Previously: Southern Bastards #19.
We’ve spent some four months wondering just what would come of Coach Boss, as his fate seemed to hang in the balance between a vengeful Roberta Tubb and a repentant Deacon Boone. Picking us right where we left off, this issue does not disappoint in bringing the “Gut Check” arc to a thrilling and emotional conclusion.
This is the best issue of this series, so far, and I do not say that lightly. Southern Bastards has been fantastic for all of its previous 19 issues spread–sometimes sporadically–across the last four years. I was shocked when they killed Earl in “Here Was a Man”. I couldn’t believe they made me feel sorry for Coach Boss in “Gridiron”. “Homecoming” fully introduced us to Deacon Boone, whom I affectionately refer to as “Backwoods Batman”, and set up the return of Roberta Tubb. There have been so many exceptional moments in this series’ run, and this issue tops them all.
Now, in order for me to talk about this, I’m going to be spoiling this issue, which I typically try to avoid. You may or may not expect that from a comic review, but there is your warning. However, I highly doubt anyone will expect the comparison I am going to be making below, and that comparison will involve me somewhat spoiling the second season of the television series Atlanta; particularly the eighth episode “Woods“.
The issue picks up right where we left off: Coach Boss, Roberta, and Boone are on the field, and it looks like Boss is about to die. It can’t happen that quickly, though, so he manages to run away and into the woods. Now, if you’ve seen the aforementioned episode of Atlanta, this will all sound familiar. In that episode, the character of Alfred escapes a deadly situation and runs into the woods. In the woods is where their two paths diverge, even as they both travel through some surreal moments.
Alfred gets lost because that is where his character is in Atlanta‘s story; he is struggling with his emerging fame and how much he wants to allow it to change him. Coach Boss, on the other hand, knows exactly where he wants to go; he just can’t get there from here. Where Coach Boss wants to go is back; back to before his father figure Coach Big killed himself, back to before Earl Tubb showed up, back to winning. Coach Boss and Alfred may not have been asking the same questions, but they both found answers.
The parallels between this issue and “Woods” are not limited to Coach Boss, though. Roberta, too, has questions in need of answering. She wants to know why her father, who hated Craw County, ultimately died fighting for his hometown. The answer to that question is simple: no matter how much you grow, your roots stay where they were planted. Hmm, I wonder why this series uses tree symbolism so much? I digress.
Obviously, both Southern Bastards and Atlanta relate this symbolism to location–both titles do literally refer to a place, after all–but that’s clearly not all it means. It’s where you’re from, but it’s also who you’re from: your parents, your friends, your neighbors, and the person you were with them. For Alfred, on Atlanta, this is something he is trying to hold onto; something he feels slipping away. For Roberta, and Earl, it’s something they’ve spent their lives desperately running from. Whether it’s Alfred, Roberta, Earl, Deacon Boone, or Coach Boss, the revelation is the same: there is no losing your past.
The artwork from Jason Latour here is as good as ever. Here’s a little–not very interesting–inside baseball. I typically read the comics I review digitally, almost always through Comixology. As I’m reading, I take screenshots of panels I think I may want to use in the review. I generally try to avoid panels with big spoilers in them and usually end up with a handful I then choose between. Well, this time, I had to force myself to stop taking screenshots because I kept grabbing every panel. I couldn’t possibly include all of this issue’s terrific artistic moments in this review; it would just be a reprinting of the entire comic, and I’m pretty sure that’s legally frowned upon.
This series’ back matter remains entertaining and insightful, as both Aaron and Latour tag-team to answer several letters. We learn about Jason Aaron’s emotional maturation, as well as Jason Latour’s sneaker collection. There is a lot to enjoy here. Plus, we learn a few things about the future of the series. First, the next arc will be titled “Rebs”, and it sounds awesome. Slightly less awesome is that we also learn there is no set date for when that next arc will begin. We’re likely looking at a long stretch without any new Southern Bastards, and honestly, that’s okay. This series is worth the wait. I want them to continue getting it right, and if that means waiting until 2019? So be it. My roots are firmly planted.