COMICS RETROSPECTIVE: Southern Bastards Vol 3: The Sordid Hijinks of Craw County folks.



This one's for Dad.


Jason Aaron and I have a few things in common: 1) we both love comic books, 2) we both love football, and 3) we both love crime fiction. So when Jason Aaron decided to take a crack at writing a southern fried football crime comic, it's like he's speaking my language. Despite my doubts, and the fact that Aaron is a heathen Roll Tide fan, I was willing to give it a shot.


I've been consistently surprised with this series, mostly in a pleasant way. I've been impressed by this series' constant ability to keep us invested, despite the premise being as ridiculous as it is. The two Jasons have managed to craft a harsh, mean, and compelling story about tough old southern guys dishing out mean unpleasantries to anyone who gets in their way. It's not always pretty, and it's not always nice. But it is compelling in all the ways a good story should be.


As I've noted before, Aaron has a habit of repeating himself in his stories. Not really in theme, but in his set-ups and pay-offs. In this volume, we end up taking a backseat to the main story as we become flies on the wall to the colorful characters of Craw County. This was particularly interesting to me, as the one-off stories were some of my favorite parts in Aaron's previous effort, Scalped. Aaron once again shows what he's gifted at: getting into the characters' heads and seeing what makes them tick and make the choices that they do. Aaron continues at a strong pace with the one-offs like he did with Scalped, only now he has a better story and better pacing to complement what he's attempting to convey with the one-offs.


Aaron's other great skill is his use of set-up and pay-off, and the storytelling is very subtle (for the most part) in this volume. The characters in this volume are interesting, and Aaron gives us plenty of meat to chew on as we experience their journeys in this story. Aaron doesn't stoop to explaining to us every nook and cranny of these characters, but allows their actions to define them and fill in the gaps of what we already know. The other Jason even had an issue to take a crack at writing, and he does a pretty good job as well. Guy's not a bad writer by any means.


Strong moments in this arc includes Sheriff Hardy telling Coach Boss the truth about Big's fate, Roberta Tubb standing up to her racist, vile neighbors and decided to go to Craw County in order to find out what happened to her father, Boone allowing the snakes to crawl on him and deciding his purpose is to kill Coach Boss, Sheriff Hardy laying his form of backwoods justice on the agitated Rebs players, and Materhead trying to make amends for helping in the vicious assault of young Tad.


Despite its many strengths, there are a few weaknesses that hold this volume back from being as excellent as the first two arcs. The Esaw story felt like a relapse to the over the top extremes that Aaron relied on in Scalped and all of the kinks that he had outgrown with Southern Bastards. I know this series is meant to be harsh and uncomfortable, but the Esaw story took it too far. Also Chris Brunner's art was unappealing as well; it looked like someone who was trying to ape Latour's style and it just went wrong. The anatomy looks wonky and the characters look like they're about to explode at any moment, or have their eyes bounce out of their heads like a Looney Tunes cartoon lusting over a woman.



Latour's art continues to be strong in this arc. A detail I enjoy with his artwork in this series is that he makes the main two characters, Tubb and Coach Boss, look like old, tough hickory trees. They are supposed to be older, tough guys who are as mean as an old hickory tree. It complements the story's motif about toughness and what it means to be a man. His art continues to have the balance between bounciness and mean-spirited grit that you'd expect in a pulp crime noir such as this.


Southern Bastards continues to be tough, harsh, and mean, and I have to say that I'm still enjoying it thoroughly as it keeps rolling along. Aaron has a knack for writing about misunderstood tough guys, and he shows that he's damned good at it. Now...how do I get my Dad to read this?


Also, if you're curious on who I pull for: I bleed Crimson red for Oklahoma. BOOMER SOONER BABY!


 

Britton Summers spent much of his childhood collecting action figures and toys, and through that hobby discovered a love for comic books that's continued to this day. His love of storytelling led him to want to become a writer, so he is currently in college pursuing a degree in Journalism and Broadcasting. Britton lives in Oklahoma with his parents, dog Alexis, and cat Jerry.

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