Southern Bastards #1 (Image)

CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Deep-fried perfection.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Lawrence Arboleda.

The anticipation for Image’s Southern Bastards has been ridiculously high since the title was announced at the recent Image Expo back in January of this year. Not really surprising, given the critical acclaim received by writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour for their strong collaborative effort on the Vertigo series Scalped. While Scalped was great, Southern Bastards is definitely something that I presume is closer to these two creators’ Southern-fried hearts (both were born and raised in the Deep South). As a Southern noir, Southern Bastards is dripping with all things Southern. And it’s as good as it gets.

Southern Bastards #1 has us following Earl Tubbs, an old man who finally returns to his childhood home in Craw County right after its last tenant (his uncle) gets transferred to a nursing home. He presumes that three days is long enough for him to pack up his childhood home and scram. Along the way, he notices a few unsettling changes in the town, not the least of which is right smack in the backyard of his old home: a gnarly old tree that sprouted near his father’s grave. As he pays his respects, painful recollections surrounding his dad’s life as a sheriff beset him. Whatever the implications of these flashbacks are, its clear that his dad has cast a very long shadow on Earl’s life and on Craw County itself. Later on, he visits the new BBQ joint in town to get another taste of Southern hospitality and… well, you just have to see it for yourself.

If there’s something that really made this debut really stand out, it’s the strong sense of place evoked in every page. Heck, it did exactly that on the first page alone, showing us a spectacular scene of a dog defecating by the side of the road juxtaposed with some empty beer bottles and a few parochial church road signs (and did you ever think you’d see “spectacular scene” and “dog defecating” used together in a sentence?). The dialogue is so well-crafted that you can actually hear the Southern drawl in your head as you read through them. And even though I haven’t been to the South my entire life, the subtle hints of Southern flavor interspersed in the pages were so evocative that you can’t help feeling a strong sense of familiarity and nostalgia.

Jason Latour’s stylized art couldn’t be more perfect for the book’s hard-boiled sensibilities. There’s a certain grit to his work that captures a certain noir vibe a deep-fried Southern epic calls for. The muted color palettes and the monochromatic flourishes also create an atmosphere that serves to heighten the gravity of each story beat.  Southern Bastards #1 is a pitch-perfect debut soaked in deep-fried Southern goodness. It’s a rich story teeming with grit, violence, and dark humor. It has a strong introspective bent that touches on several themes with the concept of “home” as a starting point. I give Southern Bastards my highest recommendation.

Reviewed by: Lawrence Arboleda
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