SOUTHERN BASARDS #4
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jason Latour
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: September 3, 2014
While Southern Bastards takes it’s cues from Walking Tall as it deals with justice and the seedy underbelly of America’s Deep South, this comic entertains and captivates as it finds beauty in the vulgarity and grit of it all. By this issue, our main protagonist Earl Tubbs, has already caused quite a commotion as he returns to his hometown of Craw County, Alabama and persistently sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong. The town is run by the corrupt, high school football coach, named Coach Boss, who has been leveraging his position of respect in the community as a way to manipulate young men into becoming drug dealers, racketeers, and any other criminal act that the coach needs. As the son of the former sherriff of the town, Earl cannot sit idly by and allow this to happen. He never liked his father, but omens of fate put themselves on full display to guide Earl towards a journey that he may not return from.
What’s intrinsically interesting is the investigation that writer Jason Aaron performs about common psychological occurrences like groupthink, and just how it can affect the livlihoods of people when they’re essentially isolated from civilization. Local sports has often been a significant part of communities down in the South, and it’s not uncommon for these towns to put a lot of power into those hands. There is something interesting to see just how succeptible we are to group influence and how a couple steps towards obedience can lead someone down a path of subservience to another. Another interesting juxtaposition is to see how the craving for power has evolved in people, especially in Coach Boss.
We ultimately get a confrontation in this issue between Earl and Coach Boss. we learn that Coach Boss didn’t always live up to his namesake and wasn’t always the indominatable person he’s always perceived himself to be. He was a scrawny kid that dreamed of being on the football team and was constantly beat up by the football players. Earl even admits that he could’ve influenced the kids not to beat him up back then, because he was the Captain of the team. Jason Aaron adds pressure in this issue by crafting some classic, tough-guy banter for all of his characters to exchange before the inevitable violence to break out.
Aside from the interesting character introspection that Southern Bastards has to offer, we also are able to bear witness to some incredible and stylized renditions of these characters that seep with a beauty and grit. Artist Jason Latour gives himself enough room to breathe with the span of his art and is able to not only give us violent splash pages in viciously splattered detail, but he’s also able to provide us with some interesting backgrounds that uphold the authenticity of the South that you would come to expect from a title called Southern Bastards. Latour exercises full artistic command of this issue and effectively brings sentiment and emotion to each presented page. Normally, readers may fret over the use of grid panel pages in comics (especially twelve-panel layouts), but in this instance Latour is able to uphold his imagery and create a poetic example of how to convey so many different emotions in the reader, that ultimately progresses and takes us on the ride these creators had intended. There is a cinematic beauty and visual impact of a silent film in these pages and is exemplary of how to effectively create a montage sequence in a much more emotional way.
Southern Bastards is a modern tale with the visceral elegance of sandpaper and an open-hearted honesty that makes it impossible not to absolutely love. The humor and the grim reality of this issue is enthralling to try and comprehend and disappointing to fully accept. With this issue wrapping up the first arc of titled “Here Was A Man”, and an epilogue that is sure to leave fans with their mouths gasping, I cannot wait to see where Aaron and Latour takes us from here.
The Verdict: 9.0/10