So, this isn’t Scalped. And I’m not sure that is a bad thing. Scalped is one of my favorite comics of all time, but man, it is emotionally exhausting. You feel like you’ve had a long day after reading a collection of Scalped stories. Southern Bastards still feels like a Jason Aaron comic, but maybe one that won’t be quite as emotionally exhausting.
Earl Tubb is our protagonist. He’s an escapee from the small town in Craw County where our story takes place. He’s a man who only comes home to clean things up and race back out again, hoping his return lasts only three days, or maybe even two. Earl promises someone on the phone that he’s not sticking around, and in this first issue we never see who it is he’s talking to. That’s a nice narrative lead that Aaron can pick up on later, as is the fact that Earl’s uncle has moved into a nursing home. The Uncle is in a home, not dead, and therefore an excellent source of future drama, exposition, and plot development. Aaron knows what he’s doing.
Craw County feels like a pretty corrupt place from the start. If the pooping dog on page one or the fact that “Boss” owns everything in town, then the orange wash hanging over every panel would probably give you the right idea. It’s a place Earl wants to get away from, but just going out to get dinner starts to get him tangled up.
It’s interesting that Aaron loves these stories about men returning home to places they’d rather leave behind. Dash Bad Horse wanted out of the Rez, and Earl wants out of Craw County. While Dash had orders to stay, Earl gets involved in some local criminal enforcement from someone called “the Coach.” I don’t think the Coach will take kindly to having his boy’s smacked around with a fry basket. That’s another similarity between Dash and Earl; they are both ass kickers.
Jason LaTour does a nice job with the action, everything is clear. The book has a lot of flashbacks, most of them wordless. But the parallels between past and present are effective and striking. LaTour does a nice job with the cast, too. It can’t have been easy to give these similar characters their own look and personality, but LaTour pulls it off. You can get vibes from these characters just from the “acting” on their faces. Especially the reluctance from Earl.
This is a GOOD introduction to another compelling crime comic. But that $3.50 price tag is disappointing. If Image is boosting their prices now, my budget is going to go even shorter than it is now!