Here was an arc.
Four issues into the Jasons Aaron and Latour’s Image title Southern Bastards, Earl Tubb is facedown in Craw County, the Coach bosses on, and a magnificent epilogue promises more deep-fried intrigue and heartache. I was a bit late to the shop for this issue; I hadn’t read it when I met Latour at Cincinnati Comicon this past weekend, and upon hearing of my tardiness, he spoke thus:
Now that I have read it, I see what he meant. The big reveal–who Earl’s been calling on his cell phone this whole time–was the most satisfying of cliffhangers. Because I’m me, I was on the lookout for some good Strong Female Character action lo and behold: I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. The brief reveal of Earl’s daughter and her setting work in tandem with the opening of this issue, placing a young Earl in the military and not missing home in the slightest. Juxtaposed with the scene below, all the pieces of Earl’s family and past start to fit into place. “Home” as a concept has been a fat thread running throughout Southern Bastards since the start: who claims a place as home, who has the right to do so. Go the Fuck Home is spray-painted all over the Tubb family house, marking Earl’s presence as that of an outsider; yet he’s determined to hold onto a birthright he once rejected, from a sense of duty (possibly), nostalgia (probably not), or righteous outrage (definitely some of that). It remains to be seen how his own sprout off the Tubb family tree will deal with her legacy.
Earl Tubb is not a young man. He’s taken up the quest of the prodigal son, and in place of an intense twenty-something with an axe to grind, we’ve gotten a graybeard who’s made a life far outside his original digs. His push for justice in Craw County arcs ever more toward the styling of a knight errant, an aging warrior come to mete out just desserts to robber barons and the vigilantes who do their dirty work. Galahad, who became a greater knight than even his legendary father; Arthur, pulling a knotty wooden sword from the husk of a grave; the Fisher King, bound to a dying country, the land’s survival contingent on his own healing: Southern Bastards is moving in mythic circles. Latour’s graphic, punishing art and Aaron’s vernacular dialogue serve only to heighten the gravitas, rather than parody it. The pair are just two more in the line of Southern writers and artists proving that “redneck” and “poet” are not at odds, that the twisted family dramas, football mania, and small-town bizarrities are Shakespearean in their scope.
A fan of the Jasons and their Southern epic? Check out the BTP team’s initial thoughts on the book here!