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Southern Bastards Volume 1: Here Was a Man Paperback – October 14, 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
I don't do reviews often. Something has to really compel me to sit down and take the time to express it here. And for the most part, I'm a Jason Aaron fan. Scalped was a one-of-a-kind series. But I've read some of his Marvel work and have been pretty underwhelmed. My feeling is that his work shines when he is doing creator-owned stuff that is near-and-dear to his heart. Which is why I am excited to have picked up Southern Bastards. Here we see what Aaron does best: snappy, noire dialogue with genuine Southern dialect, and a crisp, simple plot with a few pleasant surprises.
But the true superstar of Southern Bastards is Jason Latour. Comics are riddled with overdrawing cartoonists that use a million lines to capture a gesture. These artists make up the glut of comic shelves these days, particularly super-hero books. Latour is a beautiful exception. With a few meaningful lines he deftly communicates character, expression, gesture and motion. He does with one or two strokes what most super-hero cartoonists don’t accomplish in an entire book. His line work is visceral, stylized and confident. And his "painting" of the work blows my mind: subtle, ragged and brutal, always married to the art and text in a seamless and unique way. Clearly, Latour is having a ball illustrating this book. His work in Southern Bastards is better than 95% of the work being done in mainstream comics, and I can't wait to see what he (and Aaron) comes up with next.
Earl Tubb is coming back to Craw County, Alabama for the first time in 40 years. He’s going to clear his hated, long-dead father’s house of stuff before getting the hell back out. That is until he realises what a festering swamp of injustice his childhood hometown has become.
Drugs, crime and corruption rule under the unwavering glare of Coach Boss, the owner of the local BBQ joint and coach of the county’s football team, the Runnin’ Rebs. And when Earl sees that a murder at the hands of Coach Boss’ goons has happened without the culprits being punished, he puts his plans to leave on hold while he metes out justice - southern style!
The main theme of Scalped (and if you haven’t read it, seriously check it out - it’s comics at their finest!) was the tense relationship between fathers and sons; Aaron returns to that theme with Southern Bastards. Though the father is dead and buried many decades gone and the son is in his late 50s/early 60s, his dad’s legacy is still affecting Earl as he realises he isn’t that much different from him after all, and (corny to say, I know) though he left the south, the south never left him.
If you’ve read Aaron’s Punisher MAX books (another must-read if you haven’t already partook), you’ll know he does the one-man vigilante story perfectly, and he brings that similar intensity to SB. His Earl Tubb is more or less Frank Castle - they’re both Vietnam vets and both can handle themselves just fine in a fight. They have a singular purpose, once they set their minds to it, and fear is no obstacle. The difference is that Earl has a family still alive and is much more human in general.
There’s also another Marvel element in this book as Earl gets a mighty stick for a weapon from his father’s grave tree after a bolt of lightning blasted it in half. That scene felt like it belonged to a mythical story or perhaps a Thor comic, of the kind Aaron’s written for the last couple years. SB feels like the convergence of a lot of his recent comics work in one place.
Both Jasons have written about their love/hate relationship with the south with Aaron firmly of the mind that though there are things he loves about it, he will never go back there again (he lives in Kansas) while Latour talks about how he’ll never leave the south. The impression I got from reading Southern Bastards is actually very one-sided: it’s a hellhole!
Right from the first page the tone is set: a mangy dog is taking a massive dump in front of several signs advertising churches on the side of the road. All throughout the story, Latour colours the book in muted, dark reds as if Craw County were actually in hell, while the townsfolk go about their business, turning a blind eye to evil. From the tattooed scumbags who hospitalise an innocent child, to the complicit attitude that allows the local football coach to act like a mafia boss of the town and get away with murder just because he wins them matches, SB is all condemnation of what the South stands for.
Also, I’m no Southerner, but if I had to list the things that make up the South, I’d say: ribs, religion, football, and the Confederacy. So maybe there’s some truth to those stereotypes because all of those assumptions are present and correct in SB!
Southern Bastards is a very grim comic full of violence and darkness, but it’s presented with such skill from both Aaron and Latour that it’s enormously compelling to read. Jason Aaron is back with another vicious tale from America’s heartland - and it’s a welcome return.
Insightful characterization makes Southern Bastards stand apart from most works of graphic fiction. Small touches -- a tree and a barking dog that both become metaphors -- contribute to the story's dramatic impact. The unexpected climax at the end of volume I is stunning. The epilog adds fresh understanding to the story.
The art and coloring contribute to the story's power. Southern Bastards is an intense piece of drama from beginning to end. I look forward to the next volume.
Southern Bastards makes me want to take a drive through the South, with its ribs and its sweet tea. It's awful. Earl Tubb is a great character, a former Marine, the son of the violent sheriff of Craw County who everybody hated. The comic is a great mystery, with only part of the story being revealed at a time. Earl's father carried a stick, and now Earl carries a stick of his own. Sure, a Southern man with a stick has been done before, but never this well. I can't wait to read Volume 2 when it comes out. *****
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Simple dialogue but...it grips you. It feels...real. I'm a city boy from NYC. I don't give a flying crap about southern life but this....Read more