Southern Fried Juxtaposition

An article by, Aaron Burton

Some people will say that all children rebel against their parents. Others will say the children grow up to become their parents. I can see the merit in both of these sentiments. I was a punk rock teenager rebelling against my conservative and religious family. Even though we still don't see eye-to-eye on these topics I do find myself using the mannerisms of different family members.  Nothing is more cringe-worthy than when my mother tells me I did something that reminds her of either my father or stepfather.

Southern Bastards is a gritty and violent tale of corruption in a small Alabama town. The book is  filled with some cliches and truths about the southern United States. We see the obsession with football. Everyone seems to hang out at the same barbecue restaurant. Underneath the sweet tea and carnage we see a man trying to reconcile with his deceased father. The book is a creation of writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour. The series started in 2014 and has amassed sixteen issues with 20 issues lined up thus far. There are currently three trade paperbacks that have been released.

The first volume of this story shows the rise and fall of Earl Tubb. Tubb left home at a young age and never looked back. Now he is an older man going back to his childhood home to clean out his father's belongings. His once quick trip turns into a long stay when he sees how his town has been corrupted by a gang of people from his past. Earl is resentful of his father for what has happened in their lives, but at the same time he finds himself stepping into his father's shoes. This dissonance seems to be the driving motivation for this character. Earl's struggle beautifully displayed in both the writing and artwork. Both Aaron and Latour use their respective styles to juxtapose the characters' pasts with their current predicaments.

Jason Aaron's writing utilizes flashbacks in order to show parallels and differences in Earl's life. The flashbacks are cleverly woven into the story. Sometimes the flashback sequence only lasts one or two panels. These panels often reflect upon the panels directly next to them. This lets the reader quickly draw connections and learn the book's backstory.

Jason Latour's artwork works to enhance Aaron's use of flashbacks. The panels in the main narrative usually have a dull grey or beige palette. Latour uses colors to emphasis certain parts of the artwork. This creates an interesting and dynamic art style for the main plot. The flashbacks are drawn in a warm palette of reds, oranges and yellows. The quick changes in color scheme helps readers follow both the main story and flashbacks. Fans of the movie Memento may find familiarity in this visual structure.

Another interesting use of color schemes can be found in the covers of the issues. The covers are typically representative of what is going on with the main story or who the story will be focusing on.  The majority of the covers are drawn in the red palette found in the story's flashbacks for further cohesion. This shows the two story lines combined into one. The creative team has loyally followed this model with the exception of only two issues.

Southern Bastards offers up an emotional journey about digging up the past. At the same time the book contains much conflict and violence. Aaron and Latour did a great job of balancing the two aspects of this book. On top of all that, readers are treated to a Dixie-fried story filled with the culture found in the southern United States. Southern Bastards definitely hits the spot when it comes to summer reading.

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