It’s interesting reading current events into a comic that was intended to be pure entertainment. Of Bitter Souls takes place in New Orleans, a city which has obviously been the center of attention for both the US and the entire world in the last few weeks. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath have shown the dark underbelly of the city, exposing massive problems in New Orleans
that have been ignored for many years. Satterlee and Breyfogle’s comic reads like a valentine to better times in the Big Easy, times when the biggest problems were ghosts inhabiting a home in the French Quarter.
The comic has an almost wistful feel to it now. It’s not that the story isn’t intelligent or sophisticated – it definitely is – but more that it represents a time that suddenly and irrevocably disappeared several weeks ago and will almost certainly never return. Everything now takes on an unintended added significance. There’s a scene showing a weathercaster on TV, and I found myself thinking about the map of Louisiana shown on the screen. All the scenes of the French Quarter similarly take on an added level of strangeness since I’ve become so accustomed to all the horrors of
the hurricane recovery effort.
Putting all that aside, the comic is a very fun romp. Mystical forces are possessing a New Orleans brownstone, and the Bitter Souls are called in to exorcise them. The story has a wonderful flow to it, and the ending is legitimately surprising. There’s a nice bit of business about the silliness of classic super-hero chatter, and another nice bit about the pain of detoxing from drugs.
It’s a joy to see Norm Breyfogle back in comics. He’s exactly the sort of thoughtful and processional artist who should be getting steady work from the big boys. It’s their loss, though, because he does a wonderful job on this comic. Breyfogle’s storytelling is wonderfully loose and smart – his panels float and vary due to the need of the scenes, which is perfect for a book of this type. And his figure art is, no surprise, completely solid.
Of Bitter Souls is a good comic for what it is, but a very interesting comic for what it is not. Reading it, I frankly felt nostalgic for the old New Orleans, where the problems were hidden from most of us. I miss thinking of New Orleans as just another funky city.