Review: Southern Bastards #6

Southern Bastards is a comic that sneaks up on me with every new story arc; Jasons Aaron and Latour make me think it’s going to go one specific place, and then they take it in an entirely different (but completely legitimate) direction. And worst of all, they make me care about these gnarled old fuckers from Craw County, the brilliant bastards. We continue our look back to the past of Coach Boss in this issue, learning more about his home life (if you can call that place a home) and the people who mentored him and tried to help him save himself. The story checks back in for a moment with the present-day activities of Coach Boss and his mentor, but mostly, we’re back in time, watching “Useless” Boss try to tackle an oak tree, and Ol’ Big try to teach Boss one or two damn things about football.

Southern-Bastards-#6--12.10.14I will admit up front that a lot of the set-dressing for this issue went over my head. I’m a casual football fan; I grew up in Cincinnati right about the same time as the Bengals’ last Super Bowl appearance, so pardon me if football wasn’t a religion for me like it is further north in Columbus and further south in basically all the states. So when the characters talk about blitz formations and fullbacks, I have a vague idea of what they’re talking about, but --and here’s the real brilliance of the series-- Aaron’s writing and Latour’s art still convey to me exactly what each line of dialogue means. I know what it means to “Useless” when he can’t make a play, or when the offensive line tells him he’ll never be able to stop certain plays.

It’s a tragedy. Just like the whole series has been, it’s a tale about southern men with shitty fathers being put through the wringer, and so far? Their track record on wins isn’t great.

Aaron and Latour’s other biggest asset here is their ability to take outlandish scenarios and give them dramatic weight, and make them not only work in the world of their story, but also make it necessary to the story. When a roomful of chickens in a cheap whorehouse show up, you can be sure that not only is that really happening, but it’s going to matter to someone down the line.

They also manage to sidestep the tradition of the magical negro in their story this month. Rather than finding some Bagger Vance meets Radio figure to teach Coach about football and life and rising above your circumstances, they give him a mentor who’s used to working with the mostly-ignored parts of the team who puts him through some Herculean shit to prove that he wants to play football. You thought the IcyHot was bad last issue? Brother, you’ve gotta stop acting like a child and get real--this is football, not some child’s game.

I wasn’t fully prepared to love this series when I was seeing the solicits. I liked Jason Aaron from Original Sin (Yeah, I like Original Sin, WHAT OF IT) and Thor: God of Thunder and I’d never heard of Jason Latour before. Plus... football? People in the south being dicks? What part of that would I be about? Now, we’re seven months in, and I would be devastated if this book didn’t keep showing up on the shelves every month. It’s one of the best stories on the shelves anywhere, and you’re doing yourselves a disservice not picking it up. Make it easy on everyone and just start reading the damn book already.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Jason Latour Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 12/10/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital