Southern Bastards #1, written by Jason Aaron with art and colors by Jason Latour, follows a tough middle-aged man named Earl Tubbs as he returns to his Alabama home after a long absence, only to find that his hometown is now worse than it was when he left it. Come to think of it, it’s a little bit like The Dark Knight Returns with a southern accent and a penchant for barbeque ribs. So is it good?
Southern Bastards #1 (Image Comics)
“I love the South,” Alabama born-and-bred Jason Aaron writes in a note to readers at the end of this issue. “The South also scares the living shit out of me.”
“This book is for THEM,” Charlotte native Jason Latour writes. “The assholes you might think southerners are.”
By the authors’ own apparent admissions, Southern Bastards is a series that perpetuate southern stereotypes even as it actively fights against them. You know that routine by Chris Rock where he talks about the difference between black people and that-other-word-for-black-people? I suppose that Southern Bastards is a bit like that for southerners and rednecks, in the form of a rural noir comic book.
Of course, this is only the first issue, but it’s a rich introduction to the series that should make readers eager to see how the story develops further. We don’t know much about the protagonist, Earl Tubbs yet. We don’t know why he’s chosen to return home; it seems that he has some sort of unfinished business to take care of. But he seems like a good man from a simple family. A tree grows behind his father’s grave in the front yard of his father’s house. “Here was a man,” the headstone reads. Bertrand Tubb, a sheriff, died defending his family from a gang of rednecks. Now the town appears to be run by a man named “Boss” and his gang of high school football players.
There’s a palpable seediness throughout Southern Bastards #1, as Aaron and Latour do an excellent job establishing a sense of place. It’s well paced, tightly plotted, and carefully detailed. Each character has their own unique way of speaking, and Aaron never goes full-Claremont in his use of dialects. Jason Latour’s art perfectly matches the griminess of the story being told, with unsettling rough lines and a muted color palette.
Full Disclosure: I’ve never been to the South. I was born and raised in various parts of Northern New Jersey, and went to college in South Jersey. I’ve been to Florida a few times, but I was hardly in the parts of Florida that can be considered the Deep South. So I approached Southern Bastards as a bit of an outsider looking in. But after reading Bastards, I feel like I’ve been to the South several times. And I agree with Aaron and Latour. It’s a nice place. But it’s also pretty scary.
Is It Good?
Absolutely. I’ll definitely be reading the next issue, and probably several more after that.