Steeped in American culture, history, and horror, Image Comics is poised to unwrap one of its most anticipated new fall titles on Wednesday, Nov. 14, with the strange, supernatural deeds of Bitter Root #1.
Delivered by the superstar creative team of writer David F. Walker and artist Sanford Greene, the duo who brought you Marvel's Power Man and Iron Fist, and joined by indie vet Chuck Brown, this potent paranormal yarn is spun with great heart and attention to detail.
SYFY WIRE is bopping to the beat with an exclusive sneak peek inside the haunting pages and chat with the always engaging Walker direct from Portland's Rose City Comic Con.
The absorbing storyline finds the Harlem Renaissance in full swing and the eccentric Sangerye Family delivering salvation to our world as sinister forces threatening to eradicate humanity. However, the proud, capable family of monster hunters is being decimated by personal tragedies and clashing moral codes in its quest to purify the souls of the beastly Jinoo.
There's an instant attraction to the title's moody depiction of a notorious clan of creature crusaders operating in the smoky, jazz-tinged boulevards of New York City's Harlem district during its glory years in the Roaring Twenties.
Together, the resourceful group must attempt to heal raw wounds and transcend their differences, or become spectators who watch a wave of insensate evil descend upon the human race. It's the ugliness of racism, metamorphosing monsters, and deep family dysfunction on display with a talented team of creators operating in mysterious shades of mayhem.
The clever twist in the book's plot is that rather than being traditional monster hunters, this family actually cures monsters.
"In the world we've created, monsters are people whose souls have become infected by hate and greed and racism," Walker explained to SYFY WIRE. "For a hundred years, they've specialized in curing human souls infected with this sort of demonic possession. But the family is split between those that believe you should cure the infected, and members that believe you should kill them. They're in the middle of this conflict right as whole new breed of demon is about to attack the Earth."
The Harlem Renaissance and all its distinctive flash and flavor was chosen for the paranormal drama to play out, something that was part of the original seed from Brown and Greene.
"Historically speaking it was truly a renaissance in terms of creative expression and a beginning of a time for African-American history where we saw creators, artists, and thinkers rising to a whole new level," Walker added. "It was a really exciting concept, and I don't think many people have done that much in pop culture, especially in comics, that's set during the Harlem Renaissance. The big challenge was that we had to do a lot more research to make sure stuff was on point."
Bitter Root's title comes from the medicinal root of a plant used to create the special green serum that cures people infected in the series.
"They talk about it being a bitter root, there's a bitter taste to it," he noted. "It also has connotations to the song 'Strange Fruit' by Abel Meeropol that was made famous by Billie Holiday. It's a protest song about lynching. And as we started getting deeper into the mythology of the monsters, that concept of a 'bitter root' is also a reflection of an emotion and the bitterness from which anger, hate, and resentment grow."
Greene's striking art works in perfect harmony with Walker and Brown's provocative story and helps to beautifully synthesize the Bitter Root story.
"Sanford is doing a great job," noted Walker. "Rico Renzi is handling the colors and it's looking really solid. I want people to buy the book and tell their friends so we can keep going! There's a lot of great stories to be told there."
Slip on your finest monster-stalking attire and slide into our exclusive look at Bitter Root #1 and #2 in the full gallery below, including variant covers by Mike Mignola, Denys Cowan, and Brittney Williams, then let us know if it hits the right period horror notes for you.