The latest title to bring together Jasons Aaron and Latour is this deep-fried story of hard-ass, small town sociopolitics known as Southern Bastards, from Image Comics. Jason Aaron provides the story’s writing, and Jason Latour brings a rugged and saturated brush to the title’s artwork; the two have previously worked together on Scalped and Wolverine. if you’re unfamiliar with the deep, deep south, this first issue throws you in head first.
As the two Jasons mention in a short afterword in the issue, they’re both from the south and maintain a love/hate relationship with what it is, who it is, and what people think about it. As someone who is also from the south–who has always lived in the south–I can say, without any hesitation, that I not only sympathize with the creators’ feelings, but as I made my way through each page of this issue, I kept thinking to myself, “I know that guy.” and “I know know that guy, too.” The characters introduced in this issue are obviously exaggerated caricatures and fictionalized amalgams that don’t bear absolute resemblance to real people, but they come pretty damn close. While I don’t feel the same regional pride or loyalty both Jason Aaron and Jason Latour profess for the south, I can say I’m fond of their stated goal of basically putting all these Southern Bastards on Front Street.
Getting to the actual story, it follows an older man by the name of Earl Tubb who has long-since left his hometown of Craw County, Alabama, but finds himself pulled back to deal with one, little family matter. Of course, it can’t be that easy, and Earl soon finds himself cast back into the shadow of heroes past–as only the south can find a way to do–and contending with new foes that feel all too familiar.
The way this issue deftly weaves the past with the present and manages to pretty seamlessly differentiate between the two makes for a tense and enthralling story to travel through. There are definitely moments that feel reminiscent of stories you may have seen before; namely the life of Sheriff Buford Pusser and the subsequent movie about him Walking Tall, but it’s as if this is merely an extension of that story’s environment, as opposed to feeling like it’s borrowing from it in anyway. Another title I was reminded of while reading this is Sullivan’s Sluggers, from Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe; a title I enjoyed immensely. Of course, if you’ve read Sullivan’s Sluggers, you know it’s a markedly different genre, but you’ll also know why Southern Bastards would have reminded me of it.
In the end, Southern Bastards #1 introduces a world I can’t wait to delve further into. On its surface, it seems like a south we’ve seen all too often, but it’s from creators who would seem to be promising a south to come unlike any you’ve seen before. I’ll be back next month to see where issue #2 takes these bastards.