Bitter Root #10 Review: Destruction

Cullen Sangerye belongs to the African-American diaspora from the world he’s been fighting in from Volume I of “Bitter Root.” Transported back to 1924 Harlem Cullen has become hardened, and while his lack of feeling helps him in battling the evil entity known as Adro, it’s issue 10 that shows a war bigger than battling jinoo or this new invitation for destruction.

The nonlinear multi-character storytelling is what punctuates this diaspora-drama that seems to imbed itself in ancestral trauma. We see in the opening of this comic a flashback of Dr. Walter Sylvester and nurse Eliza Knightsdale, ironically healers who have been infected with the pain and suffering of what both experienced through the Tulsa Massacre in 1921, a real life event that shows the monster that is racism. There is also the beginning of Walter’s inzondo state, a place of the in-between where one appears physically as monsters but can be seen asbeing able to adapt to a type of genetic, inherited trauma. During issues 8 and 9, Walter makes his way to a southern sundown town to confront Adro and by the 10th has put a band-aid on a gaping wound. But Walter at least comes to a place of completion. Having faced his pain he’s able to confront Adrowho had for so long feasted on it. But the same can’t be said about Cullen who holds an empty sense of anger and bitterness about him. Even when Johnnie-Ray, the white, red-headed young man saved by Ford Sangerye in an earlier issue offers hope, Cullen isn’t moved. That scene where the burgeoning white ally shows a glimmer of understanding and growth is important to seeing the impact of the monster that is racism. And it’s the sharp, jagged silhouetted lines on the pages steeped in darkness is where both Adro and Cullen feed.

While Adro feasts on the “hope” of Johnnie-Ray, Cullen makes a meal out of bile and bitterness. Essentially Cullen fails to comprehend how his ignoring his absence of pain also fuels the otherworldly Adro.

By the end of this comic-book there is no sense of resolution or rest for all involved. Lessons are learned, but it’s Cullen who needs to get how his behavior and not facing his own trauma is part of the cause of what’s happening. His cousin Blink, the woman who is both fighter and thinker though does get what’shappening. As she, rootworker Ma Etta, her uncle steampunk-tech expert Enoch work with allies to figure out how to stop Adro Blink understands that no matter the culture evil is the same.

“Bitter Root’s” latest issue once again melds kickass action with thought-provoking ideas on what happens when the marginalized are the central focus of their own storytelling. It’sglorious in how pain is or isn’t confronted and the repercussions of it. The back matter of essays written by Matthew Teutsch and Stanford Carpenter, PhD are a welcome contributions in the understanding of the world of “Bitter Root” creating a nourishing richness in the reasonings behind these characters.

About Donna-Lyn Washington 632 Articles
Donna-lyn Washington has a M.A. in English from Brooklyn College. She is currently teaching at Kingsborough Community College where her love of comics and pop culture play key parts in helping her students move forward in their academic careers. As a senior writer for ReviewFix she has been able to explore a variety of worlds through comics, film and television and has met some interesting writers and artists along the way. Donna-lyn does a weekly podcast reviewing indie comics and has also contributed entries to the 'Encyclopedia of Black Comics,’ the academic anthology ‘Critical Insights: Frank Yerby’ and is the editor for the upcoming book, ‘Conversations With: John Jennings.’

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