As per usual, every single goddamn month, Southern Bastards is killing me. When last we left Euliss Boss, he was foot-shot and didn’t look like he’d be playing football anytime in the near future. Luckily, come the start of the next season, he’s able to play through the pain, and over the course of what amounts to an almost-issue-length montage of his entire senior season, he shows how much pain he’ll suffer through to play. And play, and play, and play, and in traditional Southern Bastards form, nobody wins but the readers.
This issue is the penultimate in this arc, wherein Aaron and Latour have done that reprehensible thing that I love: they have made me root for the villain. In situations like The Avengers, where Loki gets romanticized without a whole heck of a lot of character development, I’m left cold by this “noble villain” kind of thing. In a scenario like Southern Bastards, they can take four issues worth of a comic to show me where this walkin’ piece of shit came from, and even before the end of the arc, I may forget why I even hated him to start with (who am I kidding, of course I remember why I hate him. But I hate him now; I feel an intense amount of pity for him then).
Traveling back in time like this, especially right after the bomb-drop at the end of issue 4 was a gutsy move on Aaron and Latour’s parts; they set up the next arc with such a bow on it, and then pivoted real hard into one of the wealth of stories that must exist in Craw County. We’ve had our hero’s journey (or one of them, at least), so let’s see the villain’s. It’s an authorial decision that keeps us close to the plot of the first arc while also sending a tendril out into the rest of the field of stories they can (and hopefully will) tell in the series’ run, and it’s just another one of the ways this series continues to grab me and impress me.
On a slightly inside baseball note--I don’t know if this is true of the paper comic, and if it’s new for this month or if I’ve just been missing it, but it seems like the color of the gutters in these Coach Boss issues has been yellowed for age. It’s an interesting touch; the only other book on the shelves I can think of that does that regularly is The Humans, but it lends a certain authenticity to the story in a way that doesn’t get thrown around much. It’s sort of like an editing trick in a movie; the gutter is the invisible part of the page, so people tend to just throw them down or eliminate them and then forget about them, rather than using them to create part of their storytelling atmosphere. Of course, most people aren’t creating a killer comic every month.
On an aside: as a reviewer, I have to remain officially neutral, but I noticed a lot of hate being thrown Ohio’s way in the letter's column this month after the Buckeyes managed to turn back a certain Tide in the playoffs this year; however, this reviewer would like to remind at least Jason Aaron that while there are OSU fans in the state, us Cincinnatians have to deal with the rabid OSU fans while our hometown Bengals get their asses handed to them in the first playoff every year. Don’t begrudge the whole state for the actions of eleven college kids.
Anyway, if you’re not reading Southern Bastards, it’s always a quick read, but it will never fail to rip your chest open and poke your heart with a sharp stick. It’s a complex place, the South. Currently, there’s a whole lot of bastards, with a whole lot of fascinating stories, and maybe nothing good will survive to the end. Here’s hoping, but I’m in for the long haul either way.
Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Jason Latour Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/11/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital