Published on October 29th, 2014 | by JCDoyle0
Southern Bastards #5 – Review
You may think that the ending of the first arc of Southern Bastards would be a difficult act to follow but Jason Aaron manages to score a field goal with the first part of the second act.
Instead of jumping directly into the revenge story that is surely coming, it can’t be too long before Earl Tubb’s daughter turns up asking questions, Aaron decides to focus the attention on Euless Boss, the villain of the piece. The issue opens by delving into Boss’ past where, as an inept football player, he is told that he should give up the game. His coach doesn’t infer that he doesn’t stand a chance at playing ball in the team, he flat out says it but even back then, Boss was too pig headed to give up. This resilience is further illustrated after he takes a beating from some of the football team: he gets straight back up and returns to his training with blood dripping from his face.
Back in the present day the fallout from the last story arc is beginning to settle that is until Boss stubbornly attends Earl‘s funeral despite the protests from the men closest to him. His attendance doesn’t go unnoticed even though there are only a few others present but is this the worst decision Boss makes that day? Not even close.
After a spot of verbal venting, he makes the controversial decision to display the baseball bat used to kill Earl in the local cafe. He does this because he doesn’t want people to forget what he has done and also he doesn’t want them to forget that they didn’t lift a finger to stop him: they are as guilty as he is by association.
Is it a risky move to focus so much attention on the villain at the start of a new arc? To give him an almost sympathetic background? In the scribing hands of Jason Aaron it is definitely not a mistake. He has already proven that this is not a straight forward narrative, nothing can be taken at face value, and to hammer home this point Aaron forces the reader to confront their own feeling towards Boss. He lays out a history of bullying and a young man’s fight against adversity, a background which is to be applauded. But this is juxtaposed against the hardened killer who has the nerve to attend his victim’s funeral and then present the murder weapon for display in public, right where the heinous act took place.
This duality of character is represented brilliantly by the colour changes between the past and present elements of the narrative. The use of red and orange enhances the brutal determination of the young wanabee football player while the bluer tones of the present reflect the coldness within the bitter old man that he has become. The art shows that there is a spark of passion in the younger version of the Coach but this has been replaced by the calculated, seasoned Coach who has the entire town in his pocket.
As well as the use of colour, another motif from the earlier issues that continues is the concept of sport as a metaphor for the larger story, this time using the positions within a team to reflect emotional states of the central character. His journey from trainee to Coach mirrors his advancement in his social standing and both journeys are full of violence. And the relevance of the Broken Baseball Bat is an essay all of its own.
There is a lot to like in Southern Bastards and it is a comic that people will be talking about in years to come. Aaron and Latour have managed to hit on something special, a surprisingly intelligent comic that captures the fears of modern communities and the lack of trust between neighbours. Aaron especially is at the top of his game, hitting home runs left, right and centre. If you missed out on the previous issues, don’t worry because the trade collection has recently come out so you can pick it up when you’re buying number 5 and see what all the fuss is about.
Title: Southern Bastards
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour