I mean what does Jason Aaron think he is doing? Firstly he kills our hero and then he makes a book about the bad guy? I mean why? If you keep reading, I shall tell you.
The loss of Earl Tubb hit us all incredibly hard because…well…he was a man. The legacy of his father was ultimately left unfulfilled because he failed, but he did what any honourable man would do, he fought for his town. In keeping with the gritty realism of this book, Earl Tubb was never going to succeed because one man against a corrupt town can only fail. The shockwaves of issue four ran throughout the comic readership and left only devastation. As we picked up the pieces of ourselves trying to muster the courage for the next issue, Jason Aaron delivers a punch to the gut. Issue five cemented what this book was really about; Craw County. Earl Tubb was the introduction to the town and to the gumption of its leader, Euless Boss. Before we review issue six it is worth spending some time contemplating Coach Boss.
The man may be a bastard but he has a code. You may not see it immediately, but the way in which he speaks is almost with a sense of decorum, I use this word because I really cannot use the word honour. Boss is fully aware he owns this town and the people in it. No one utters a word about him murdering Earl except for one of his henchmen. He attends Earl’s funeral because he is actually paying his respects. Tubb may have failed to help the town but what he showed was courage and determination against a wrong. That is what his father once did and people respected him for it. Unfortunately Earl failed but he still deserves some deference for his actions, even if it is from the man that beat him to death. You will notice that Aaron deliberately places a police officer at his funeral and even Earl’s uncle. Both are there to demonstrate his power and level of corruption because no one will admit to knowing what happens, even the local authority. Thus is his control, even the uncle is grateful he attended his nephew’s funeral. As Boss returns home in his car he is disgusted by his town folk who show no mercy or nerve to confront him, and they go on about their lives like nothing had happened. All except for Earl Tubb. His life and death is commemorated by the bloodied bat put on display in Euless’s bar. This is not a display of achievement or of warning, but it is respectful to the Tubb family, reminder that the actions of the father and son should not go on forgotten.
The next issue progresses to deliver an origin story of the man Euless Boss, one that you may not think is deserved, but one that is certainly worth telling. The two Jason’s work as a single coherent creator when delivering their stories. It is rare to find such cohesion and unity on a book but the whole of Southern Bastards is incredible. The comic art form does not get any better than this. The town is Craw County is so visceral and guttural that it nauseates us. Aaron’s writing is very simple, succinct and to the point, very southern you might say. There is no room for flourish or indulgence as a young Euless is very plain and stupid. His emotions are base, his loyalties are confused, he knows no better. However he is determined to learn because the gutter from where he is raised is not where he intended to remain. These are certainly harsh words but the genuinely disgusting reveal of is family caravan home is so deplorable that you instantly look away from the page. This is where Latour is sublime, showing the true nature of Craw County. Similar to Aaron’s writing, there is no embellishment of his art. It is raw, it is real and it is unrefined, very southern you might say. Almost every character is ugly and the features on their face are so rugged and scarred that you can barely make out an emotion that isn’t anger or resentment. The colouring is fantastic because there are only reds, oranges and browns. This fits in with the colours of the college football team but also the dismal flashbacks of Boss’s story.
There are some beautifully crafted moments in this issue, especially when you see Euless start to improve his football skills through sheer hard work and determination. The red panels of him getting pummelled between exercises runs like a montage sequence. This leads onto a subtle but sincere moment between an adult Boss and his defensive co-ordinator, coach Big. We are beginning to see what Euless Boss is all about and his code is slowly being written as we continue to read. Initially he was depicted as your usual bully who has maintained control of a town through fear and intimidation. That is not entirely true because you do not just get away with murder and have everyone turn their heads. There is more to this story than we first thought. Boss may berate his town for showing cowardice but it is his home and he is the lynchpin for Craw County. Earl failed to see what was really happening, and he paid dearly for it. There was a reason why his father was hated despite him seeming to be a decent sheriff for the town. We are peeking in through a very small hole in the fence of this town, but ever so slowly more and more is coming into view. If there is ever a time when Coach Boss becomes the protagonist for this book then I will be in awe of the Jasons, but right now they seem content to run havoc with my emotions. As soon as we feel a semblance of hope, even with a no good loser kid such as Euless, the Jasons are sure to brutally remove that from you. They are both so determined to make this journey difficult for that Im not sure if there will actually be any kind of positive ending, but it is the road travelled that is so utterly compelling.
“It’s me, it’s Euless, I’m comin’ in”