Southern Bastards marks the return of the Scalped creative team, Aaron and Latour in another dark collaboration. The first issue in this new ongoing series finds a nice balance between back story and forward progression to create an intriguing foundation to build on.
The story centers on Earl Tubb, a middle-aged man from Birmingham, Alabama. After a 40-year absence, he returns to his childhood home in Craw County. He hopes to clean out the house he grew up in after its tenant, Earl’s uncle, gets moved to a nursing home. Though he desires to stay under the radar to avoid recalling any of his past, Earl soon finds that Craw County is as full of evil and ignorance as it was in his childhood.
Jason Aaron explains at the end of the book that he was raised in Alabama, and wants this series to portray a small southern town that is loved, hated, feared, and missed all at once. These are sentiments that most can attach to, and they are exactly what Aaron establishes. Earl clearly feels disconnected from the town he grew up in, yet feels the impact of the changed storefronts. He is unsure amidst the current power structures, yet carries himself with the confidence of someone who has learned from having lived in the environment.
Aaron finds a perfect balance between introductory flashback and forward development. A majority of the story revolves around Earl’s arrival in Craw County, yet he gets caught up in some very poignant memories of his father. In doing this, Aaron skillfully establishes the foundation for Earl’s personality with his present distaste for his hometown and his interactions with the locals. This aspect is also expertly integrated throughout the artwork as well. Unlike most flashbacks in comics that may be signified by subtle difference in the color palette, Latour opts to shade every panel in the past in a blood red tone. This technique conveys the emotional turmoil that creates many of the emotional response Earl has throughout the entire issue.
The grittiness and sentimentality expressed so well in Aaron’s writing is emphasized in Latour’s bristling artwork. From the moment the issue is opened Latour’s artwork signals the reader has entered savage and primal territory. His character work is minimalistic. While each character is clearly unique in attitude and general appearance, they share the same leathery, worn look that one might ascribe to living in a small rural town with their own set of rules. This minimalistic approach to the artwork, while emphasizing the atmosphere of the issue, allows the emotion in the dialogue to resonate throughout the pages.
Overall, Southern Bastards #1 establishes a rough, yet sentimental world of lawlessness that is intriguing in the same way as a car accident. The combination of Aaron’s well-crafted dialogue and Latour’s atmospheric, gritty art and coloring creates an uncomfortable storyline that you can’t help but become invested in.