Friday, 3 April 2015

Southern Bastards, Volume 2: Gridiron Review (Jason Aaron, Jason Latour)


The second Southern Bastards arc, Gridiron, is told mostly in flashback. The main story is more or less frozen while we’re told the secret origins of the villain of the series, Coach Boss, instead of what happened after Earl Tubbs mumblemumble... 

When he was a kid, Euless Boss wanted to be a Runnin’ Reb (the local high school football team) more than anything. Unfortunately the Boss family have a rep in Craw County as no-good troublemakers who steal, and Euless’ dad is the worst one. As Euless trains himself up for the squad, his dad keeps pissing off the wrong people, and all of it bodes poorly for Euless’ dreams. 

Gridiron’s not a terrible story but it’s not a great one either and definitely not as enjoyable as the first book’s. It was much too predictable for me, and not just because we know things don’t work out for Euless as he becomes the leader of the local mob. It was his redneck daddy, playing the evil redneck character we’ve seen a thousand times before; it was the blind, black ballboy who mentors Euless like a Miyagi or Yoda; it was Euless being picked on by the other players, knowing he’ll show them later in the story; and it was his corny motivation of hoping his daddy would love him if he succeeded at something. All this stuff feels unoriginal and stale. 

But it’s more than just showing us familiar tropes - the tale itself isn’t that gripping. A teenager wanting to get onto the local high school football team? Eh. Not a terribly interesting setup. That said, it does what it’s supposed to, fleshing out Coach Boss’ character, even making him sympathetic up to a point. 

Jason Aaron ups the intensity with Euless’ rotten home life and near-crazy father, but it’s still weak sauce from a writer who’s produced far more compelling comics before. And again, you can tell what’s going to happen to his dad from a mile off. 

Jason Latour’s art is wonderfully grimy and tortured-looking, much like the characters, and the heavy dark red overtones to the pages continue to make the South look like hell on earth. It’s the perfect look for this series. 

I like where the story is headed from those last pages, even if they’re pretty much the same as the last pages of the first book, so I’m looking forward to a more exciting and full-on third volume. This second one, though? It’s alright and just about makes the cut though from this creative team you’d expect a more convincing victory.

Southern Bastards, Volume 2: Gridiron

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