Monday, 30 June 2014

Southern Bastards #2 Review (Jason Aaron, Jason Latour)

Earl Tubb has returned to Craw County, Alabama, after 40 years to deal with his dead father’s matters, but realises something is rotten in his former hometown. Murder, crime and corruption riddle the small southern town and it seems to stem from one man: Coach Boss. In Southern Bastards #2, Earl meets the villainous Coach and realises if justice is to be served, he’ll have to go it alone. 

Jason Aaron made his feelings about the south very clear in his afterword to the first issue: he loves and hates it but he’ll never go back there (he lives in Kansas these days). Maybe that’s why this series has a feeling of post-apocalyptic doom overhanging it. The blood-red eyes of dogs, the merging of death and football in one scene, the ambivalence of the police to obvious crime, the free reign the thugs have over the town, and the near-constant overcast sky, ending in a thunderstorm, all contribute to a truly oppressive mood in this comic, with Aaron’s view of the south being overwhelmingly negative. 

The second issue is essentially all setup. Aaron’s still establishing the scenario, introducing all the players, and preparing Earl for his inevitable role as vigilante. Coach Boss’ presence in this book is firmly presented as the all-powerful ruler of this town and even if we only glimpse him on the edges of the football field, there’s no doubt that he enjoys enormous respect and control far beyond any ordinary person. 

Maybe it was the thunderstorm setting, but the finale felt like a scene straight out of Aaron’s Thor where the lightning gifts Earl with what he’s going to use to fight Coach Boss and his goons with. This scene is particularly dramatic as artist Jason Latour colours most of the issue in muted, dark colours and then when the lightning strikes everything is hellishly red and yellow. 

Two issues in and Southern Bastards continues to be an intriguing series which I’m confident Jason Aaron will develop into something extraordinary by tale’s end. Southern Bastards #2 is a good comic though it’s mostly table-setting for more dramatic issues to come and so feels a little unsatisfactory by itself.

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