Earl Tubb is a man not only scarred by Vietnam but also from the life and family he left behind in Craw County. His late father Bertrand Tubb was a no-nonsense Sheriff who literally spoke softly and carried a big stick, much like real life Buford Pusser (or at the very least like Joe Don Baker in Walking Tall the original, not the Rock version). His sense of right and wrong, and stern demeanor won him no friends but it cleaned up Craw County when Earl was a child. There was little to say for Bertrand when he died, so little in fact that his tombstone read simply “Here was a man” which in a way said plenty. Earl’s father cast a long shadow, so much so that Earl would rather have had enlisted than stay beneath it. After Earl’s tour he returned to bury his father, and then started a new life for himself in Birmingham. 40 years later Earl must sell his family home that had been in the care of his uncle. When Earl inadvertently causes the death of an man he knew from high school, he takes up a stick like his fathers and looks to clean up Craw County much like his father did all those years ago.
Jason Aaron’s books don’t tend to have happy endings and I really shouldn’t have been surprised by what happens at the end of the first trade, but damn if it isn’t still a gut punch. And that final kicker when you find out who Earl has been leaving woeful and regret filled messages to throughout the book, it’s just a final boot to the cubes. But it does set put the book in a very interesting place for the next arc. What will happen to Craw County? Will another person step up and try to bring down Coach Boss?
My main issue with Bastards is how the plot does in many ways feel a little rehashed from Scalped. I pointed out earlier the similarities with the impetus for each story, and the paralells between Dash and Earl, and similar connections could be drawn with the antagonists Red Crow and Coach Boss. Both men of power who perverted their homes through crime and drugs, both have a past filled with abuse that seems to be their driving force. Both "villains" (given the tone of both books that's probably not the best term) have overly dedicated lackeys that are willing to go as far as murder for their superior. Although Shunka in Scalped probably has a very different reason than 'Saw in Bastards... although repressed homosexuality may fit for 'Saw as well... hmph. Anyway Southern Bastards is only 4 issues in and has lots of time to move away from the similarities of Aaron’s previous work, and he’s a strong enough and capable enough writer that I don’t see Southern Bastards ending up being a derivative copy of Scalped.
I’m a chubby white Canadian, I couldn’t be more removed from the Southern United States if I tried. Despite my inability to understand or appreciate things like football and grits (not that grits play a big part in the book or anything, just to my knowledge they’re big in the South), I love this book. There’s something universally appealing about a good crime story, and the rugged writing and gritty art make the story all that more raw.
- Some of Jason Aaron’s strongest writing
- Jason Latour’s art is his best yet
- Earl Tubb is a great and truly sympathetic character...
- ...which makes the ending all that more heartbreaking
- Some story points are a little close to Scalped, another of Aaron’s works