‘Southern Bastards’ #4 Unpredictable, Progressively Violent, and Shocking

Southern Bastards #4SB-01_COVER-
Story by: Jason Aaron
Art by: Jason Latour
Cover by: Jason Latour

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour began working together four years ago when Latour teamed up with Aaron to illustrate an issue of the critically acclaimed Vertigo series Scalped, and they would later collaborate on various Wolverine projects for Marvel, sharing writing duties on Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted. Needless to say, their resume is impressive and so when Southern Bastards was announced, there was a lot of hype surrounding the new series from Image Comics. Fans had huge expectations, but could Southern Bastards live up to all the hype surrounding the book and the dynamic duo? Four issues later, and the answer is yes. This relentless tale of small-town treachery spiralling into bloody vengeance is one of the year’s best. Following the gripping ending to the last issue, Southern Bastard‘s first arc comes to a bloody end, as Earl and Coach Boss meet face to face in a climax that has devastating ramifications.

There has already been plenty written about this successful series thus far, including right here at Sound On Sight. Our very own, SouthernBastards04_Page1Scott Cederland was quick to pinpoint how Aaron and Latour are taking their time introducing you to this work. The series has made great use of flashbacks (a device I usually tend to dislike), but Bastards beautifully navigates the timeline, seamlessly switching from past events to the present to develop its central character. A great example of this comes immediately in the cold opening of issue #4. Flashbacks offer many pitfalls and even the best-written flashbacks carry a built-in disadvantage: Since these events have already occurred, flashbacks lack immediacy. But offsetting this inherent disadvantage, the flashbacks here help readers understand the protagonist’s motives, offering crucial information and allowing readers to see glimpses of the events from Earl’s past that helped shape Tubb into what he is today. Latour makes the backstory just as interesting as the present arc, emphasizing just how much both Tubb has changed over the years and just how much his sleepy hometown has not. The use of these flashbacks makes for a fast-moving summary void of expository dialogue; and often the images from the past and present play off each other with great matching cuts, increasing the tension as Tubb continues to battle demons from his past.

Southern Bastards is a sad, brilliant reminder that sometimes people are the most threatening monsters of all. Issue #4 sees our main character Earl take the fight to Coach Boss, seeking revenge for the beating his followers gave to Tad. This is a dark and depressing series to say the least, but it still offers an engaging Southern drama that manages to stay sweet and heartwarming at times. If one had to guess what and who may have influenced the creators, a few names would immediately spring to mind including James Ellroy, Cormac McCarthy, the Coen brothers and especially, Elmore Leonard. In his review of issue #2, Zeb was quick to mention Walking Tall as an influence as well, but clearly, the biggest influence for both creators (both from the South), draws on their own personal experience. Southern Bastards is as raw as they come – an outstanding read delivering a high quality issue each and every month. Aaron’s dialogue always feels natural and the characters all feel lived in. Southern Bastards is about a man, living with regret, battling the demons from his past, and facing them in his hometown. And that’s enough. Issue #4 delivers a monumentally epic moment, and an ending that will leave readers gasping. The writing is so good that Southern Bastards has the feel of a great novel that’s rooted deep in American soil – in a place where the hero’s morality, regardless of the laws of country and state, is the last hope for a positive change. Bastards is a book by a creative team operating on a higher level than the norm.

– Ricky D

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