Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Southern Bastards, Volume 3: Homecoming Review (Jason Aaron, Jason Latour)

Almost every time they’ve played each other the Craw County Runnin’ Rebs have beaten their rivals, the Wetumpka County Warriors, thanks in part to Coach Big, the Rebs’ long-time defensive coordinator. Following the brutal murder of Earl Tubb on the orders of Coach Boss, Big is ashamed to be in league with Boss and chosen suicide. Now it’s homecoming week and once more it’s the Rebs vs the Warriors - and, denied Big’s knowledge and experience, Coach Boss is due a reckoning… in more ways than one.

Southern Bastards is a series that gets better and better! I liked the first book, was ambivalent about the second, and the third one, Homecoming, is definitely my favourite. Besides the overarching storyline of the big match, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour explore more of Craw County’s colourful characters. 

One issue looks at Sheriff Hardy’s life from when he was once a promising young player with a bright future to becoming stuck in Craw County in the role Coach Boss wanted him to play all along: puppet Sheriff. It’s amazing how much story Aaron can pack into a single issue as well as creating a believable person, distinct voice and tangible life all at once - such a talented writer! 

Another issue follows Esaw Goings, one of Coach Boss’s redneck goons who, following Big’s suicide, gets promoted to defensive coordinator and realises the job’s not so easy as he thought. A preacher looking to save Esaw follows him around during one of his usual days witnessing Esaw’s violent craziness first-hand. 

The best issue featured my favourite new character, Boone, a backwoods hunter and snake-handler who hates football and wants to kill Coach Boss. We see what life is like for those in the deep country and discover he’s kind of the hillbilly Punisher, a secret vigilante who metes out the Lord’s justice to rapists and murderers with his bow and arrows. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of him in future storylines! 

Jason Latour writes the Tad Ledbetter issue, the kid who befriended Earl Tubb and became hospitalised as a result. Chris Brunner draws, adding a fun cartoonish look to the series with his style. I loved Latour’s covers for this arc too, my favourites being the one featuring Boone (so cool) and the one with the blue Wetumpka Warriors which was wonderfully eye-catching.

And, following the big match (the result of which of course I’m not going to spoil), Roberta Tubb, Earl’s daughter and a Marine, is back in Craw County after finishing her latest tour in Afghanistan - and she’s looking for the men who killed her dad. I loved her dealing with the racist white trash neighbours (she’s half black) and can’t wait to see her go up against Coach Boss and his lunatic cohorts. Go Roberta, fuck up them redneck shitbags! 

In ranging over Craw County’s citizens, the two Jasons have enriched the series further as well as opened up tantalising new narrative possibilities while simultaneously ramping up the tension as Coach Boss’s tenure comes under threat. Homecoming is a smashing success, capturing life in the American South in all its darkness and glory while telling a riveting story full of compelling characters. Southern Bastards is back and better than ever - this third volume is as decisive a comic book touchdown as you can get!

Southern Bastards, Volume 3: Homecoming

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