Previously in Southern Bastards #12
We are four issues deep into Southern Bastards’ third arc appropriately titled “Homecoming”; this fifth issue of that arc sees us finally reach the titular event: the Homecoming football game between Craw County’s Runnin’ Rebs and their hated rivals the Wetumpka County Warriors. Is that really what it’s about, though? A football game? Of course not.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]This issue is as much about Coach Boss’ mental state as it is the homecoming game.[/pullquote]
The first thing any long-time reader of Southern Bastards will notice is the cover of this issue differs from all those preceding it in a very telling way: it’s not red. Not only is it not Craw County Runnin’ Rebs red, it’s blue; Wetumpka County Warriors blue.
This issue is, itself, titled “Fourth and Goal”. You’ll no doubt recognize this as a football phrase, but as this issue so deftly illustrates: it’s multipurpose. You see, being fourth and goal means you’re at the end of your rope; you’ve come a very long way and find yourself in a position you fought hard to reach, and it’s so close to being taken away from you. In short, you are desperate and threatened. That’s what it means to be fourth and goal, and that’s where we find Coach Boss in this issue.
The structure of Southern Bastards continues to impress me in so many ways. Here, we have a neatly self-contained story of Coach Boss dealing with his own mortality following the suicide of Coach Big, and we see that play out through the events of this football game and the events immediately preceding it. However, with this being the penultimate issue in the “Homecoming” arc, it also manages to tie in every standalone character we’ve met and/or gotten to know better in the previous four issues. But wait, there’s more. Also, layered into this one issue, you have moments that call back to the series’ second arc “Gridiron” wherein we learned about Coach Boss’ past, who he used to be, and how he became who he is. Every single one of those individual pieces are played like a violin building a masterful concerto of events that have led to Coach Boss being in the position he’s in at this very moment.
It’s weird; I would have thought, coming into this issue, if I were going to find Coach Boss’ position allegorically applied to one of the two football teams participating in the homecoming game here, I would have assumed it would be the Craw County Runnin’ Rebs; I think I would have been wrong. For whatever reason, I came away from this issue seeing Coach Boss reflected in Wetumpka County’s Warriors and their actions. Somehow, writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour continue to find a way to make me–force me–to view Coach Boss as somewhat of a victim. As much as he does, as many hateful things he says, as many crimes as he commits: there’s still something in the way this series is put together around him that keeps just a bit of pity for him right there in the back of my mind.
So the plot of this issue is as much about Coach Boss’ mental state as it is the homecoming game, but beyond that, the issue continues to have a lively letters column. This time, it’s Jason Aaron handling the duties, but Jason Latour does show up. I continue to enjoy the combination of these two in these pages, and the reason is shown, again, when a letter causes the two of them to argue over which one of them is the most “Southern Bastard”. Oh, and also showing up is recipe for pig brains, so there’s that.
As for the future: as I mentioned, this is apparently the penultimate issue in the “Homecoming” arc–did I mention it does a fantastic job setting up the finale? Because it does–and the next issue will see the long-awaited return of the late Earl Tubb’s daughter Roberta. Something tells me Coach Boss’ troubles have only just begun. This is a crazy idea, but I feel like we may one day see Coach Boss be Mayor Boss, with Roberta actually coaching the Runnin’ Rebs. That’s not an official scoop or anything; it’s just this feeling I have about where the dynamic of this series is headed. As for the fourth arc, I don’t know what that will hold for us, but I do know Jason Latour mentions in this letter’s column that he and Jason Aaron are looking to bring Chris Brunner back for another Brunner/Latour issue like Southern Bastards #12, so that’ll be exciting. Be sure to come back next time when I’ll be, hopefully, gushing over how good the “Homecoming” finale is.
Southern Bastards #13
With the homecoming game finally upon us, Southern Bastards manages to throw a curveball (or a lateral? Audible?) in having this issue actually NOT be about the game on the field. The plot of this issue is perfectly structured with layer-upon-layer of symbolism, emotion, and desperation.
As usual, Jason Latour’s artwork bring Jason Aaron’s writing to life in a unique mixture only the two of them can ever hope to achieve.