My knowledge of the American South comes mainly from reading James Lee Burke novels and watching Angel Heart. It’s fair to say this probably hasn’t given me a particularly well-rounded view. Southern Bastards may not do much to round out what I know of, or rather what my impression of the South is, but it damn sure makes me feel like I visit there every time I read an issue of the comic. The quality of Jason Aaron’s writing in Southern Bastards, together with the art of Jason Latour, throws the reader headlong in to the hot, dirty, violent, football-obsessed world of Craw County, and its cast of damaged characters. While Craw County is a fictional location, Aaron and Latour have clearly drawn on their own experiences of being raised in the Deep South to bring this part of America to life so vividly on the page.
This month saw the release of issue #10. This issue has been controversial, more so than any before it, for two reasons. A particularly graphic sex scene, and the variant cover depicting a dog ripping to shreds the Confederate Flag. There are clearly a lot of arguments surrounding this issue and I know it is a very emotive subject for a lot of people. Jason Latour, in an impassioned essay at the back of this comic, puts forward his own argument why the Confederate Flag should be confined to the history books, and why this position does not conflict with his heritage and the pride he has in his Southern roots.
As for the depictions of sex, Apple have refused to carry this issue on their digital comics’ platform, a move they previously took with an issue of Saga for similar reasons. It is available on Comixology however, and of course in print. This is a visceral comic, full of violence, and has been from issue one. What strikes me is that there is little negative reaction to, for example, scenes of a man being savagely beaten to death with a piece of wood, but showing two adults having sex is outrageous and unacceptable? That’s pretty messed up to my mind. I understand that people are offended by different things to varying degrees, but if something in a comic book offends you then you can simply put the book down and not read it anymore. You have that choice. Apple should not be making that choice for us.
This issue focuses on Esaw Goings, one of the key players in the Runnin’ Rebs football team, and a man with serious anger issues. We learn a little about where those issues come from as Esaw takes an unsuspecting church representative, Donny Ray, along for a ride he will never forget. Aaron and Latour do a fantastic job of showing two worlds collide as the violence that surrounds Esaw temporarily bleeds into the safe, God-fearing world Donny Ray inhabits. For me this is what Southern Bastards has done so well since issue one. It shows the good, the bad, and the downright ugly sides of the Deep South, and invites the reader to immerse themselves in the rich history and culture of this fascinating place.
Southern Bastards is released monthly, the first 4 issues are collected in a paperback volume titled Here Was a Man, issues 5-8 are collected in a paperback volume titled Gridiron, and the first eight issues will be collected in a premier hardcover due to be released in September. Do yourself a favour and dip your toes in this captivating world.
Stephen Hardman is a trainee Legal Executive Lawyer who currently resides in Bath, in the UK with his wife and their cat. Among other things he writes in his spare time. He is currently working on a novel which he hopes to finish soon, and he has written a few short stories as well, though has not had anything published. Yet. Stephen loves reading and is a huge crime fiction fan; George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Ken Bruen being particular favourites. He is an editor and contributor at the geek culture website Geeks Unleashed.
His obsession with comic books knows no bounds and he loves sharing news and reviews of all the great comic books and graphic novels being published right now. He also loves listening to music and seeing bands live, and is always seeking out new bands and musicians to obsess about.
You can catch him on Twitter @HardDaysWrite.