Review: Southern Bastards, Volume 2 – Gridiron by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour

Southern Bastards Vol 2 coverThe first volume of Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Southern Bastards (There Was a Man) introduced us to the seedy, corrupted Craw County and its most feared resident, Euless Boss, who quite literally took matters into his own hands when returning resident Earl Tubb started brewing trouble. When Tubb stumbled back into town and witnessed the sheer brutality of Boss’s reign, he tried to take matters into his own hands and deal with the trouble head on. That decision had fatal consequences, and demonstrated the unabashed sadism of the town’s high school football coach. But such savagery isn’t implanted in a man’s psychosis from birth; it needs to be cultivated and fine-tuned; sharpened like a stick, ready to stab. Southern Bastards, Volume 2: Gridiron delves into Coach’s Boss past and explores the troubles that played him as a young boy; how a warped love of football turned him into the monster we know he’ll become.

While my interest in football (unless it’s of the round ball variety) is infinitesimal, I can appreciate a man’s love of sport, particularly that of a school senior, who mightn’t have the natural talent to guarantee a college scholarship, but has the guts and determination to overcome that lack of guile. Young Euless Boss is mocked from his very first try-out. Quite simply, he’s not very good, but his body is a weapon, and he is willing and very able to throw it around for the benefit of the team – not that anyone’s thankful for it. Boss has clearly had a tough childhood; a criminal father, no friends, no real aspirations beyond success on the football field. It would appear he’s on the fast-track to nowhere; fate has signed, sealed and delivered his beginning, middle, and end. But Euless Boss doesn’t know when he’s beaten. Losing’s never been an option.

Jason Aaron doesn’t make Boss a sympathetic character – having witnessed his actions in There Was a Man, that would be impossible – but he does mould this beast into something that is at least recognizable; a tangible facsimile of mankind at its worst. Gridiron is comprised of several key character moments, some outrageous but the majority are subtle, and Jason Latour illustrates these with style, utilizing a red colour palette to absolute perfection. His characters are ugly, which is apt for the landscape, and his storytelling ability panel-to-panel is top notch. By design it’s not pretty to look at, but the workmanship is of the highest quality.

Southern Bastards, Volume 2: Gridiron maintains the quality of the series’ first volume and adds essential context to its grand antagonist. With it out of the way, Aaron and Latour are free to explore the consequences of Boss’s actions at the end of Volume 1. It’s going to be bloody. It’s going to be great.

4 Stars Excellent

ISBN: 9781632152695
Format: Paperback (260mm x 171mm x mm)
Pages: 128
Imprint: Image Comics
Publisher: Image Comics
Publish Date: 12-May-2015
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Southern Bastards Volume 1 – Here Was a Man by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour

Southern BastardsThere is something rotten in the air of Craw County. There was decades ago, when Earl Tubb left for Vietnam: a football hero, and the son of a father famous for his skirmish with a crew of assailants, armed only with a baseball bat. Back then, Earl ran away; not his problem, and even it was, he wasn’t the solution. But things have changed, and this time Earl has identified the core of the degradation: the enigmatic football coach, who casts a long, dark shadow over the down. This time, Earl doesn’t run away. And the consequences are catastrophic.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS presents the south exactly as its feared. It’s dirty, gritty, and unwelcoming to outsiders; both in appearance, and its populace. Collaborators Jason Aaron and Jason Latour play up the stereotypes without dipping into parody. It’s a fine line. The characters are all gnarled and grizzled, scowls permanently etched on their faces, even when they’re smiling. But there’s a beauty to that ugliness, Latour’s talent on full display as he depicts these characters and their world. You’ll never want to set foot in Craw County, but you won’t be able to look away from it.

The plot seems formulaic at first: a man enters a small town, spots injustice, and ends it. Seen it before, a hundred times, right? But there’s more to it than that. Much more. And by end of this first volume, THERE WAS A MAN, readers will understand SOUTHERN BASTARDS is set to be as epic in scope as Aaron’s SCALPED, if not more so. And as s far as last-page reveals go, this is one of the best in recent memory. Kudos to the best Jason’s working in comics. I’m along for the ride.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy