Advanced Review: Southern Bastards #1
“Aaron is on his A-Game as he uses distinct characterization with solid archetypal voices and naturalistic grime to create the comic book equivalent of southern comfort food. Latour’s work is eye-catching yet ruggedly simple; his storytelling sequences are dazzlingly gritty and his choices for the color pallet are sumptuous.”
Southern Bastards #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Release Date: Wed, April 30th, 2014
A man’s word. Family. High School Football. Barbeque Shacks.
These things all sort of become distinctly Southern when they are thrown together. I was given the opportunity to do an advanced review of Image Comics’ Southern Bastards from Jason Aaron and Jason Latour and I have to say that I was overcome with a little bit of nostalgia being that I am from an area in south Georgia that could be likened to the book’s Craw County, Alabama.
Southern Bastards is pitch-perfect, regional crime fiction. Jason Aaron is on his A-Game as he uses distinct characterization combined with solid archetypal voices and naturalistic grime to create the comic book equivalent of southern comfort food. Jason Latour’s work is eye-catching yet ruggedly simple; his storytelling sequences are dazzlingly gritty and his choices for the story’s color pallet are sumptuous.
This book excels where most modern crime books fail: it captures the essence of the rural southeastern US and makes Craw County this dingy, authentic “twelfth man” on the field. You can smell the grass on the side of the state road at the beginning of the story. You can feel the mangy fur of the dog that growls as Earl Tubb drives into town to pack up his familial home. You can smell the cheap, canned beer on the breath of the ne’er-do-well Dusty Tutwiler as he chews the fat with Earl Tubb over some ribs.
Readers may find a thinly veiled movie reference in the form Earl Tubb’s father Bertrand, a law man analog that smacks of Sheriff Buford Pusser, the man made famous by the semi-autobiographic movie Walking Tall. Latour again shines in these iconic moments as Tubb reminisces about his father taking on a throng of men, armed only with his “stick”. I also felt that there might be a moment of magical realism on the periphery as Earl looks at his father’s grave and says, “Daddy. There’s a tree growin’ outta your grave.” I can only help but wonder if Earl is going to take a limb from this tree and make his own stick for doling out justice as the story progresses or if the tree means something more to Tubb metaphorically.
As the story progresses, readers will begin to understand that the yet-to-be seen “Boss” isn’t just a local businessman with his hands in various enterprises…he’s also the local award-winning, high school football coach and Dusty Tutwiler seems to have made the man mad in no certain terms…we just know that he pays for his transgressions at the apex of the issue.
Jason Aaron’s narrative is clear and the voices of his characters are sharp. “Eye dialogue” can oftentimes be unintentionally mishandled or overwrought; that is simply not the case here, Aaron’s voices are distinct and they resonate in a way that isn’t imposing. Latour’s style is minimal and modern; it gives the interior artwork an interesting juxtaposition that allows Aaron’s story to seamlessly roll forward.
Image Comics continues to be a standard bearer for publishing exemplary comics from top-tier talent. Southern Bastards is a tour de force that can sit at the same table as other industry crime favorites like Sin City, Stray Bullets, Criminal and Scalped. I rarely say this but Southern Bastards #1 is a near-perfect reading experience. I cannot wait to get a physical copy and Southern Bastards #2 can’t get here fast enough.