Comic Stack 02/18/14

ComicStackThis week I take a trip to a small town in Craw County, Alabama where BBQ is king, football isn’t a sport its a way of life, and the necks glow fluorescent red. Next, I visit a small town in Oregon whose claim to fame is breeding sixteen of the world’s most notorious serial killers with one of them still roaming the town free. Finally, I wake up in a sleazy hotel with a man who doesn’t remember who he is, but there are people after him. You wake up in a filthy hotel with men in suits coming to your door, you know that means trouble.

DIG020574_3Southern Bastards #1 by Jason Aaron
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Crime, Southern Gothic

Earl Tubb returns home to Craw County, Alabama after being gone for four decades. He’s been tasked with cleaning out his old familial home after his uncle is sent to a nursing home. Throughout the comic we see slips of what life was like for Earl as a child growing up with a father who was the despised sheriff juxtaposed against the ugly, gritty reality of every day life in his small town in the present.

Earl comes from a place where college football is more than just a sport and Paul Bear Bryant’s autograph was on the bat his father used to beat down a group rednecks with. There’s nothing idyllic or charmingly southern about this book as we’re introduced to the cast of characters.

This book struck a chord with me that I did not expect. I’d heard praise for this series, but it wasn’t until I read this #1 that I realized what I was getting myself into. This is the beginning of a true Southern Gothic tale. It’s brutal, it’s ugly, and it’s tinged with just a touch of wry southern humor where a drawled “That’s nice…” is synonymous with “Fuck you!”

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Nothing resonated more with me and this book the final page from Aaron and Latour on being southern and loving the south. I’m a southerner, so I feel their words on a visceral level when they write about what it feels like to be southern and what the south means to them. Jason Aaron summed it up poetically in only the way a southerner can:

The south is more peaceful than any other place I’ve ever been. But more primal too. More timeless. But more haunted. More spiritual. More beautiful. More scarred. And that’s what this series is about. A place you can love and hate and miss and fear all at the same time.

I look forward to learning more about Earl, why he seems so angry, and how that will play out in his hometown where he’s already starting to make waves with all the wrong people.

nailbiterNailbiter #1 by Joshua Williamson
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Horror, Crime

Buckaroo, Oregon has the distinction of being the place where sixteen of the world’s most atrocious serial killers hail from  starting with a killer known as the Book Burner to their most recent nicknamed Nailbiter for the fact that he targeted people who chewed their nails. He would kidnap them, let their nails grow out, and chew them down to the bone before murdering them.

Army Intelligence agent, Nicholas Finch, travels to Buckaroo at the behest of his partner, Eliot Carroll, who believes he’s solved the mystery of Buckaroo and its serial killers. However, when Finch arrives, Carroll is nowhere to be found. Instead Finch meets Sheriff Crane who says that Carroll’s been meeting her every morning for coffee, except the morning of Finch’s arrival. Crane says that nobody minded Carroll snooping aside from “THE OBVIOUS,” Edward “Nailbiter” Warren who has been acquitted of murder.

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This book has me morbidly curious, especially since such a gross killer is out and about. It would be too easy to assume that he had anything to do with Carroll’s disappearance, but you just know that he’s going to become that source they reluctantly consult with as they try to find out what happened to Carroll.

I’m wondering if we’ll learn more about Warren’s past or if they’ll only build up on him as he is now after his acquittal. Either angle could be interesting. My main concern is that they won’t be able to continue to keep me curious. A story like this feels there’s only so much they can do with it to keep it fresh, but I could be wrong. I have been in the past about things like this.

deadlettersDead Letters #1 by Christopher Sebela
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Genre: Crime, Supernatural, Fantasy

“My name is Sam. I’m a bad buy. I know how to blow things up, how to shoot people, how to play them. I know how to destroy. I seem to enjoy it.”

A man wakes up in a sleazy hotel. He doesn’t remember his name, where he’s from, or where he is. He gets a mysterious phone call that tells him to run. He may not remember anything, but he remembers how to survive. The men chasing him use the name “Sam” to call after him. He knows that he has to be Sam, but the name means nothing to him. He instinctively does things that he doesn’t remember knowing. He equates this experience to watching a movie of a man, a man named Sam, someone he’s supposed to be but can’t remember. As he continues to play this game with the men chasing him, he realizes that a part of him is relishing in the chase, in the the disaster he’s causing.

His abductors eventually catch up with him, but instead of being killed he’s sent out on a mission after being given a choice. Sam calculates his odds and goes with what he believes to be the best course of action and the one he feels will bring him freedom. However, Sam doesn’t count on men not dying when you blow their heads off. He learns you can’t kill what’s already dead. That includes him, and Here is the place he’s stranded. Some like to call it Purgatory, but everyone else sticks to Here.

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This started out like your typical crime story with the dark, gritty art. I liked Sam’s perspective of himself in the beginning as he uses knowledge he didn’t know he had but seems like instinct when pitted against his need not to die. Then, this subtly veered off into the supernatural world without making things too fantastic and hurting the story’s rough edged theme. It manages to combine the crime element and the supernatural element in a clever way that doesn’t make it feel garish or out of place in the crime setting.

I’m a big fan of stories that play on theological beliefs. The old Heaven vs. Hell story and everybody’s the bad guy is right up my alley. Purgatory has been divided into rival factions. We’re not told who these rival groups are. It seems like you’d want to assume it’s Heaven’s agents and Hell’s agents competing for souls, but this doesn’t seem to be the case as Sam is contacted by an agent who claims to work for God and they have a job for him. I’ll curiously wander into the next book.

7 Comments on “Comic Stack 02/18/14”

    • It’s up my alley, and I’m interested. I’ve had many people say the same thing about liking it more than expecting. So fingers crossed.

      Like

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