Jason Aaron & Jason Latour, Southern Bastards: Volume 1: Here Was a Man (2014) and Volume 2: Gridiron (2015)
The first two volumes of this Eisner winning series are a gift from a son who has been an excellent gift-giver since he was very young.
Without detract from the excellence of the gift, or indeed of the series, I have to say they’re not my cup of tea. They tell interlocking hyper-macho stories of sons dealing with violent legacies from their fathers in a small southern US town, one a hyper-violent sheriff, the other a no less violent fringe-dwelling criminal.
The art is powerful, but generally murky – and though there is one poorly registered image the murkiness isn’t something that can be laid at the printer’s door. In the frequent passages of violence, everything turns red, as in the covers above, a deeply unpleasant effect, and the drawing style, appropriate though it is to the subject, is crude and, well, repellent.
The first volume (issues 1–8 of the original comic) has a story line very like the movie The Judge: a son returns to Southern home after long absence and is reconciled with his father – though in this case the father is long dead, and the reconciliation takes the form of the son becoming a spectacularly violent vigilante. The second is like the vicious underbelly of Saturday Night Lights: the murderous college football coach is held in very high esteem so long as the team keeps winning.
In forewords to the first volume, the creators (Jason Aaron writer and Jason Latour artist, I think) acknowledge their Southern roots, and their love–hate–fear relationships with the South. The hate and fear are a lot more apparent than the love. The foreword to the second volume is written by a US football player and is largely incomprehensible to me.
The final images of the second volume hold out hopes that things will be different in Volume 3. A young African-American woman soldier is returning home from Afghanistan. Does this prefigure a departure from the ugly-masculine mode of the first two volumes? Or will the violence continue, now with added boobs? I don’t plan on finding out.