Staff: Paul Axel, Renee Majkut
Standard mystery fare that gets by on it’s art and premise.
Today I’m taking a look at Rotten Roots. I was going to pass on it but the unique art style on the cover caught my eye and I said, “what the heck”. So let’s look at Rotten Roots by Bad Kids Press!
So Renee, we need to talk. I’m married. Please- your art is hitting on me. It’s GORGEOUS. It’s kind of a watercolor deal and I love it. It has a kind of “classic art” vibe to it and for some reason I get a Vincent van Gogh kind of feeling. I will note that there is a sequence where it gets kind dark and grimey and, if we were married, I’d want a divorce. You have such a unique style! You do yourself a disservice when you go dark. The art style has a simplicity to it and the way it contrasts with the modern world (as it seems very “classic”) is wonderful, flowing into the more appropriate colonial period segments; tying the whole thing together visually.
Lettering / Layout:
The lettering is… basic. That’s all I can say about it. It’s not bad and it’s not in the way or anything… but it’s nothing special. Legibility is the hallmark of a decent comic and it falls in that space; good enough that it’s not distracting but it kind makes me sad that it’s not as good as Renee’s art as you can really tell that it was done by a different hand. There are a few instances where it doesn’t quite work as well as it could (see page 4 where there is a single 2 letter word on a line of its own) but it saves itself later by changing up the speech bubble style. Then again, some of the words balloons that are supposed to be reminiscent of old pages looks a bit amateurish and the letters butt up against the edges sometimes. There are a few onomonopias drawn into the comic and they are far better done than the lettered ones, which are not bad but not as good by comparison.
The text also has a few grammar errors, mostly odd capitalizations (“I gained a Truth I regret learning to this day…”, “This Revelation gave me my Murderer.”, and “And that was the Day I lost my…”). There were also a few pages where the dialogue was hard to follow as the balloons were difficult to follow (see page 20). Typically you follow the highest balloon and follow it down but a few panels in this comic made this difficult to tell and forced me to read the page a few time to figured out how best to read it.
Writing / Story:
The story itself is interesting enough, but like the lettering kind of falls middle of the road. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; mystery rarely translates well to comics. It didn’t grab me this time but it’s a passable story. The basic premise is that there is a modern day murder that is similar to a murder that is described in an old book on the desk in front of the modern day murder victim. Clever. It’s a solid premise but the execution is kind of bland. The characters are ultimately just stock characters and the dialogue just a retreading of topes from each of the genres it dips into (modern police procedurals and colonial period drama). However, it kind of wraps up and turns into something more compelling near the end. Maybe mystery comics are not my thing but it’s still smartly written if not a little basic.
Overall, this is one of those comics that will get a passing grade because of the art and premise. The actual writing and the lettering are middle of the road but the premise and the art are sharp. If you are into mystery comics- this is one you’ll probably did.