Zeb Larson reviews Southern Bastards #11…
Deep in the woods of Craw County lives a man who may be even more dangerous than Coach Boss. He hunts with a bow. Handles snakes. Hates football. And has just been given a special mission from God.
Southern Bastards #11 focuses on a bastard we’ve only seem glimpses of in a prior issue: the man living out in the backcountry in Piney Woods. He’s an oddball for a few different reasons, separate from the fact that he prefer living in a shack without any air conditioning. He hates football, he’s deeply religious and yet has no qualms with violence, and he has quite the grudge to settle with Coach Boss. His profile makes for a fascinating issue, one that reveals some of the tension between people of the so-called Old South and New South. I will be discussing spoilers in this review, so only read on if that’s not a problem.
The man in the woods is Boone, whose family has lived in the backwoods for a very, very long time. He looks down on the “city folks” who brag about their rural roots but live surrounded by comfort, whereas his family has lived largely the same way since before the Civil War. Boone is a conflicted man. He’s a deeply religious Pentecostal Christian who has taken it upon himself to get rid of the sinners around him with his bow. He’s conflicted about the fact that he kills, but he hates Coach Boss and everything that Boss represents even more: sin, greed, even the corruption of the Old South.
This is a great issue, in part because we see a part of Craw County we haven’t been able to visit yet. Piney Woods is primeval, and the people who inhabit it would easily fit into the nineteenth century. They’re a part of what the South used to be before air conditioning, cheap labor, and low taxes made the finally take off in the 1960s and brought a flood of people and money into the region. Boone wants to be separate from the New South, with its superficial allegiance to the Old South but its adoption of everything ugly in modern life. You could argue whether the Old South that Boone is immersed in was so good after all. It was poor, people died young (like all of Boone’s parents), and there weren’t a lot of ways out. That doesn’t really matter, though, because Boss is slowly corrupting everything that was good and allowing his thugs to prey on weak people.
Boone makes for an interesting addition to the cast of characters. In one sense, he’s similar to the other characters from this arc because he similarly feels morally compromised: doing evil to save others, and tolerating the moral decay in Craw County. Yet unlike the Sheriff, he’s not accepting it passively, and he’s ready to escalate from killing rapists to trying to take down Boss. The issue reads all at once as a take on all of the changes in the South over the last hundred years as well as a profile of another person who can’t stand the corruption all around him. Now Boss has to worry about one more thing that could ruin the Homecoming game. Should be fun.