Inzondo as ravenous manifestations of the anger people of color harbor toward an unjust system. These monsters care not to heal or cure the Jinoo of their affliction. Rather, they want justice at any price — because some white people are simply not worth saving. The Sangreye family must decide how to deal with this seminal question of American racial politics: do we work within the system to bring change or is the system so corrupt that we need to destroy it and the people who support it?

Verdict: Buy It.

This issue is my introduction to Bitter Root, and I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling, artwork, and message. The latest issue of this cutting-edge Image horror comic is a BUY.

Jim Allegro
jallegro2@gmail.com
Jim teaches and writes about American history. But mostly he reads comics, listens to music, and walks in the woods with his wife and son.

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