Southern Bastards #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Publisher: Image Comics
After the shocking conclusion of the first arc, which consisted of the brutal, animalistic murder of a prominent character, we return to Craw County with a glimpse into the past of Euless “Coach” Boss. We dive into the life of the legendary high school football coach and ringleader of plenty of illegal activities taking place in Craw County. Via flashbacks, readers are provided a window looking into a few incidents that helped shape Coach into the man he is today, And now that Earl Tubbs is dead, Euless deals with the aftermath of what he’s done. Coach is a man who abuses power and his goal now is to make sure the townspeople don’t forget that he is someone to be feared and respected. Boss is frustrated that the townspeople are pretending they didn’t witness him execute Earl in the middle of the street with a large stick; and he needs them to not just remember, but never forget. His coaching philosophy applies to his life in general and in the final glorious frame, Boss returns to the scene of the crime and mounts the blood-stained stick on a wall like a trophy, for everyone to see. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour craft yet another a fine issue exploring cultural idols, crimes of silence and apathy, and the violent, and darker side of the south. With issue #5, Jason Aaron presents the cult of personality that surrounds Boss. He’s the story’s biggest monster and yet Craw County’s biggest hero; but no matter how ugly and terrible Coach Boss may be, the scariest thing about Craw Country, is the very culture that created the monster he is today, and worse, allows him to continue to terrorize the southern town.
Football is the centrepiece of Southern Bastards #5, a story aptly entitled “Gridiron”. Aaron and Latour use the importance football holds within this culture to explore the dangers that come with it. The issue itself feels especially timely as American Football is having a bit of a moment right now: It was only a matter of time before football joined abortion, porn, and radical Islam as topics of discussion at the annual social conservative soiree. But this is an incredibly important issue of this comic series for several other reasons and what Aaron and Latour do here from a story telling perspective is inspiring. What better way to develop the primary antagonist of the series than by killing off the protagonist, and one issue later, showing us just how similar they both are. Coach is just as much a victim to his surroundings as Earl was. Both men were born and raised in the same small town, surrounded by the same town folk, yet both men went in entirely different directions in life. Earl found a way out of Craw County and started fresh, whereas Coach never had the opportunity to leave. Jason Aaron has been spinning an incredible yarn since the first issue, and digging into the backstory of the most infamous man in Craw County should create for a new interesting arc.
Jason Latour’s art continues to impress. Boss is depicted as a monster not only through the writing, but also through his very appearance. Every sequence set in Coach Boss’s flashbacks is soaked in hues of red effectively distinguishing the past from the present. The monochromatic color scheme shows the world through the eyes of the coach; and Latour’s scratchy figures, and gritty pencils are a perfect complement to the historical retelling in Boss’s perspective.
Issue five delivers a major swerve in story direction, but in the best way possible. There is some interesting foreshadowing surrounding some of the new characters, and the flashbacks really help drive home the anguish and despair of Craw County. And while there’s no development on the tag from last issue, Earl’s daughter remains a major player here without ever making an appearance. Here’s betting that she will indeed, deliver the comeuppance that the County and Coach deserve.
Five issues strong, Southern Bastards is a comic book that demands your attention. This is essential reading for every true comic book fan.
– Ricky D