Review: Mixing Fact With Fiction Works Well In Supernatural Saga ‘Bitter Root’ #7

by Olly MacNamee

It’s been a mad old time of it in recent days, right? But, while the goal posts seem to be forever changing on a daily basis we’ll still be here to keep you up-to-date and entertained with the odd review and preview thrown in too. Some may still be in advance, some many even be late, as this one is. Bitter Root #7 came out last week from Image Comics, but it may be a book you’ll be picking up at another time anyway. However, I was lucky enough to the my copy before all UK comic stores shut down as of end-of-day on Monday 23rd March. A book that not only dazzles with its Roaring Twenties-set story of magic and racial tension, but also includes additional reading to help readers come to terms with both the supernatural tone and the times in which this story is being played out. If Public Enemy are the Black CNN of the 80s then alternative media, such as comic books, is one of its more contemporary equivalents too. Especially this series.
In this issue, we get a story that jumps across years, starting off in 1919, working its way through to eventually land on 1924 and Harlem, New York.

In this issue we learn more about Doctor Walter Sylvester and the tragedies that has led him to this crossroads and his choice to seek revenge on the Sangerye family. We hear Walter’s thoughts and journey with him through the tough recent times he’s suffered. And how, at his lowest ebb, he mistook a demon for an angel of salvation. But then, when we are desperate, we’ll find solace in the strangest of places.
It also explains why Walter is now a possessed man by giving him an origin story of sorts. It’s an issue that certainly lets you into the mind of a very troubled and tragic man, who not only lost his wife all too early, but was present during the very real life Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, where the white citizens attacked black-owned business, resulting in “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” Whatever he had left, he lost there.
After reading this book you will certainly feel far more sympathetic for this man after everything he has to endure. Even more so when he has a wake up call, at the end of this issue, that may be just too late for him.

Once again, David F Walker, Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown work their own voodoo magic on proceedings, offering up a truly gripping family drama of ghostbusters (well, demon hunters, but you get the idea) set against a remarkable time in American history. And not in a good way. Especially for Afro-Americans, many of whom would have remembered the dark days of slavery, as we are reminded by Walter’s own narration at the start of the issue.  The settings are not coincidental, but purposeful. What we are getting, really, is two stories for the price of one. That of the Sangerye family, overcoming adversity as well as ghouls, while also chronicling the continued plight of African-Americans of that period, without ramming it down your throat at the expense of the story, but rather in service to the story.
I’m glad I returned back to this comic book series as it’s the perfect fit for me and anyone else interested in a very different kind of supernatural story utilising the beliefs of a culture even now we don’t always get to hear enough from in certain corners of the media. You’ll come away from this entertained, but maybe with a new found desire to research more on this fascinating era. Like I’ve said before, what with everything that’s happening in America today with the rise of more right-wing thoughts and voices, this is a history lesson be should really not be repeating. And, maybe, just maybe, that’s the other message behind this book. After all, these guys wouldn’t be the first to use the past to comment on the present, now would they?
Bitter Root #7 is available now from Image comics, and you can read the first issue for free here right now.

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