The hit Southern drama from Jasons Aaron and Latour returned, last week, with its first issue after the shocking–and absolutely fantastic–conclusion to its first arc, and it doesn’t seem to have missed a single beat. In fact, following one of the best comic arcs I’ve ever read, Southern Bastards looks like it’s going to just keep getting better. Be advised that, below, there are major spoilers for the previous issue, so I suggest you hurry up and read those first four issues before continuing to read this review. You’ve been warned.
In issue #4, the series’ first arc finale, Southern Bastards was turned completely upside-down when its protagonist, Earl Tubb, was killed by its main antagonist, Coach Euless Boss. Normally, that would have left readers confused as hell as to what direction the series could go from there, but nope. The expert construction of that finale made it very clear what was about to happen in the series’ immediate future. Two things: the sheriff isn’t behind Coach Boss, and Earl’s daughter will be coming to town soon.
What’s great is that we didn’t actually get much about either of those storylines in this issue; the sheriff is clearly still at odds with Coach Boss’ murder of Earl, and Earl’s daughter was mentioned in passing, but that’s it. This issue is almost entirely about the origin of Coach Boss, and it is–again–terrifically structured. Aaron and Latour continue to deliver one hell of a cinematic series that keeps you intrigued throughout every single panel.
The first four issues spent most of their pages building Earl Tubb; letting you know what kind of man he was and how much he hated being back in his hometown. What time those issues didn’t spend on Earl, they were busy worldbuilding the town of Craw County, Alabama. Those issues did both of those things tremendously well, but that focus necessarily meant the citizens of Craw County were ostensibly props by which the plot could be fulfilled. Even Coach Boss, the series’ main antagonist, was a two-dimensional big-bad. I can’t stress enough that this wasn’t a bad thing; it’s just the way Aaron and Latour chose to build Southern Bastards from the ground up.
You knew the characters would be fleshed out soon enough, and that’s what this issue has started doing. Coach Boss is now a three-dimensional person with context to his horrible, murderous nature. What is so awesome about this, though, isn’t that Coach Boss has depth; it’s that his depth perfectly fits the series. Without giving away too much, it’s football-centric (of course it is!), and it’s peppered with the kind of aggressive emasculation and casual racism you expect from the youth of a man of Coach Boss’ age and location.
I cannot wait to see the next issue’s continuation of “Useless” Boss’ origin story and how well I just know Aaron and Latour are going to tie it into the subversive tumult of current-day Craw County, Alabama. Then that’s not even to mention what’s going to happen when Earl’s badass (you know she’ll be a badass) daughter comes to town looking for answers. It’s going to be so good, and you’re going to want to be reading it with me the whole time.