By Robert Larson
Southern Bastards is finally back, after a painfully long hiatus, and close to a dozen issues that were about the backstory and background of Craw County. I've been excited for this story to come back, and not just because I'm a fan of chicken-fried noir stories. We're finally moving toward some kind of narrative payoff, after what the first story arc managed to establish well over a year and a half ago. I'm pleased to say then that we what we get here lives up to the promise of the first arc. Blood is in the water in Craw County, but nothing fights more viciously than a wounded predator.
Roberta Tubb comes back into town amid big changes. In the wake of the Rebs' beating by Wetumpka, Boss' enemies are circling all around him, sensing that he is vulnerable for the first time in years. They want to try and unseat him, though their plans are still unknown. Boss wants to try and keep doing things the way that he always has, keeping his life as a criminal and life as a football coach separate, but those distinctions are all falling apart because the Rebs keep getting crushed. And in the midst of all of this, Roberta gets to watch him make a decision that immediately outs him as an enemy.
Temperamentally, Boss is somebody who can't really stand to lose. In the past, he's been able to dig down deeper, throw his shoulder even harder into the fight, and push long after others have given up. But with football, he always had Big, and like everybody seems to be saying (when Boss is out of earshot), there's no way to resurrect him and save the Rebs' defense. Suddenly, the only reason for tolerating Boss' various crimes is vanishing, and Boss knows that he's vulnerable. He's going to start lashing out, fighting dirty in a realm he promised that he would keep free of the violence.
But it's hard to feel like the people conspiring to take down Boss are truly sympathetic or decent themselves. The Compsons, the sheriff, and the mayor and his wife all tolerated Boss for a very long time. Are they planning to take him down because he seems vulnerable, or because he can't uphold his part of the bargain any longer? I don't think Roberta is going to form a quick alliance with them, because they're ultimately part of the rot that has infected Craw County for all this time. If anything, the pending conflict is liable to be much uglier as all of these factions scrabble for power.
As Boss breaks his cardinal rule and brings the gangster persona into his football life, it seems like Craw County is in store for a genuine bloodbath. I don't think Craw is unique for having football coaches that fight dirty; will he invite retaliation with this latest move? I'm glad to have this series back, and finally delivering some goods again.
Southern Bastards #15
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Publisher: Image Comics