Zeb Larson reviews Southern Bastards #12…
Special issue written & drawn by Bastard Prime JASON LATOUR!
Southern Bastards takes a peculiarly psychedelic turn this month, or perhaps it’s just hallucinations from brain damage. After reading this issue, my first reaction was quite literally, “What the hell did I just read?” Focusing on Tad Ledbetter, the boy that was nearly beaten to death back in #3, this issue also examines the guilt of one of Boss’s cronies, Materhead. I’m not exactly sure what the message of this installment is supposed to be, but I like it nonetheless. Latour should take a turn writing more often. It certainly looks damned good. I will be discussing spoilers in this review, so consider yourself forewarned.
The issue begins by flashing back to the beating of Tad and introduces one of Boss’s flunkies, Materhead. Unlike Esaw, Materhead can’t quite stomach (literally) the violence he’s called upon to perform, and he starts dreaming of a dog because of the guilt. That might sound banal, except that that same dog bit Coach Boss in an earlier game against Wetumpka, costing the Rebs the football game. Materhead goes to visit Tad, who unbelievably wakes up against all predictions, and is sent home. At this point, things get weird: Tad finds himself inside one of his TV cartoons, where a malevolent, man-sized chicken (an evil take on Foghorn Leghorn?) torments him over Tubb’s death, leading Tad to swear revenge. Back at home, the boy makes it outside to see a dog in the yard killing a rooster.
You could read this entire issue as a series of omens warning the reckoning that is coming to destroy Euless Boss. Dogs frighten the hell out of Materhead, a dog ruined the last football game against Wetumpka, and now this boy can’t help but see violent dogs everywhere. The chicken is the quirky bit in all of this. Is the chicken Tad’s sense of guilt, fear, and helplessness over Tubb’s death? Is it temptation leading him to try for revenge when he should cut his losses and just quit? Sounds like Tad’s going to try and be the dog that bit Boss. Only problem is the last dog that did that was put down.
This issue might read in a confusing way, but it’s worthwhile. The art and visual imagination behind it is gorgeous, for one thing, with the extended cartoon dreamscape humorously childish and sinister all at once. I’m sticking with my theory that the dream chicken is Foghorn Leghorn, which gives the issue a little extra humor. Not a lot really happens in this issue, though it is good to have the reminder that Tad exists, and it is a fun read. All in all, a worthwhile read.