Those of you interested in reading something fresh should immediately pursue Southern Bastards (Image), an original ongoing comic series written by Jason Aaron with colors and art by Jason Latour, in which we see Image Comics take their adult themes to the next level with grit and bloody knuckles. Linking the South’s love for football and secrets no one’s willing to share, the creative team make a strong case that the same story wouldn’t be possible if it was set in a different location, nor would it be as good.
Aaron doesn’t balk at probing the psychological manacles of a man returning to his hometown unwelcome and haunted by his past. Hailing from Alabama, Aaron understands that exploring the dark secrets the South holds helps create a more meaningful character, in that it reveals how far people will go to protect what is important to them.
After a understated opening in which protagonist Earl Tubbs is shown returning to the house in which he grew up, where he visits his father’s grave, an ancient tree towers over the gravestone, the story flashes back to a time when Earl’s father fought off an armed gang with just a wooden stick.
Earl Tubbs isn’t defined by his hometown or how they receive him, Tubbs has no relationship with his origins whatsoever, rather he is defined by his relationship with his father and how that translates to his relationship with his family. It’s energizing to see an overly masculine man depicted in such a way that he is able to show emotion while not losing any believability.
The main narrative involves Tubbs trying to bring a god-like high school coach to justice and is enough to make a compelling story on its own, but it’s the way Aaron creates sympathetic characters that makes Southern Bastards so intriguing.
Establishing a distinctly sharp, yet coarse, style, Latour’s illustrations parallel Aaron’s writing and subject matter perfectly. It’s almost as if the dialogue and the art teamed up on the page to become one entity. To counter Latour’s illustrations, his color palette is muted with lots of dull brown’s, blue’s and red’s. It could be argued that the use of flat colors helps to maintain Tubbs’ mental state as he remained in town. Bright red’s are used sparingly during the flashback scenes, and to signify the bloody reputation of Coach Boss.
What struck me personally about Southern Bastards is how brutally truthful Aaron portrays the South. As soon as you turn the first page you’re greeted by a stray dog defecating on the side of the road, with religious signs in the background. From that point on I knew I was in for an enjoyable read. This is not a comic that will make you feel very optimistic, but if you’re like me and enjoy the realistic side of entertainment, then I highly recommend Southern Bastards.
Southern Bastards vol. 1 was published in October 2014 and consisted of issues 1-4.