“Southern Bastards” #6 continues the story of Coach Boss, the villain behind the first four issues of Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s comic series. And for someone who is so truly despicable in that opening story arc, the “Gridiron” story makes you almost feel sorry for Coach Boss.
Continuing where the previous issue left off, here we see Coach Boss as a high school student who’s struggling to make it on the football team despite the opposite coming at him from all sides. Aaron presents both a ray of hope and also a cold dash of reality in this new issue; one figure who’s willing to help Boss out, even while we learn more about Boss’s home life and why his attempt to make the team is so important and why the deck is stacked against him. On some level, you can see why Coach Boss becomes such a dangerous, awful person in the present day. This is a teenager who’s emotionally and physically beaten to the ground over and over again, in a world where even when he’s trying just to make his father proud, everything is aligned against him. It’s a tricky road to walk down for Aaron; you want Boss to pay for his actions (especially from “Southern Bastards” #4), but you can also see the cycle of abuse continuing in Boss from childhood to now.
Latour’s art just gets better and better with each new issue of “Southern Bastards.” It’s an overall clean, uncluttered look, but there are still those hard edges that crop up every now and then on his characters. The red tone that Latour lays over all of the flashbacks not only provide an instant cue for if we’re in the present or not, but it also gives you the feeling that we’re seeing a world drenched in blood. After this issue, it’s hard to think that this isn’t deliberate. As Boss goes through his training regimen, that red just hangs overhead; blindfolded and fishing, for example, has a dark and almost eerie quality to it even as we see the first moment of peace in Boss’s life. It’s dark and striking, and it’s a perfect match to Aaron’s script.
“Southern Bastards” #6 is the latest in a string of truly dark and disturbing issues for this series. I hate Aaron and Latour for making me feel sorry for Boss, even as I’m impressed with the skill in which they do so. Aaron is keeping his villain from being one-note or easy to dismiss; this is a book that grows in complexity with each new issue. All in all, another good outing.