Saving New York From Its Monsters
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle reviews Image’s Bitter Root, by David Walker,Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene …
Bitter Root #1
Writers: David Walker & Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
During the nineteen twenties, America was a strange old place. Half a century after the civil war that fractured the nation in two, less than a decade after the First World War, with the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression waiting just around the corner, segregation running rampant in the Southern States, monsters roaming the the streets of New York and held in the grip of Prohibition, it was yet to discover and embrace the promises that its founding fathers had made in the Declaration of Independence. While it had started to mark its mark on history, America hadn’t emerged from the shadow cast by its relatively youthful age and the mistakes that it, like all growing nations inevitably do, had made. But despite all of the hardships that it faced, it still offered the rest of the world a taste of the promise that was yet to come. Silent movies and the growing film industry, baseball, the mass production of affordable motor vehicles and the burgeoning pulp fiction magazines that propelled genres such as Science Fiction and Horror into the mainstream consciousness were all beginning to leak from the confines of their birthplace and emerge onto the global stage and… Wait a minute, did I say something about monsters in New York? Surely that’s wrong, there weren’t any monsters in New York were there?
Well, no, there weren’t any as far as mainstream history is aware, but in David Walker, Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown’s Bitter Root, they’re a real problem and why the Sangerye family have moved to, and set up shop in, the cultural epicentre of the Big Apple, Harlem. Famed monster hunters who exist on the periphery of everyday society, the Sangeryes have made it their business to keep their adopted city and the world safe from all of the things that go bump in the night. And even though it’s their family business, it’s made far more difficult by the less enlightened time that they’re sworn to defend. Bursting with gorgeously detailed monsters and all manner of horrific action courtesy of Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown, the debut issue of Bitter Root is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cornucopia of crisp, near-flawless story telling that intertwines characterisation and plot in perfect measure and crams a surprising amount into its page count. David Walker’s knack for spinning an involving and interesting tale continues unabated in Bitter Root as he delivers a story that instantly grabs you by the lapels and draws you in, but also gives him the space to flex his creative muscles. Never one to shy away from confronting an issue head-on, rather than avoid the prejudice and intolerance that the period was littered with, he freely incorporates it into his story, illustrating the dangers and mistrust and that his characters would have faced during this turbulent time. And you know what? It adds something special to Bitter Root, it makes you fall in love, and side, with his characters that little bit more, because we all want the world to be better than it is and was, and more than anything we want the Sangeryes to succeed and keep the world safe despite all of the odds being desperately stacked against them. As first issues go, this is a doozy. Drop whatever it is you’re doing and add Bitter Root to your pull list right now… Tim Cundle
Bitter Root#1 is out from 14 November from Image Comics