REVIEW: Southern Bastards #5 – A Stick In Craw County

(w) Jason Aaron  (a) Jason Latour Image Comics  $3.50
(w) Jason Aaron
(a) Jason Latour
Image Comics
$3.50

He’s the most bastardly bastard we’ve met in this series so far. Coach Boss played the antagonist in the opening act of this stellar series from bastards Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. Boss takes center stage for this issue, which transitions the story after the death of Earl Tubbs last issue. The fifth issue of Southern Bastards had the nearly impossible task of following up on one of the most masterful – and objectively best comic books of the year. It manages to hold its own, telling a compelling story while holding some cards close to the chest for use later. The art is spectacular as always and especially atmospheric as Latour, helps his fellow bastard Aaron tell a compelling, and disturbing story.

It’s impossible to talk about this comic critically without acknowledging that it does tone and atmosphere better than almost any other book. Reading this series you get the sense that around every corner is another bastard and there is no reason to hope for respite. Aaron and Latour provide us with a glimpse at a more complex world than I imagine many of us considered only a month ago. This installment focuses heavily on character building for Coach Boss, which is incredibly compelling in its own right, but also on providing subtle hints that the violent world of the bastards means that even Coach Boss has to worry about seeming like the biggest gorilla in the jungle.

Latour expertly crafts the messy world with as much care and attention to detail as we’ve come to expect. The visual appeal of this book is in part thanks to his skillful coloring. which blends various shades of bloody red whenever there is a flashback to the past. This is one of the major points of emphasis for the book, alluding to the bloody history of Coach Boss and his rise from disappointing, yet determined teenager, to the meanest and nastiest bastard of them all. Each time the page goes red you can be assured that you’re in for an interesting piece of back-story which certainly doesn’t make Boss a sympathetic figure, but it does round out his character and provides a startling glimpse at what motivates him.

Aaron is a master story-teller and has always had a way with characters. The range of his story-telling ability, from dark stories like this series or Scalped, to slap-stick superhero yarns like Wolverine and the X-Men speak to a creative writer, whose ability to craft and create vivid characters is an inherent skill and not something he stumbles onto thanks to a clever twist or bold story-arc. “Southern Bastards #5” is a testament to his skill at characterization as he managed to write arguably the best comic of the week without having a hero anywhere in sight.

Verdict:

“Southern Bastards #5” is as good a follow-up as we could have hoped for. In a way this young series reminds me of what reading Saga was like a few years ago; while each issue seemed to impossibly raise the stakes and be better than the one before it, despite our reservations that the team could outdo past efforts. The bastards who make this comic are at the height of their story-telling powers. If this issue doesn’t make you want to read the next issue as soon as you hit the last page, I don’t know what will. This is a masterpiece in the making, and like Madison Bumgarner in Game 7 of The World Series on short rest, it defies categorization, explanation, or trepidation.

“Southern Bastards #5” earns 9.2/10