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Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business

(Bitter Root #1-5)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  422 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, the Sangerye family specialized in curing the souls of those infected by hate, but those days are fading. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins split between curing monsters and killing them. Now, with a new breed of monster loose on the streets of Harlem, the Sangerye family ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Image Comics
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  422 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was such a complex book. It doesn’t just have monsters for the sake of having monsters. It looks at how racism corrupts souls and turns people into monsters. Completely brilliant. I definitely recommend that a lot more people pick this one when they get a chance!
Rod Brown
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I was going to give this book a 2-star rating after finishing the main feature, because despite the interesting start and showing us horror through an African American prism, the story quickly became a lot of slam-bang action scenes with one-dimensional characters fighting monsters. It felt like I was skipping all the other episodes in the season and just watching the cliffhanger finale of Supernatural. Who are these people and why are they all fighting?

But the book was saved by the many
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The current HBO series Watchmen, loosely based on the comic, is predicated on the idea that the 1921 attack on the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma — an area known as “black Wall Street” — has long-lasting effects on not just the survivors of that white-on-black race riot but also on their descendants.

This comic postulates a similar thing, where hatred and greed turn a person evil and monstrous, into what is called a jinoo. The Sangeryes family are survivors of Greenwood, and they have, in
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Took awhile to get there but the world building seemed a little slow and confusing. Great characters though.
Lukas Holmes
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Now this is a 'universe' I want to spend a lot more time in. You've got at least five different wide character arcs going. Endless directions and depth for this story and some great world building. You've got the horrors of racism mixed with action, horror, romance and more. I really can't wait to see where this goes.
Robyn McIntyre
In terms of theme, the book is pretty simple: racism and hate make people into monsters.

The strength of this graphic novel lies in the relationships of the family members. Even though we are all acquainted with the drama and angst that familial issues cause, it doesn't alter the fact that we are drawn to them, even for the same reason.

In this novel, the Sangeryes family has had its share of tragedy, even for a family whose business is to capture and purify (not kill) people who have been made
Adam Stone
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the characters in this comic more than I enjoyed the plot.

It made for a fun commute to work read, following the adventures of a family combating magical monsters who are transformed from people to monsters by spilling blood as an act of hate. It's kind of a cool premise.

I read a review that was upset that the white characters are the only ones who can turn into the hateful monsters, and how the writer thinks that's racist. He fails to take in account that the people of color CAN also
Benji Glaab
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it

Once the Sangeryes were known as the greatest monster hunting family of all time. Their specialty? Curing the souls of those infected by hate.

Things have been put into motion and monsters are corrupting people that are in the heat of the moment committing hate filled act's. Now much more than ever the Sangeryes family has taken many casualties recently and are in danger of losing their craft altogether. They need to pull it together to save all of humanity from falling into a hate filled
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
The art in this book is fantastic, and I love the premise. I mean, of course I would love the idea of a monster slaying *family* in 1920s Harlem. This is obviously about racism, but in that way in which comic books can be blunt about such things, but it also manages to allude to differing experiences and opinions, especially because it has a large cast of characters (most in a family). Hey, there's even a token redeemed white guy for all those people who wouldn't be able to read a story that ...more
Kathryn Waller
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 stars, only because 5 billion wasn't an option.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was okay. I enjoyed the use of traditional Black folklore and history in the plot and was pleased to see how much love and research the creative team put into the story and the characters. Bitter Root follows a family of monster hunters who're trying to root out/find the root of all evil in their world. The story deals with hate and love and loss and racism and forgiveness. It's certainly a much needed and inclusive entry into the world of comics.


There were some problems I couldn't
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
My first metric for bothering to pick up any graphic novel: it has to be striking or unusual visually. If it doesn't pop, I don't bother. This pops. Vibrant, energetic, wonderfully drawn and well inked. I flipped through it, and I'm like, yeah, I want to spend some time with this.

My second metric: it has to have an interesting premise. A family of monster-fighters, living in 1920s Harlem? Boom. I'm there. It plays around creatively with the toxic racial dynamics of early 20th century America,
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The family that slays together, stays together.

Bitter root is thrilling story about a family who hunt supernatural beings consumed by hate. Its set in the 1930s, jumping back and forth between the south and the east coast. The story talks about how certain demons are the ones who control people who are filled with hatred and how theyre running hate groups across the country. With a new type of monster and an old foe on their tail, the Sangerye family really has to get creative if they want to
Dave Sammath
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid paranomal and supernatural comic that is rooted in Black American traditions. Think of BPRD if it was based in Harlem. David F. Walker continues to be a favourite contemporary writer and Sanford Greene's art and colouring (with the assistance of Rico Renzi) is amazing. Worth the read and purchase.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
3.5 stars or so.

While the story did feel rushed at some points, this creative team has effectively blended relevant themes into a dramatic story of monster hunters and world-ending threats. There are some really engaging elements here and the story is strong enough to carry the ideas which underlie it.
Maggie Librarian
Can this Black family of underground monster hunters survive 1920’s America? Incredible fantasy world grounded in the stark reality of American history. Action packed and thrilling! I can’t wait to keep reading!
Kris Ritchie
Really enjoyerd the use of color and the idea of corruption, racism, and greed turning people into monsters.

Harlem. A 'slayer'. Other worlds than these. Vampires. KKK is evil y'all.
Dakota Morgan
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Awesome art, kinetic action, and a somewhat intriguing mythology all make Bitter Root worth picking up. Some extremely on-the-nose themes and an incoherent conclusion to this volume make it a little less worthwhile.

