Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s new series “Southern Bastards” is morally questionable mayhem. It’s breaded in violence, peppered in history, and deep fried in a perfectly developed and unique voice. It’s also one of the most visually descriptive books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Despite having a stoic protagonist, Aaron and Latour set their series up to beautifully show how a man can never truly escape his past.
Earl Tubb is a lonely old man with daddy issues. He don’t talk much, and he’s pretty matter o’ fact when he does. He returns home to Craw County, Alabama to clean up his family’s estate. He plans to be in and out in three days, but home has a way of sucking you back in.
Tubb’s a bastard, and he’s the son of a bastard. Aaron’s script plays around in Tubb’s life. The story has a clear sense of the past with fleeting flashbacks to Earl’s father and his exposure to violence. There is a progression into the future, and a lot of simple symbolism. It’s something as mundane as a tree that comes to define this issue. It has a totemic purpose in the script, and comes to characterize both Earl and his relationship to his father in a heavy way.
Despite all this, meth soaked mayhem is still the name of the game. Earl can’t keep his hands out of other people’s business. In an act of kindness manifested in extreme violence, he gets himself involved in a pissing match against a local gang of bastards. It’s sure to end horrifically for both parties.
Jason Latour has captured the Dixie-fried south in a way that no comic has previously. The small BBQ shacks ooze personality, and the characters who frequent these places are despicable. Latour is able to draw a desperate red-eyed methhead as a vile creature with an incredible amount of vulnerability. His use of paneling is a revelation for how to tell a story clearly, and without the use of a dense script. Thanks to an incredible intercutting of panels that are seemingly unrelated Latour communicates the major beats of the town, the characters, and the past without a single word from Aaron.
So “Southern Bastards” is totally worthy of insane hype. This is a book crafted with care on every level. It’s poignant and brutal. It’s over the top in all the right ways and completely subdued at the same time. It’s a beautiful dance in pacing that effortlessly shows how comics should be and need to be done. It’s more delicious than fried chicken but still manages to hit you like a pickup truck to the head. It needs to be on your pull list ASAP because by the end of April you need to be part of the conversation.
Rating: 5/5 Skulls.