Readers are only one story-arc into “Bitter Root” and the creative team is already delivering a special annual-style issue.”Bitter Root Red Summer Special” #1 is an exploration into the Sangerye family that spans decades and different artistic creative teams. Will the world of “Bitter Root” be able to retain focus across a sprawling issue packed with different narratives?
Written by David F. Walker and Chuck Brown
Illustrated by Sanford Greene, Lisa K. Weber, Daniel Lish, Chris Brunner, Dietrich Smith and Khary Randolph
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, Daniela Miwa, Rico Renzi, Matt Herms and Anthony George
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
The first story arc of BITTER ROOT introduced readers to a family unlike any other. In this special issue, the creators of the critically acclaimed series are joined by a star-studded group of artists for six short stories that explore the history of the Sangerye family. Travel into the past—and to different worlds—to get a special look at a very special family! HOLLYWOOD NEWS! Legendary Pictures has acquired the feature film rights.
“Bitter Root Red Summer Special” #1 is a curious entry into the series. It doesn’t seem like a series so early on should merit a special issue yet the world of “Bitter Root” is already vast. Writers David F. Walker and Chuck Brown find something interesting to say about the property with several different incarnations of characters. The entry jumps from years and locations depending on the story to say something interesting about several decades of the Sangerye’s battle with the Jinoo. The artwork and writing stay interesting and subversive throughout the comic book. The only place where Walker and Brown stumble with the scripts are entries that feel a little too short or too obvious. Both ‘Red Summer’ and ‘Tulsa’ explore apocalyptic themes that have already been cultivated in past issues. Throughout the world of “Bitter Root,” Walker and Brown have established an ice-cold, foreboding feeling that makes these sad stories of loss both sad and redundant.
The artwork is brilliant across the board in “Bitter Root Red Summer Special” #1. Sanford Greene and Daniela Miwa continue their incredibly kinetic and polished approach to artwork. The world of “Bitter Root” is colored with harrowing purples and pinks that look stunning and nightmarish. Lisa Weber and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s approach to the property is something I assumed would not work. Weber’s pencils are much lighter and polished but perfect for the character-focused story from Walker and Brown. Using the art team on the issue was a huge risk that paid off with stunning work and a whole new way to interpret the property.
Daniel Lish is another radically different take on the world of “Bitter Root.” Lish’s stoic figures and chunky panels evoke another really odd tone for “Bitter Root.” Lish’s pencils utilize a sense of extremely bleak humor at times and I would love to see him draw a full issue of the book. Khary Randolph and Matt Herms deliver a solid contribution that doesn’t quite enrich the world like some of the stories in the collection. ‘Ladies Night’ is a solid story with artwork matching the main series pretty well.
Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi push the envelope of the series squarely on a horror direction. The slender linework and precise figures really show off how harrowing the narrative can be. Dietrich Smith and Anthony George have a more polished approach to the art during the talking head scenes and a looser line during the battle scenes. The duo close out the story with an impressive final page structured incredibly well.
When Walker and Brown get more experimental with the writing in the collection, the results yield interesting pay-off. ‘The Arsenal’ is a story that doubles-down on kindness and shows off that there is more to the Sangerye family than monster killing. Since the stories in the collection are so short, Walker and Brown are barely able to explore the important character beat before closing out the story but the result is still incredibly effective as a narrative. The writing on the debut entry ‘Etta’ is a little too obvious and unassuming. The entry recaps information from the main series and introduces the family and their monster killing ability. This is a very accessible issue and it is good that Walker and Brown give readers a quick story that tells you most of what you need to know before going further into the collection.Continued below
‘Barzakh’ is quite possibly the most ambitious story in the collection. The entry features a different setting and genre for “Bitter Root” to explore. Walker and Brown establish the characters and tone of the setting really quickly while also keeping the bleak theme of the script intact. The writing in this collection is a little frustrating as the issue serves as a bunch of beginnings of stories that may be picked up on in the future. Walker and Brown still do an excellent job setting up ‘Barzakh’ and the relationship between Nora and Cullen. The storyline has a bleak feeling that comes off as unique from the other stories due to the setting and length of the chapter.
“Bitter Root Red Summer Special” #1 is an ambitious look into the multi-faceted world of the property. The story is loaded with content and artistic directions that serves as a great sampler to “Bitter Root.” This is a great chapter to give to someone interested in picking the series for the very first time.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – “Bitter Root Red Summer Special” #1 explores short stories relating to the property with ambitious new artistic directions.