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The Natives Are Restless in Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Southern Bastards #1

The Natives Are Restless in Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Southern Bastards #1

Southern Bastards #1

Southern Bastards #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Drawn and colored by Jason Latour
Published by Image Comics

It is not what Jason Aaron and Jason Latour do but it is how they do it that makes Southern Bastards #1 one of Image Comics strongest debuts. The story of Earl Tubb, an old man returning to Craw County after 40 years, is a story of sadness. There are reasons that Earl hasn’t returned to his childhood home in decades and it looks like most of them are the memory of his father. Finally cleaning out his father’s home after all these years, Earl hopes it will be a quick, easy job that should only take two to three days. And it would probably be if Earl just didn’t go into town looking to get some ribs at Boss BBQ. There he finds old acquaintances and new trouble as he discovers this town isn’t quite the way he remembers it. Earl’s father’s headstone reads “Here was a man.” Even late in life, Earl discovers that he has a lot to live up to as the son of the one-time sheriff of Craw County finds that the law left there long ago.

Aaron and Latour welcome you to Craw County but they don’t let you know much of what’s going on there. Dusty, the younger brother of a girl that Earl dated for a whole summer once, is in some kind of trouble with Coach Boss, the unseen leader of this town. Boss’s name is on everything, including the barbeque shack that Earl ends up eating in. Dusty storms into Boss BBQ, demanding to see Boss but recognizes the man sitting at the bar eating his ribs. At first, Dusty is slightly excited to see the one time best defensive end that ever played high school football there. Heck, Dusty saw every game Earl ever played. When Dusty is called back into the kitchen, Earl follows and rescues Dusty from some of Boss’s thugs who were planning to kill Dusty. Instead of being thankful, Dusty warns Earl, “Jesus, you got no idea what the hell you’re getting into… Ya don’t even fuckin’ belong here! Not anymore! Hell, ya never really did, did ya?” Dusty looks like some small town hick, way over his head in some way, but Dusty knows so much more than Earl does. Earl may have grown up in Craw County but he has no idea what his childhood home really is.

Southern Bastards #1 by Aaron and Latour

Aaron plays with Earl’s unfamiliarity of the lay of the land. Both Earl and the audience have to learn who’s who and Aaron isn’t in any rush to reveal anything here. Even the little bits we learn about Earl aren’t much but they’re enough to begin revealing Earl’s characters and personal issues. Instead of too quickly revealing a lot through words, Latour tells us so much of this town and these people through his artwork. From the sad, tired lines of Earl’s face to the sickly orange coloring of Dusty’s eyes, we learn so much about who these characters are just by observing and watching them. The way that Dusty goes from determined to curious to excited to scared and then horrified in the span of a few pages tells us so much about his and about Craw County and the hold that this Boss has on it. Earl’s size plus his obvious reluctance to be where he is just tells us that there’s so much more we have to learn about this character. Aaron and Latour tell us so little but reveal so much by simply letting their characters live and breath within the space of this issue.

Aaron and Latour are taking their time introducing you to this work. There is nothing in Southern Bastards #1 that feels constructed or like these creators are desperate to establish characters and setting before they get to their story. Instead, they are letting the words and images develop the flavor their comic book. From Earl’s strong-but-silent demeanor to Dusty’s orange eyeballs and yellow teeth, you experience the sights and sounds of Craw County as these characters do. It’s been 40 years since Earl was last here but his reactions to and memories of the place tell you just how little has changed and just how much of it is still foreign to Earl. He may be an old man now but something about this place brings out the boy he was while he would rather be the man he is away from Craw County.

Southern Bastards #1 by Aaron and Latour

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