Having now walked tall through three issues of Southern Bastards, I can say with confidence that Jasons Aaron and Latour have managed to create one hellaciously rich world of characters and environments in which I hate to feel at home but can’t help but do so; each successive issue cuts off a larger slice of pure Southern Americana that simply refuses to let you leave the table without overstuffing yourself into a food coma of Southern-style drama.
Taking readers through a trail of dog shit, Jack Daniels, and a rerun of Mama’s Family, this issue continues the tale of Earl Tubb’s reluctant-yet-compulsive mission to clean up his hometown. Issue #3 casts aside any signs of passive-aggressive behavior and allows Tubb to fully blossom into a steel magnolia of big-stick-wielding glory. While we finally get to see Earl really tee off, he’s also given further character depth that not only helps explain more of his past but also gives you much-needed insight into his ability to actually pull off the task at hand: he’s not just tough, but he’s also smart.
What I’m really enjoying the most about the development of Earl Tubb is that he’s not just a cliched spaghetti western hero blowing into town and getting rid of all the bad guys; while Theodore Roosevelt would be pleased with Earl’s carriage of a large piece of wood, he may not be happy to see just how softly Earl does not speak. The well-played angle by Jason Aaron, at least thus far, is that Earl saves his soft-speaking for when he’s alone: he speaks to his dead father, he speaks to himself, and he speaks to voicemail; it’s in these moments when you’re shown someone deeper than just a hulking old man with daddy issues.
Something else I like about Earl’s phone calls: they connect him to the outside world; a place that feels light years away and decades more advanced than the situation he’s in right now, even though we know the place Earl now calls home is a relatively short drive outside of his hometown of Craw County, Alabama. That’s the effect regressing back to your youth and returning to your childhood home can have on you; the fact that Southern Bastards has managed to viscerally represent that is to be commended over and over again.
The last thing I’ll mention about this issue is that it continues the series’ ability to be altogether unique; the way it does so this time? By including a fried apple pie recipe from Betty Aaron, Jason Aaron’s mother; you’re simply not going to get that from any other comic series out there right now. Taking this into account, along with how well this issue balances violence with character development with the juxtaposition of the two, I have to give this issue of Southern Bastards a 9/10.
I hope you’ll join me again, next month, as I order up another generous helping of Southern Bastards… and maybe a bit of fried apple pie, too. After all, it’s like Louis C.K. has said, “The meal isn’t over when I’m full; it’s over when I hate myself.” I don’t know if any quote could possibly describe my relationship with Southern Bastards any better.