Let’s get to it: “Southern Bastards #1” is a drop everything, find $3.50 and get ready for a potential all-time classic kind of first issue. If you like comics, reading, or bats signed by Bear Bryant, you want to be checking out Southern Bastards.
Admittedly, much of the infatuation with “Southern Bastards #1” is based on the pedigree of both creators, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, as well as Image Comic’s otherworldly hot streak. It’s impossible to completely separate any analysis of this individual first issue from the knowledge that Jason Aaron’s incredible Scalped ran for 50+ issues, and Southern Bastards is gearing up for a similar marathon.
The stakes for Southern Bastards are simply different than your average number one issue. Most number one issues have to sell you on their worth. They have to convince you this is a story you’ll enjoy, with concepts you’ll fall for, and that you should, please, please, please buy the second issue.
Southern Bastards solidifies its self-worth and confidence in one opening splash page with no dialogue and a “plop” sound effect.
From there it’s all about world-building, and Southern Bastards doesn’t disappoint.
The Southern Bastards story is a familiar one: wizened, tough Earl Tubb returns to his hometown of Craw County to clean out his deceased father’s house. It’s only a short period of time before Tubb, considered a city-slicker for living “just outside of Birmingham,” is caught up in small-town drama and the sinister lurking presence of a big bad named Coach Boss. If all this sounds a good deal like a Justified remix, you’re not far off the mark.
Aaron has displayed impressive versatility in his Marvel Comics work, delivering a sense of humor & wonder on Wolverine & The X-Men alongside the dark fantasy of Thor: God of Thunder. Nonetheless, when you’re the creator of Scalped, there’s a palpable excitement that comes with the writer returning to gritty crime staged in oft-overlooked (or is that shamefully ignored) parts of the American landscape.
Meanwhile, Latour has bounced around as a Writer/Artist combination for Marvel, owning a brief run on The Winter Soldier before recently taking over Wolverine & the X-Men for Aaron. It’s a pleasure to see him honing in on the art and storytelling of Southern Bastards and immediately creating such a fully realized landscape. Latour’s art feels like it dried under a setting southern sun, crisp and warm and just too damn hot to be anything other than authentic.
One of the most pleasing elements of “Southern Bastards #1” is that it doesn’t push for too much, too fast. The darkness, the grit, the violence, it’s all a few layers beneath the surface, clearly there, but only rearing its head in selective spurts in the opening salvo. Not only does this world already feel fleshed out and real through one issue, but the pacing makes it clear Aaron and Latour have a long-term plan.
We’re going to be ordering 4 sides of Okra at the Craw County diner for a while. Get as comfortable as the heat—and the bastards—will allow.
Verdict: 9.3 out of 10