Previously: Southern Bastards #9
This issue changes things up a bit, offering what feels mostly like a standalone story focused on a day in the life of Esaw Goings, one of Coach Boss’ closest allies. This issue certainly goes off the rails, but in almost all the best ways.
This is the second issue in Southern Bastards’ third arc, titled “Homecoming”. As had been suggested prior to the arc’s beginning, each successive issue will focus on a different individual character, and all issue’s of this arc are taking place in the week leading up to the Craw County Runnin’ Rebs’ homecoming game against their hated rivals. Last month, we followed Sheriff Hardy around, and this month it was Esaw’s turn to stand in the spotlight… and boy did he shine.
Back right after it was announced Southern Bastards had been optioned for a television adaptation (which may or may not happen, such is the way with television, but let’s all hope it does come to fruition), I put together what I feel would be a great cast for the television series. Within that post, I mentioned the possibility I may end up sympathizing with Esaw, to some extent, by the end of issue #10 because that had been the case with all previous characters, particularly Coach Boss. Well, at the end of this issue, I certainly do feel like I at least understand Esaw a lot more. Do I sympathize with him? I mean, maybe to the extent that I feel sorry he’s so fucked up and clearly not all that intelligent.
I usually steer clear of all other opinions of things before I review them, so I can hopefully avoid having my thoughts tainted by those of anyone else. I was not able to do that with this issue, purely by happenstance. I follow Jason Latour on Facebook, and on a post he shared this week, someone offered a negative review of this issue, particularly some sexual things. I hate getting too spoilery in my reviews, so I’ll just say there is a sex scene in this issue; a graphic sex scene (don’t even ask me about the hot sauce). The person’s negative view seemed to stem entirely from that scene’s presence in the issue. With that unwelcome-yet-unavoidable thought in my mind, I went into this issue expecting page-after-page of hardcore pornography. It is not that; I don’t know whether I should be pleased or dissatisfied, but it was definitely not that. For me, the scene’s presence in this issue did not bother me at all (plus, did that guy forget the chicken/fucking scene we got when Olis was first introduced? But I digress).
That particular scene, and everything else vulgar in this issue, is fantastic in how complete a picture it paints of Esaw. Now, if you don’t want to see sex in your mature-reader southern drama, that’s your prerogative, but it fits so well in this issue. If the aim of this arc is to focus on individual characters and let you get to know those characters better, this issue couldn’t have possibly been executed any better. I came away from this issue feeling as though I fully understand Esaw, as the man he is right now. Sure, there is back story we have yet to fully explore, but right now, Esaw Goings is the titular “Southern Bastard”. He’s an annoyingly territorial Craw County exceptionalist, he’s a try-hard who eschews actual hard work to instead espouse the virtuosity of desire, and he’s a sexist who will constantly stare at your tits and talk about fucking you in the ass while you’re in the next room. Oh, and he’s clearly insane. That’s Esaw Goings, and this issue fully embodies him. That’s precisely what you want from an issue focused on one character, and in at least that regard, this was a more successful issue than the one preceding it.
Now, the actual plot of the issue is its weakest piece, but it’s still an entertaining little story about the potential of salvation and the cost of righteousness, both in present day and in a past we have yet to see. I feel like I’m more defending this issue than reviewing it, but see? That’s why I try to not read other opinions beforehand. When I do, this is what you get, and frankly, this issue is worth defending.
Jason Aaron took back the letters section (which was jokingly hijacked by Latour, last month), and he filled us in on the television thing, as well as he and Latour’s recent appearance at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also included in this month’s letters section: a welcome return of southern recipes! This one is for a hot dog sauce. If that’s not southern, I don’t know what is.
Finally, this issue also includes an essay from Jason Latour on the recent news surrounding what is erroneously referred to everywhere as the “confederate flag”. For issue #10, Jasons Latour and Aaron released a variant cover which shows a dog ripping the flag apart and reads “Death to the Flag. Long live the south.” Sales of this variant cover are to be donated to charity. In this essay, Latour expounds upon his feelings toward the flag (spoiler: “death to the flag” kind of says it all). I’m really glad this essay was included; not only because it serves to perfectly align with the issue to the point you feel like Latour is actually speaking directly to Esaw, but also because, frankly, Jason Latour is a white dude, from the south, with the same complicated history with understanding that damn flag as everyone else who has grown up in the south and been “taught” it’s not that bad (another spoiler: it is that bad). For the creators of a popular comic series titled “Southern Bastards” to come out as strongly on this topic as they have is important (I mean, relatively speaking, it’s important). This is just yet further proof of what has been evident from the very first issue of Southern Bastards: this series is not about the bastards; it’s about those who must overcome them.
This issue certainly did its job in filling in most of the gaps we had, concerning Esaw’s life. I do look forward to when we get to see more of his back story which is alluded to here; something tells me learning more about his history just may be even more entertaining/horrifying than that of Coach Boss. The next issue promises to introduce a character referred to only as “The Bowhunter”, so that sounds pretty freaking ominous, doesn’t it? That issue could see the series calm back down just a bit, or we could come to realize the time we saw Esaw’s heehaw was only the beginning.