In bringing the first arc of Southern Bastards to its end, Jasons Aaron and Latour have completely upended the entire series with an issue that raises just as many questions as it answers. Whatever notion you have going into this arc finale, it’ll be thrown right out the window by the time you reach the final, fantastic panel.
Up to this point, Southern Bastards has been a bit of a spaghetti western redemption tale of a wayward son returning to a broken hometown that hasn’t been all that welcoming to a lone hero blowing into town to clean things up, and I’ve loved it. The story of Earl Tubb is a familiar one, but familiar tales are fine if they’re told well; Southern Bastards‘ first arc has told Earl’s story in outstanding fashion. In just three issues, you know his motivations, you know his past, and you know his sensibilities. These are things that are unquestioned in your mind… after three issues. The fourth issue, which is well worth the elongated wait time, begins with what you know you know about Earl Tubb, uses that knowledge against both you and Earl, and then completely flips it upside down. You don’t really know a goddamn thing.
This arc finale is not just exceptional for how it ends, however. The structure of this climactic issue is phenomenal, and I promise I’m not being hyperbolic at all. The way flashbacks to previous issues are used as symbolic juxtaposition, the way characters are reframed to alter the dynamic of the plot, the way imagery is used to dictate action: everything done here by both Jason Aaron and Jason Latour is excellent. This issue could not have been constructed in any way to make it any better; it’s perfect. And that’s not even to mention the Waffle House reference.
Now that the series’ first arc has come to a close, I don’t even want to venture a guess as to where the story will go next, and the reason is simple: I honestly don’t know. With how this issue so smoothly took Earl’s past–complete with new revelations–and glided it right into a massive collision with his future, I’m not sure what the hell the upcoming issues hold in store for Craw County, Alabama, but I do know one thing: the newly unleashed Coach Boss may have the town under his thumb, but if he thinks that position is secure, he’s got another thing coming.