Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: April 30, 2014
Fuck you: I’m from the South. Like any right-thinking Southerner, I’m proud but embarrassed, defensive and a little indignant. Mostly proud, though, and nothing you say and nothing the many horrible people who live in the South can do will change that. Horrible people are everywhere — good barbecue isn’t.
I would’ve ignored Southern Bastards if Jason Aaron hadn’t written it. He’s from Alabama. I can make fun of Alabama all day long (it’s cool, I’m from Georgia), but in the end it’s hard to be humble when you’re from Alabama, as a dude who skipped Alabama for Georgia once sang. Aaron and artist Jason Latour (who bounced from Charlotte to Atlanta to Florida) are natives, and thus know how to look harshly at the South without unfairly belittling or stereotyping it. Southern Bastards comes from a place of love, but it’s fully aware of how depressing and backwards the South can be.
Set in fictional Craw County, Alabama, a place so small its residents call Birmingham the “big city”, Southern Bastards hinges upon a past that Earl Tubb has tried to forget. A gruff old man returning to tend to family business, Tubb remains in the shadow of his long-dead father, a local lawman in the Buford Pusser vein, handy with a big stick (signed by Bear Bryant) and the deliverance of violence under the guise of justice. Craw’s now running drills for a heavy named Coach Boss, whose tattooed Stars and Bars-bedecked thugs pee on dogs and brutalize down-on-their-luck old acquaintances of Tubb’s. Something bad has happened in Craw, much like something bad happened to Tubb’s dad, just as something bad, something unspeakable, something absolutely unforgivable, forged the South. I’ll bet you a slice of pecan pie that everything’s connected.
Southern Bastards is about a man coming to grips with the evil of his predecessors and the hopeless place he hails from. It’s most evident in Latour’s excellent, expressionist artwork — dark shadows constantly cover Tubb and most of Craw, with flashbacks to Tubb Sr. tinted blood red. Any worthwhile Southern lit gets compared to Faulkner or O’Connor or McCullers, and even though the violence is at the forefront of Southern Bastards, the sadness and the pain of the South lies almost visible just underneath. It’s a story of the South — it’s the story of the South.