Monday, October 13, 2014

Southern Bastards Volume 1: Here Was a Man

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jason Latour

     My first introduction to Jason Aaron's work was with the dark and gritty crime comic Scalped. With his transfer over to Marvel, it's hard to remember that he once wrote hopeless, realistic stories. But now Southern Bastards is here. And he is right back to classic form.
     Earl Tubb comes back to Craw County, Alabama, 40 years after his dad died to finally pack up the old house. But he quickly gets caught up in crime and corruption that all seems to link to the high school football Coach Boss. And he has to make in choice whether to get swept back into the town he left years ago or get out while he still can.
     The main characters here are atypical. Earl isn't the picture of the crime comic antihero. He's old, worn down, and wearing a flannel shirt. Coach Boss is...well, a high school football coach, gruff but not exactly the pinnacle of crime lord. We're not even told what exactly Boss is doing, but the actions of his men tell plenty, and it provides a nice mystery for the book to continue with. In many ways, we start the same point that Earl starts: we know something is wrong here, but we don't know what. But it becomes obvious from the whirlwind of violence that this is not good, and while we ultimately know the choice Earl has to make (it'd be a short comic if he left, wouldn't it?), it never stops feeling like a problem he won't be able to fix.
     Latour's art fits the book perfectly. His art is as dark as the story that Aaron is telling, and the character designs are so spot-on that it's instantly obvious that he spent his childhood in the south. There's no other way you can make characters that I can go to the Wal-Mart and see. And he is also the perfect choice for the book's violent moments, providing the right amount of shock every time they happen.

     Here Was a Man ends with a twist to make sure you come back. It doesn't matter. If you love crime stories full of purely evil villains and unlikely heroes, then Southern Bastards will have you hooked by the end of the first issue.

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