Tag Archives: Jason Latour

Review of Southern Bastards #4

Southern Bastards 4
Jason LaTour

Southern Bastards #4 by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour

This week Southern Bastards reaches not only the conclusion of its first arc but also a defining moment in its larger narrative. Three issues ago, Earl Tubb returned to his childhood home of Craw County, Alabama. He had departed the area as a young enlistee in the army and never looked back. Indeed, it has been forty years since he last set foot in the county. He figures that he can ride into town for a day or two, pack up his deceased father’s old house and skip back out of town as quickly as he entered. Trouble is, well, there’s a lot of trouble.

It would seem that there is something rotten in Craw County. The son of a former police chief, Earl is unable to turn his back on injustice, especially when one of the victims wanders onto the high school football field, mid-game and in a severely bloodied state. Soon Earl is poking around the edges of the town’s more dubious elements, and just as fast finds his ears full of warnings. For better or for worse, Earl ignores any attempt to sway him from his quest for justice.

Issue four is centered on the showdown between Earl and the minions of a man named Coach Boss. It is full of the visceral action sequences that readers expect from Aaron and LaTour. In addition, though, there is an intriguing exchange between Earl and Coach when the two men finally meet. Earl speaks about how he remembers what Coach was like when they were teenagers. Coach was the outcast, constantly picked on by the seniors. As captain of the football team, Earl admits that he could have easily put a stop to the bullying, except “I guess I just didn’t give a shit.” This triggers a violent reaction from Coach, which in turn sparks their final violent struggle.

The shadow of the past has been an important theme of Southern Bastards from the beginning. Earl’s father was a local hero, who was not afraid to use extreme force. Earl has spent all of his adult years running away from that legacy. Now as he faces down a mob of criminals, while the current sheriff stands aside, Earl is closer to his father than ever. At the same time, Aaron raises questions about the long term effects of bullying. Was Coach Boss driven to his current vicious behavior in order to prove himself as superior to his former tormentors? After all, it is not uncommon for those picked upon to grow into bullies themselves, just as it is not unusual for men like Earl to wake up one day and realize that they are much closer to their father than they ever guessed (or feared).

Aaron ends this issue with two twists, neither of which I saw coming. They are fitting final notes for this first arc, which leaves the status quo of the series completely upended. I am not sure what to expect when the second arc begins, expect that I shall be there to spend further time amidst Southern Bastards.

Cheers.

Southern Bastards #2

img070          Overview: For the second issue of their tale about the criminal underworld of a small southern county, the Jasons–Aaron and Latour–slow things down a bit to sow the seeds of vengeance and justice in our hero(?) Earl Tubb.  Being Friday night, we are treated with a glimpse into Craw County’s pride and joy, the Runnin’ Rebs High School football team.  We also get our first encounter with Coach Boss, who appears to be the puppet master behind the town’s criminal network.

           Story: The main focus of this issue is building up the cause for Earl to stay in town and take on the responsibility of ending Coach’s stranglehold on the town.  While this was somewhat predictable–a death of an old friend and some divine intervention push Earl over the threshold–it was also handled very well by Aaron.  The football game scenes exist to prove to any doubters just how well respected and powerful Coach Boss is in the eyes of the town.  This is a real world truth that is exaggerated just a bit to include the criminal element.  High School football coaches across the country are held in high regard, many being pillars of the community a la Coach Taylor from the fantastic Friday Night Lights.  So using this established power and respect as a springboard for a character to abuse it by venturing into crime is a wonderful idea, and rife for potential stories.  Aaron even reinforces the sphere of Coach’s influence by having Earl discover that the local Sheriff is a former player under Boss, and therefore will likely provide little opposition for Coach’s extra-curricular activities.

         img071 The more I think about it the more I love what Aaron has tapped into with the idea of a coach controlling a town’s crime.  He has already established an authoritative relationship with most of the town’s young men, all of whom are the crop his underlings will be selected from, and those who didn’t play for him directly still put him up on a pedestal, and would likely welcome any attention he provided; even when it comes in the form of ordering them to aid his criminal activities.  The potential for making money in this small town probably isn’t very high either, so there’s also that factoring in.  All these circumstances are the perfect recipe for manipulation and control, that a person capable of asserting both would flourish in.

