I’ve really been enjoying Of Bitter Souls, but unfortunately, I was disappointed with the strangely disjointed nature of this issue. In this issue, it feels in places like the inherent drama of the story is undercut by the way the story is told. There are some very nice moments, but the issue just doesn’t hold together well.
The biggest problem is that much of the issue is told in flashback, which has a way of making the events simply not feel urgent. The flashback is of the Bitter Souls trying to track down the cause of a zombie invasion of New Orleans, which sounds exciting. And there are a few really exciting panels of the kind of heroes vs. zombies stuff that so many of us fans love. But unfortunately, there’s just not a lot of that sort of action. Instead, the story is more about tracking down the cause of the zombie disease. That sequence is actually rather compelling; artist Norm Breyfogle does a nice job with how he uses reoccurring images and has some nice character work in the scenes, but this really lacks a satisfying climax. The team journeys through time again and again to find the cause of the zombies, only for the reason to end up not being well explained at all.
There’s also a kind of anticlimax when it comes to the fate of Salome, the Bitter Soul whose power to travel back through time helps to fuel the story. At the beginning of the issue, Salome is lying in bed, seemingly very badly hurt, while her very confused husband sits with the Bitter Souls, talking about her fate. The implication is obviously that Salome could die because of all the time travelling she did in such a short course of time. But by the end of the issue, Salome has taken off her oxygen mask and seems to be much better. Her return to health might fit the larger context of the story, but feels like it lacks drama the way that Satterlee presents it.
A third problem with the issue is that the second half of the story feels grafted on. After the zombie sequence ends on page 16, the story immediately shifts to an odd creature called the Grunch. The sequence is fun and interesting, but Satterlee doesn’t do a good job connecting it to the rest of the issue. A wonderful scene with Salome and her husband ends on page 16, and the story of the Grunch begins immediately on page 17. There’s no transition between the two sequences, and it left me feeling a bit like I was stuck in a bit of a lurch.
None of this is any reflection on Norm Breyfogle’s artwork. As he’s done for every issue so far, Breyfogle does a solidly professional job on the artwork on this issue. His figure drawing is terrific, he does a nice job showing Salome’s increasing fatigue, for instance, and he is wonderful at presenting interesting panel depictions and page layouts. The two-page spread of the team traveling though time as they look for a girl is wonderfully drawn.
I get frustrated with this comic because I feel that it has so much potential. Breyfogle does such wonderful artwork, and the characters and their situations are so interesting that I want every issue of this comic to be amazing. In the end though, this issue is just an average comic book.