Previously: Southern Bastards #18.
If you’ve reached this point, then I’ll assume you’ve read Southern Bastards’ previous issue. Given that you’ve read that issue, then you’re well aware of just how deeply satisfying it was to finally have Roberta Tubb in Craw County and making her first strike against Coach Boss (RIP Materhead). For this issue, though, we have to go back further. Much further.
This issue sees the return of Jason Aaron in his usual writing duties and Jason Latour to his art and color duties, after Southern Bastards #18 brought a second helping of artist Chris Brunner illustrating a script written by Latour. Somewhat fittingly, this issue doesn’t really deal with the events of last issue and, instead, returns our focus to Coach Boss and the tempestuous deal he struck with Colonel McKlusky in Southern Bastards #17.
If you’ll recall, that seventeenth issue did what I would have considered impossible: it started to make me feel bad for Coach Boss. The dynamics between he and Colonel McKlusky put me back into the mindset I was in when we watched Coach Boss’ origin story where he was treated terribly by his father and his old football coach (and, really, everyone except Ol’ Big). It really felt like Coach Boss had been taken down so low, just by the introduction of this larger world where an outside force had caused him to acquiesce, and this issue shows that was not an accident. Coach Boss really has been taken down a peg, and as with most things in this series, the Jasons have found a way to communicate that through football.
When we first met Coach Boss, he was a man seemingly revered in Craw County. Even as we were shown his criminal dealings, we saw he did well to mostly keep them separate from his duties as a football coach. All that seemed to change with Earl Tubb. Killing Earl Tubb in front of everyone was the beginning of Coach Boss’ undoing. Since then, he’s lost Ol’ Big, and he’s lost Materhead. Then McKlusky comes along and takes away his power? Without his power, he’s going to lose his football team, and we know he can’t allow that to happen. He had to make some halftime adjustments in this issue, and all I’m saying is I can’t say I disagreed with them.
Even still, as with the seventeenth issue, the sympathy for Coach Boss only goes so far. The fact is, he has wronged far more people than have wronged him, and you can only operate like that for so long before it bites you. Robert Tubb is still looking to avenge her daddy’s murder, but if you’ll recall, she’s not the only badass with a score to settle with the coach.
Deacon Boone, the Backwoods Batman himself, from Southern Bastards #11 makes a surprise appearance!
The artwork kind of took a backseat to the plot here, which is to be expected from the penultimate issue in an arc; there’s a lot to set up for the finale next month. That’s not to say the artwork was anything less than its usual excellence. I particularly continue to enjoy how well Jason Latour illustrates football; you can feel the movement in each player’s posture. Beyond Coach Boss’ emotional state and its symbolic football game, there’s an entire other subplot happening in this issue between Sheriff Hardy and Ms. Compson, and I love how different the moods are between these two storylines. Boss has a lot of harsh, red, hot, angry tones, while Hardy and Compson are in the soft, blue shadows of the night.
The back matter of this series continues to be fun, funny, and lighthearted, with Jason Aaron answering this month’s letters while intoxicated on pain medicine for a back injury. We get a couple great things here: first, as we’ve come to expect, a faithful reader has sent in another Filipino recipe; second, Aaron says the long-gestating television adaptation of Southern Bastards is still in development with FX and producer Scott Rudin. Oh, how I hope that comes to fruition.
Barring any unforeseen delay, next month will bring us another issue, and it will be the sixth and final issue in this “Gut Check” arc. All indications point toward this being one hell of a two-minute drill. Get it? Because football? Never mind.