Hey there Alt Beat fans!
It’s been a long time since I’ve written an Alternative Comics Beat article, but if there were ever a reason for me to come out of retirement (aside from my internship) it would be Southern Bastards #1. Written by Jason Aaron, art by Jason Latour, and published by Image Comics, this comic is an all around treasure. It isn’t just a gripping story, but also a fine piece of sequential art by Latour. Together they’ve woven a graphic narrative that was so fun to read that I read it twice in a single day, on top of my usual pull list for the week.
The story of Southern Bastards centers around Earl Tubb, an old man who returns to his hometown. He’s come back to empty out his old house after his uncle is placed into a nursing home. The dark and unforgiving town he returns to reminds him of his father, the former sheriff, and the life of violence that followed. The mysterious Boss, who now controls the town and coaches the local football team, has his fingers everywhere. Ominous warnings from old acquaintances spell trouble for the elderly Tubb as he dips his hands into the barbequed underworld that Boss has built around Craw County.
What makes the book special
This comic is clearly coming from somewhere personal for both Aaron and Latour. If you can’t get that from the initial story, there’s a short message from each of them in the back of the issue about their experiences with the South. Aaron and Latour each explore what the South means to them, and their experiences growing up there and becoming adults. There’s equal parts of Aaron and Latour in Tubb and his story. He’s a character who can say more with his stone cold looks and attitude than he can in word balloons. Tubb feels like he comes from a mixture of love and hate, and that mixture is making for a fantastic character piece.
That mixture is possible because the artwork that supports the story is drop dead gorgeous. Latour’s lines capture the beautiful and ugly shapes that the human face holds, and the colors really make you feel the heat of the characters and their environments. The mix of reds, yellows, and oranges with some of the duller colors make the reader’s eyes pop and sink on all the right panels. The shift from cool to warm colors punctuates the violence and emotions in the book, which just goes to show how much the artwork and writing can work together in the comic book medium.
Why it’s a great alternative
I’ll admit right now that I have a huge love of crime fiction in all storytelling mediums. Aaron’s Scalped was a series that I really enjoyed, and anyone who knows me on social media can vouch for the fact that I love the Southern gothic setting and story of True Detective. But what Southern Bastards offers is more than just a crime story, it’s a step away from the fantastical and science fiction elements of other Image Comics or even Marvel and DC Comics. I still love science fiction, but it’s always good to have a palette cleanser and walk away from the fantastical for something gritty. And Southern Bastards has gritty in spades.
Who might enjoy this book
I would recommend this book for anyone that’s a fan of shows like True Detective, or enjoyed Aaron’s Scalped. I’d even venture into the realm of people who love the wandering man caught between himself, violence, and doing the right thing. The kind of character you’d find in films like Yojimbo. I realize it’s strange to compare a samurai film to a story set in the South, but Tubb feels like that honorable man that’s faced with violence, all for doing the right thing. Only time will tell if he truly fits that mold, but it’s the first impression he gives off in his introduction.
Where you can purchase the book
From what I’ve read the first printing of the book has sold out, which really isn’t a surprise. I’ve heard people talking about it all over the internet. So if you’re looking for a print version you might have to wait until the next printing of the book. If you’re looking for a digital copy you can check out the Image Comics website, Comixology, or other digital comics retailers. There’s also a special CBLDF (Comic Book League Defense Fund) version for sale with a variant cover. The proceeds go towards supporting free speech in the comic book medium, and the variant cover is a beauty. Pick up a copy however you can get your hands on it, and add this hot new book to your pull list faster than slow cooked ribs fall off the bone.
Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including "Ink Ribbon" from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year's Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in "Artifacts" #33.