Southern Bastards. Just the title alone conjures up some strange images. Coming to you from Image comics and the twisted imaginations of Jason Aaron (Scalped, Wolverine) and Jason Latour (Loose Ends, Django Unchained), this “southern fried” crime story is the latest in a long line of hot new titles from Image that sell out on delivery.
Taking place in fictional Craw County, the book stars a middle-aged man named Earl Tubb who makes his way back to his childhood home to clean out the property when his uncle get committed to a nursing home. Earl hasn’t been home in decades and returns to Craw County and learns nothing is what it seems, or what it used to be.
Earl’s father was the sheriff of Craw County and found he made himself more than a few enemies during his time there. When Earl returns home he finds that his father’s enemies are still there and the roots run deeper than he ever imagined. A mysterious crime boss called Coach Boss seems to be pulling the strings in the town, and everybody knows what’s going on-but no one is talking. Earl planned to spend just a few days back at the old house, but by the end of the book he may have just overstayed his welcome.
Southern Bastards sticks out in a lot of ways, other than the slick title. This story was just made for the jagged and gritty art of Jason Latour, who also handled the coloring of the book. The style reminds you of Jeff Lemire’s early Sweet Tooth and his cinematic storytelling brings to life the epic chain of events that Earl’s father set into motion. Southern Bastards has unique panelization that brings you to a climax at the end of the title and ends on a high note that issue two will surely pick right up from.
Jason Aaron may be known to most for his time writing Wolverine or Thanos Rising for Marvel, but before that he had a major hit in Scalped for Vertigo. Gritty, violent stories are a specialty of his and this book is a great example of his ability to craft the “small story.” Bringing to life complex stories featuring non-superhero characters is becoming a lost art but Aaron has the right set of skills to make those character burst off the page with a seldom-seen realism.
Latour and Aaron include a page in the back explaining some of the inspiration for their story. It sheds a little light on their reasons for using the deep south as a backdrop for the grimy story and what they hope to convey to readers. By the time you read this there’s a good chance it’s sold out at your comic shop, but give them a call and see. Image seems to be hitting it out the park with sell-out first issues almost every month.
Whether it’s Sex Criminals, Saga or East of West, Image is slowly reshaping the comic book landscape with some truly unique titles by big time creators.