The Sangerye family has been hunting "jinoo" for generations. Jinoo are monsters formed from people who have been infected with hate - largely racists, as far as this book is concerned. Killing/curing racists is fine by me, it's just a bit too blunt, thematically, and a little odd
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban-fantasy
I think a lot of comic creators do better work when it is not a work for hire contract (conversely some really are better at WFH than creating their own stuff). I think Walker work's on Superb has been good, but I really enjoyed the world he is starting to build with Bitter Root.

Sure, it is a mash-up of a lot of genres, and sub-genres. A lot of times such concepts can be a lot of fun, and sometimes even very good. This is a title, like Hellboy, where I suggest the reader have some patience. Not
Alexander Peterhans
Comics and graphic novels are in dire need of more diversity, if only for equal representation, but better yet to tell new, original stories.

Bitter Root starts with an interesting, original premise, to then tell a mediocre story you've read a million times before.

There are a lot of characters, but there's not a lot of characterisation, beyond obvious characteristics (Berg is loquacious, for example).

There is a lot of action, and a lot of characters explaining what is happening.

And there is 'root
Jennifer Casas Carreño
THE COLOR SCHEME. It is absolutely stunning. I’m that person who is attracted to vibrant colors in a graphic novel. It’s a compelling story and the characters have so much potential. Blink is my kinda chica. I’m looking forward to seeing what is going to happen next. In addition, the collection of essays were a bonus and I learned more about what is ethnogothic as a genre. We’ll see what Bitter Root brings later on. All I can say at this point is that I am glad to see more intersectional ...more
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels, image
Individual issue reviews: #1 | #2 | #3 | #4 | #5

Total review score: 2.3
Matt Graupman
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
To anyone whose been paying attention, it’s pretty obvious that, in our current political climate (read: in Trump’s America), racism has become somewhat more accepted, if not outright condoned. It’s an insidious, awful turn of events, exposing an undercurrent of hate, intolerance, and - yes - evil that, frankly, in the 21st century, I thought we had left in the past. Sadly, that’s just not true. So now seems like a perfect time for “Bitter Root,” a spin on the classic family-of-superheroes trope ...more
Bonnie McDaniel
I struggled to finish this, picking it up and putting it down several times, and about halfway through I figured out why: the art. I didn't like the art at all. The colors are thick and kludgy, laden with piss-yellows, puke-greens, and clotted-blood reds, and I didn't care for the style. Once I finished, I decided this would have worked better for me as a straight ahead print book, as the story is fascinating.

A tale of an African American family in the 1920's, in the midst of the Harlem
Bogi Takács
Historical fantasy / horror / EthnoGothic graphic novel. (Tangent: that’s an awesome term and one I needed.) Finally finally David F. Walker gets to work on a creator-owned title! I am still frustrated that Marvel cancelled Nighthawk. And this one is so good. Great writing, great art, Sanford Greene makes each page look like the special splash pages from other comics. Gorgeous coloring too (Renzi & Greene). I feel a bit burned out on lengthy action scenes, but here everything is ...more
Villain E
In 1924, in Harlem, a family of monster hunters fight creatures called Jinoo, who are people cursed by their own hatred. The family in Harlem tries to cure people, but a cousin in Mississippi prefers a more permanent solution. They encounter a different kind of monster and a sinister mastermind and have to adapt.

The real draw is the #ownvoices creators and PoC characters. There are scholarly essays in the back about the Harlem Renaissance and African Root tradition, which adds complexity to the
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rating: 4.9/ 5 Stars

As soon as I open the pages to this graphic novel, I emerged into the Harlem Renaissance period following the Sangeryre family- who hunts and cures monsters/demons.The color palette and panels felt cinematic and well thought out. I enjoyed the pace of the story, as it was very action packed. The events made the Sangeryre family feel like they couldn’t catch a break, as evil was causing chaos all throughout the streets of Harlem. I love how each character you can tell how
If unchecked racism made you into a literal monster, instead of just a monstrous human, but there were ways of fighting those monsters, this might be what the world looked like. Scratch that, this might be what the world actually looks like to people who fight against the insidiousness of racism in the real world. It’s dark, hard, and discouraging, but sometimes you make a difference.

The characters are gritty and interesting, the monsters are horrifying, the helpful creatures are adorable. The
Travis Hartman
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you're like me and you're tired of the glut of superhero titles on the shelves and want something a bit different, than do yourself a favour and pick up Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business, the new creator-owned title from David F. Walker, Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene. It's a thoroughly entertaining historical action-horror series set in Harlem during the 1920's and concerns a family of monster hunters.

But these monsters are humans who have been infected by the bitter root of racism. The
Read for Popsugar 2020: Book Set in the 1920s

Dang, I really wanted to like this more than I did. I've been so excited to read this since it came out, and I felt a bit let down by it. The art is -amazing-, so freaking good, I can't handle how good it is. The worldbuilding in the first issue is really enjoyable, the family members are dynamic and interesting, but somewhere around the halfway point I lost the thread (and my enthusiasm for the book).

Will I read the eventual Volume 2? Almost
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David F. Walker is a writer, filmmaker, and award-winning journalist. He teaches Writing For Comics at Portland State University.

Other books in the series

Bitter Root (9 books)
  • Bitter Root #1
  • Bitter Root #2
  • Bitter Root #3
  • Bitter Root #4
  • Bitter Root #5
  • Bitter Root Red Summer Special #1
  • Bitter Root #6
  • Bitter Root #7