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Comic Review:      
Rotten Roots #1 and 2

Posted by Sian, Mar 2016. Bad Kids Press own rights to cartoon imagery on this page. 

Rotten Roots is a crime noir comic, riddled with a long history of deceit and murder. This tale is set in the fictitious Osprey City, Massachusetts, where a detective; Mark Robles takes on his first assignment to find out who killed Harold Wood, patriarch of the powerful Wood family. Robles discovers clues, rooted in what seems to be a feudal bitterness and rivalry within the Wood clan which seems to stretch back to early American colonial days…

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Once you have read this article you may be interested to read an interview with Paul Axel, Osprey Courier Gaztte, creator of Rotten Roots:

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The most striking aspect to Rotten Roots is that the story can feel very real. This is supported by a strong narrative featured in Detective Roble’s dialogue and historical journals that he comes to read. Rotten Roots is created in a way which creates a path for intelligent story-telling and intrigue. Roble’s train of thought can be easily followed and this means you, can relate to how the detective chose to approach his investigation, even though it may seem unconventional. 

By the end of each of the issue, you would certainly be left pondering as to what may happen next. Surely every good comic in the crime related genre should keep you in suspense, but what makes Rotten Roots crime noir? Rotten Roots features flashbacks, which help embellish a darker plot and may never be fully explained. Secrets in the past, may be taken to the grave and within #2, the reader finds Robles digging deeper to find another side to a story within the Wood family history. 

Media of the noir genre, generally feature a cynical hero and this suggests that the reader should expect a wry sense of humour to come across from Robles. Whilst Robbles strikes me as a serious crime investigator, I would like to see this character develop to occasionally smile and joke with the odd satirical comment. For some reason, the charm of Agent Gibbs, portrayed by Mark Harmon, in NCIS comes to mind. I feel such a change would help Rotten Roots develop as a comic series. 

Renée Majkut’s artwork successively conveys the darkness within Rotten Roots. The heaviness of the black ink in places, contrasts well with washed out water colours. Renée is certainly no stranger to drawing people; her experience in drawing characters to concise proportions comes across very well. One of the most iconic panels features on page 14 of #1, where one of the characters is accused of murder. Renée has drawn a life-size accusative hand pointing towards the suspect: the skin tones of watered down peach and purple are very effective.

Whilst I’m generally impressed by the overall quality of lettering and artwork in #1-2, some improvements are needed. Page 13 of #2 features several difeerent fonts, sizes and layout for text and I felt this compromises the quality of the page. Also, I coudln't tell whether the paragraphs in the right-hand frame, at the bottom of the page were meant to be on the computer screen or on a sheet of paper. 

All things considered, Rotten Roots is a good example of a progressive and clever crime noir comic: it is not slow-paced and the plot just seems to thicken. Whilst I’m not familiar with American history, I like the cross-over between modern and historical times. It gives some insight into how some industries have evolved and provokes the mind to imagine how things used to be. The art work is consistently stylised to suit the theme and there are some areas where presentation can be enhanced.

Check out my interview with Paul Axel to find out more about the story behind Rotten Roots:

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