Previously, Southern Bastards #11.
Coming off of “You’re Lookin’ At Country”, Southern Bastards #11 and what I consider the best issue in a series of continually fantastic issues, issue #12 had some mighty large footsteps to follow. So mighty, in fact, a guest artist had to come strolling into town carrying a hulking paintbrush fashioned from an old tree that was hit by lightning. Did this issue, titled “Vegetables”, match its immediate predecessor? No, but let’s not allow perfection to be the enemy of good: this issue handily fits right in with the quality we’ve come to expect from Southern Bastards.
As discussed in our review of issue #11, this issue sees the series’ artist Jason Latour adorn his writer’s cap, while guest artist Chris Brunner (Loose Ends, Dark Horse Extra) takes a stab at illustrating all that southern crime drama onto these pages.
The story we’re shown here takes us back; all the way back to “Here Was a Man” when Earl Tubb was still among the living and pissed off. You may recall Earl came to his father’s home to find a kid playing in the tree outside–yes, that tree… and that kid–and you probably remember how he, named Tad Ledbetter, was severely beaten by Esaw and Materhead because he happened to be in the house when those guys came for Earl. Well, if you don’t remember all of that, it’s cool, because that kid is still alive, and he shares the focus of this issue with an unlikely fellow: Materhead.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I woke up this morning in a pool of sweat an’ piss.” – Materhead[/pullquote]
We learn more about Materhead, real name Eugene Maples, and really how he feels about the current state of affairs in Craw County. This is a character I was hoping would get one of these standalone stories because–well, frankly–his name is “Materhead”. Who is that guy? You know? I’ve been wondering, ever since we first met him, and this issue touches on it, but he’s still largely a mystery. I don’t feel as though I know him as well as someone like Esaw or even the Backwoods Batman from last issue. That’s unfortunate, only because I’m not sure how long for this world ol’ Materhead is. He’s messing in a whole bundle of bee nests, and he’s bound to get stung soon; if that happens, I don’t think we’ll have much reason to learn more about him or his vegetable noggin (although, tomatoes are fruits, but you get my meaning).
Now, Tad, on the other hand; I don’t know what the hell is going on in that kid’s head (other than an edema to the brain, along with the rest of the laundry list of injuries he has). Well, technically, I do, because we get a very trippy look at just that. But, while I’m still not clear on Materhead, I do feel as though I know exactly what this Ledbetter kid is all about. I look forward to seeing just where his story goes because it has already gone off the crazy train, and it’s still going.
Ultimately, Jason Latour did a great job writing solid dialogue, and Chris Brunner handled himself terrifically with material thrown at him such as: a cartoon karate rooster named Bocephus, a Wednesday Night War Zone professional wrestler named Chacho Camaro, a Batman “Guano” shirt, and an issue with more Zubaz in it than any 1980s NFL locker room. All of those things are trademark Latour (by my estimation, at least), and Brunner nails each of them, along with those damn ubiquitous dogs that have been going around every issue and shitting on everything.
There’s just one letter in the Tubb mailbox for this issue, but it’s a good one, as it inspires Latour to explain why Chris Brunner was brought on as guest artist. Latour and Brunner worked together on Loose Ends (which I must check out now), and Latour views his contemporary as an influence on himself, so that’s nice. The letters section is wrapped up with a mention of all the awards the series has been nominated for and won, and then we’re treated to a 4-page preview of Jason Aaron’s new series The Goddamned starring a butt-ass naked dude, another series I’m going to have to check out.
Southern Bastards #13 will have Jason Latour returning to his artist duties, while Jason Aaron comes back to pen the issue we’ve been building toward for some time: that homecoming game between the undefeated Wetumpka County Warriors and the undefeated Craw County Runnin’ Rebs. Everyone goes into that issue a winner, but someone will walk out with the loss (I hope it’s not Materhead!).
News update: You may recall there was a variant cover created for Southern Bastards #10, with the proceeds of that cover to go to charity. Image Comics announced this week that $18,000 had been raised and donated to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.
Southern Bastards #12
After such an amazing issue as Southern Bastards #11, there was bound to be a step-down, but it’s made less noticeable with the infusion of an interesting shakeup to the creative team for this issue. Jason Latour shows he’s, of course, more than capable of writing, and guest artist Chris Brunner brings a great style to an issue that ultimately feels like a ramp-up for what’s bound to be a hell of a next issue. The back matter here is thin, presumably because of the preview for The Goddamned, so it’s a good thing the preview is great.