         Another established element of this story is Earl’s troubled relationship with his Father.  He has been denying their similarities, and avoiding his destiny to repeat the behavior of his Father for 40 years, but it all comes to a head this issue culminating in the miraculous manifestation of a large stick–his Father’s weapon of choice–that basically seals Earl’s fate as liberator of his hometown and only opposition to Coach Boss’ control.  By the end of the issue, Earl has given up his denial and appears to embrace his role.  So the stage is set, the players are established, and starting next issue the battle of good vs. evil will be fought in the town of Craw County.

         img072 Art: Jason Latour continues what he established aesthetically in the opening issue.  Craw County, like many small towns, is full of strange characters;  mullets, ballcaps, and a feverish love of local sports are all on full display.  No one in particular is traditionally “good looking”, instead Latour goes for authentic depictions.  The fashion is appropriately country, and there is a wrinkled, hand-me-down aura surrounding everyone aside from Earl, and of course, Coach Boss; both of whom exist on a higher plane than the rest of the town’s inhabitants.  Latour is also responsible for the colors, which a very well done.  Most of the town is washed in neutral hues, and a gray wash that establishes not so much a grime, but a feeling that overall cleanliness isn’t at a high standard in Craw County.  This works metaphorically as well, since we know the town itself isn’t “clean” in the legal sense, so it is appropriately dusted and faded.  The lone bright and clean appearing element of the area is the town’s football team.  Their uniforms shine like a beacon of pride for the town; their homes, cars, and businesses might be a bit worn, but their football uniforms are the best money can buy, and are treated with a high level of respect fit for the royalty they represent.

         img073Overall, I think Latour has a style that fits the setting perfectly, he isn’t concerned with perfectly straight lines, or highly rendered details; instead he’s focused on the authentic and overriding atmosphere.  His style has a cartoony nature, but his confident lines and straightforward,  “perfectly imperfect” approach, lend the book a singular vision.  I’m excited to see how things progress as he becomes more and more comfortable in this world, and the story starts to introduce different situations and set pieces for him to experiment with.

          Conclusion: This issue was a necessary step in moving the narrative forward, and while it wasn’t action packed or heavy in big developments, it did a great job of further establishing the environment and tone of the series as a whole.  I’m confident that the Jasons are pulling together an engaging and potent tale of crime and corruption, in a new and exciting setting, that allows for an interesting addition to the very well trodden road of crime fiction.

           So what did you think of Southern Bastards #2? Do you agree with my assessment, or did it miss the mark for you? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Review of Southern Bastards #7

Southern Bastards 7By Jason Aaron and Jason Latour

Have you seen the movie Warrior? If you haven’t it should be added to your “to-watch” list. It is a story of two brothers, separated at a young age, both fighting to put together the pieces of their broken lives. The word fighting is used literally, they are both MMA fighters. The older brother fighting to put food on his family’s table and the younger brother, filled with anger and pain, hoping that punching someone in the face will give him the release he desperately needs. The story is a little predictable as the two brothers end up on a collision course with each other, but the way the movie is structured if you pause right before this final fight and ask a room of 10 people who they are cheering for, half will say Brendan, the brother with the family, and the other half will say Tommy, the wounded soul. It makes for a fantastic final fight. If you are watching it with a group of friends you will most likely be sitting in a divided room.

At the end of the first arc of Southern Bastards this is exactly the fight we have between Coach Boss and Earl Tubb (minus the brothers thing), only here is the kicker, we don’t know it. At that point in time we know that Coach Boss is the villain and Earl Tubb is the hero. We all want Coach Boss to get his. When Coach ends the life of Earl Tubb; we’re angry and devastated. How could Aaron and Latour do this to us. Aaron has a way of getting me so attached to characters so quickly that the death of Earl Tubb after only 4 issues felt like a club to the gut. At this point I could not hate Coach Boss more. So where do Aaron and Latour go from here? They take the next three issues to tug at my heart string and turn Coach Boss from the villain to the sympathetic wounded soul. My heart goes out to Coach Boss. I don’t know how this is possible, but it is brilliant. I have not experienced this type of story telling before. Aaron and Latour solidify in our mind who we hate and after he commits the worst thing we can think of as they turn us 180 degrees and show us how Coach got there.

Coach Euless Boss had to live through a father who didn’t give a lick about his son. All Euless had was football. He loved football, on the field nothing else mattered. It is the only place where Euless had control over his life. Last issue we ended with Euless taking a bullet in his foot because of the sins of his father and it was heartbreaking. Issue #7 begins with Euless on the bench with his foot in a cast. His father has held him back from any good his life could have ever had and now the one thing Euless does love has also been taken away. Euless tells his father off in an emotional scene and it appears that he may finally be free.

We fast forward to the next football season. The cast is off and the first kickoff of the season is underway. Euless absolutely hammers a guy on the first play of the game. He gets up with tears in his eyes. This is the “moment” of the issue. Euless is free of his father, he is finally on the field he loves doing the only thing that makes him happy. It seems like such a simple thing, making a tackle, but you can see the pain behind young Euless’ eyes. He has waited his whole life to make that tackle. All his pain, all his frustration, all his sorrow, everything was put into that tackle and as he gets up he feels relief.

The issue concludes with the realization that even though father Boss is out of the picture, Euless still has his name and this is going to make life very hard for young Boss. The sins of the father will always follow this son like a personal dark rain cloud ruining every and all opportunity. So Euless will do the only thing he knows how to do, fight.

– Dean