Bitter Root: Red Summer Special
Written by: David F. Walker & Chuck Brown
Penciled by: Sanford Greene (Etta); Lisa K. Weber (The Arsenal);
Daniel Lish (Red Summer); Chris Brunner (Tulsa);
Khary Randolph (Ladies Night); Dietrich Smith (Barzakh)
Lettered by: Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Sanford Greene
Previously on Bitter Root…
Bitter root is an awesome book that follows the Sangerye family during the Harlem Renaissance in the early 20’s. This is not your regular family, they have a special recipe that exorcises demons off white people stricken by racism. In the first 5 issues, The Sangeryes, Ma Etta, Blink, Cullen, and Berg, fought the possessed Jinoo with their rootwork (fifno). Things get worse when there are more monsters and they don’t respond to the fifno the same. Then, other family members, Uncle & a cousin come out of the woodwork after some mysterious falling out.
This series is immensely entertaining, beautifully drawn, and historically relevant all at once. I’m a history buff and when you can mix this genre and history, magic happens. The dream team of Walker, Brown, and Greene paints a picture that not many in our current political climate want to accept. Racism exists and it pains both sides of the aisle. But the Sangerye family and the world of Bitter Root have some mysteries underlying their methods. What happened to Cullen and Blink’s parents? Why did their Uncle Enoch and Cousin Ford have a falling out with the family? What happened to Dr. Sylvester and Miss Knightsdale in Tulsa to make them go nuts on everyone in issue #5? Succinctly, the six short stories here in this issue answer all of those questions and a little more. I love this book and it is the perfect bridge between the last issue of the first arc and the next arc to come in the fall this year.
Each story is plotted perfectly. The amazing artists make each story distinct entities. This brings each main character’s pain, triumph, or discovery to new life. These stories, as well, are deeply rooted in values and themes that run across many African American/Black stories, issues of family, responsibility, love, heartache, loss, overcoming gender binaries, the horrors racism, and fight the “good fight.” I liked each story, with the only wish being that they were longer. I loved the color and horror of Etta, I connected with the story of Berg in the Arsenal, I love the rawness of Red Summer, I was enthralled in the realness of Tulsa, I thought Ladies Night was fun, and I was intrigued by the new world and fast pace of Barzakh. I think I connected the most with Berg’s story in using your intellect as a weapon and with Tulsa because I personally had family that lived in Oklahoma during the Oklahoma Race Massacre (used in place of Tulsa Race Riot). Ultimately, I was delighted with this set of stories because they are real, raw, and awe-inspiring. I can’t wait for more.