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Following the major shift after issue #4 of Southern Bastards, the crime series set in the American south from writer Jason Aaron and illustrator Jason Latour, the focus of the book shifted from do-gooder Earl Tubb to crime head/football coach Euless Boss. Aaron and Latour went back in time to look at Boss’ origin story, and it’s been a pretty compelling journey, one that concludes in Southern Bastards #8. In this issue, we see exactly how Euless got to be the boss.
At the end of issue #7, Euless’ prospects didn’t look so great. He’d beaten the odds by making the Craw County Runnin’ Rebels football team and standing out, but a staff that disliked him and his father’s bad reputation conspired to keep him from getting any college offers, so he wound up as ball boy for the Rebs. However, Boss was not about to accept that fate. In Southern Bastards #8, he makes major shifts that put him not only in charge of the Rebels’ football team but a major player in the crime world of Craw County.
Southern Bastards #8 has two really pivotal scenes, and they both involve Euless and his father figures. The first is a scene with Euless’ biological father, on the run for stealing from a crime honcho. Euless basically decides that loyalty to his father, who has never been loyal to him and not much of a father either, is worth less than his goals. So he makes a deal, betraying his father in the process. It’s a long, powerful, and surprising scene.
The other “father” scene occurs later once Euless is head coach of the Reb. He is speaking with Big, who trained him into the great player that Euless became and has been much more of a father figure than Euless’ actual dad. Big has heard rumors about what Euless has done and wonders if it is worth it. He never turns against Euless but as we jump to the present time, Big decides that he can’t take what Coach Boss has become. Big’s decision (and his reasons) seem to be one of the few things that bother Coach Boss any more.
The art in Southern Bastards #8 is pretty strong. The early scene between Euless and his father is framed really nicely, and when Euless makes the move towards betrayal, the art paneling really hammers home the shock of his decision. This issue jumps around in time a fair amount for a single issue, but Latour makes it clear in each situation what’s happening and when it’s happening. As always, the colors on Southern Bastards (mostly dark reds) add a lot, and Latour plays those out well.
Southern Bastards #8 is a satisfying conclusion to the backstory of Euless Boss. It’s hard to take a character who is essentially the villain and then present him in a sympathetic light. Aaron and Latour mostly achieve that, though. We may not agree with Euless but we feel for him. This issue ends with a call back to Earl Tubb’s daughter, about to be dispatched home from her tour in Afghanistan. Presumably, she doesn’t know what’s happened to her father Earl. When she finds out, I imagine there will be a face-off with Coach Boss, which sets up the next arc of Southern Bastards to be another interesting one.