The world lost one bad motherfucking shitkicker in September with issue 4 of Southern Bastards. Issue 5 is where Jasons Aaron and Latour start to let us in on who this implacable douchebag was that Earl Tubb lost his life to in an effort to clean his town up, even just a little bit. This issue is a classic flashback/secret origin issue for Coach Boss; we flash back and forth between Boss on the football field as a player many years ago and Boss as the Coach about town on the day of Earl Tubb’s funeral in Craw County. In less talented hands, that could be a mess. In the hands of Team Jason, it’s a very pointed piece, much like every other issue of this series, built to deliver one point home, and deliver it strong.
Aaron has proved in his past work that he’s not a man to lean on flashback like a crutch, he’s a man who understands why he’s taking us back in time, and how it plays into not just the structure of the issue, but the overall world of his story. From Scalped through his triple-Thor Thor: God of Thunder run to here, he’s employed the flashback without it detracting from the main narrative and making it do what it’s supposed to: enrich the fucking world. He’s so good at it that his flashbacks in this issue even have a perfect three-act structure. Latour’s contributions to the structure are not unnoticed, and they’re on-point. In what I’ll call real-time (i.e. the morning of Earl’s funeral), the colors are normal. They’re not photorealistic, but they’re normal. Coach Boss’s past is a drenched-in-red journey into a past no one is supposed to see. Where origin stories sometimes seem like a necessary filler in a story, this already seems like a story that Coach Boss doesn’t want told, and he’s pissed it’s out there at all.
For as tight as this issue is, it also manages to organically work in some of the other residents of this specific corner of Alabama that we may be seeing in the coming months. I’m intrigued how far out Aaron and Latour have this planned; I’m sure they know their ending, but it seems like a lot of the steps of how to get there got planted at the end of this issue in that montage, right before Coach Boss issues his silent challenge to the entire goddamn county. If I was going to simplify the tone of this issue and what it seems to be building towards against the tone of the first arc, the first arc was about Southern—Earl’s experiences leaving home and fighting in Vietnam are surely a common story for anyone of a certain age group and tax bracket that can be found in Craw County, the prevalence of Ribs, Football, and Dead Daddies, etc. It was stripping all the flowery language out of a Southern Gothic and leaving the bones of the South behind. This current arc seems to be focused on the many and varied Bastards to be found in this world, whether it’s Coach Boss, the Mayor, the twins who own the bank (who at first glance I thought might be twin bank robbers pulling a heist—still I dream). Coach Boss, the ultimate Bastard, is laying out his enemies list and putting them all on blast. I am 1000% in for that.
For two of the busiest guys in comics, writing all kinds of big books between the two of them, thank christ Jason Aaron and Jason Latour are making the time to make Southern Bastards. It’s not quite the same as going down south, getting a plate of ribs and a bottomless glass of Sa-weet Tea, but it’s pretty goddamn close. Keep it coming, gentlemen.
Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Jason Latour Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 10/29/14 Format: Ongong; Print/Digital