Southern Bastards #3
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jason Latour
Published by Image Comics
The showdown in Craw County has begun, and Earl Tubb is finding out just how difficult it’s going to be to take down Coach Boss. Southern Bastards has been a critical darling, and this issue lives up to the high expectations set by its predecessors. If this series can maintain its momentum, it’s going to be remembered as a classic in a few years.
Earl Tubb begins his one man war against the rot in Craw County by walking into a restaurant and beating Esaw to a pulp with his club. The entire restaurant watches as Earl demands answers about why Dusty was killed, and more broadly, how everything has gone so badly in the town. He plans to keep coming back to the same restaurant until somebody explains what’s going on and asks the townspeople to do the same with him. Nobody shows up, which doesn’t dampen Earl’s commitment to carrying on with his mission. Coach Boss doesn’t want Earl to be arrested, but he doesn’t want the bad publicity that Earl’s bringing up everywhere. Boss asks Esaw to take care of the problem, and the issue ends with even more violence.
I noted in a previous review that this book shares a lot with the original Walking Tall, but now that we’re deeper into the book, there are some elements that seem to subvert Bufford Pusser’s story. Earl can’t just rally the townspeople by beating up one man, even if he clearly deserves that beating. Maybe they’re afraid of the consequences, or maybe they just don’t want to confront the ugliness that lies beneath the surface of their clean little town. It’s not even clear that everything wrong with the county is especially new, because Earl’s father was beating people up way back in the day. Is Jason Aaron pointing out the side-by-side beauty and ugliness of the South as another of its inherent contradictions? It certainly feels like that.
Yet as much southern ugliness as this book depicts, it does make me hungry for a good plate of ribs. Jason Aaron is really good at depicting the little details of life down south. The fact that much of this comic book has to do with food, in and of itself a southern obsession, makes it feel especially authentic. Jason Latour’s artwork is critical here, especially in bringing out the grit and dirt. Some of the characters have an appropriately grimy look to them, especially when they’re scowling for one reason or another. If you haven’t started reading this book yet, pull yourself together and buy the first few issues.