Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Earl... where you goin', boy?"
"You know where I'm goin'."
"Vietnam, huh. That's a long damn way from here. Why you wanna go fight in some war that ain't yours?"
"It's the right thing to do, ain't it?"
"Son, if you gonna go half 'round the world just to die... least be honest with yourself about why you're doin' it."
"Goodbye, Daddy. Goodbye, Craw County. Good Goddamn-bye, Alambama."
Earl Tubb never expected he'd be back in Craw County. It's taken the death of his father to bring him home. There's his childhood house to clear out, purely to let a realtor put it on the market, before he can leave again, and those three days he thinks it's going to take are three more than he wants to be there. There are the ghosts of too many memories still present, that much is apparent as our story opens with Earl driving a removal truck to his daddy's out-of-town property, leaving a message for persons as yet unknown with his mobile phone.
I enjoyed reading Jason Aaron's foreword. He was born in Alabama, in a small town called Jasper. About an hour away from the town of Guntersville where I spent eighteen very pleasant if bizarre months, funnily enough. I fully understand his comments regarding the deep south of the good ole United States of America... "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 hateful. More beautiful. More scarred."
And I equally understand why he says he'll never move back there. I encountered some wonderfully hospitable people who treated me like family, saw places of rugged, outstanding natural beauty, but it also has a darker, other-worldly quality that takes some explaining, never mind understanding. I saw a Christian preacher handling snakes in front of an enraptured congregation. I was given a lecture on how I was going to hell for my Buddhist faith whilst playing pool with a scantily-clad stripper in a titty bar. I watched someone sink a friend's speedboat with a gun over a disagreement about their water-skiing prowess. And was proudly told by a thoroughly upstanding member of the community that they didn't agree with the fact that their father had been in the Ku Klu Klan, and that they had nothing whatsoever against black people, but gays, well gays were the devil's work. All without any hint of irony. And that would be a fairly typical week.
Drugs were everywhere, coke and crystal meth, long before it was made fashionable by a certain Mr. Heisenberg, lurking just beneath the friendly facade of a world where everyone, but everyone, says hello when they pass you by in the street. To not do so is a massive social faux pas expected only of those without manners and any sense of decorum. A civilised veneer overlaying the rather more torrid goings-on.
Alabama is also one of only two places I have ever managed to get myself arrested (the other being at the Polish-German border on suspicion of terrorist offences, but that's a story for another time). The crime? Public intoxication, for having three beers in a bar and walking one hundred metres down the street to my hotel. The police, meanwhile, were not remotely interested in the departing drinkers getting in their pickup trucks and weaving merrily back and forth across the white lines whilst they made their respective ways home. A stranger on foot though, well, no doubt bound to be up to no good, and more importantly perhaps, just likely to pay the $100 fine after a night in the drunk tank being serenaded by an orchestra of snorers without kicking up too much of a fuss.
So I fully understand the character of this world and its denizens which Jason Aaron portrays for us here. Trust me, much like SCALPED, it is not our civilised world. It is a world perhaps best avoided if you should happen to stumble upon it. For Earl Tubb, though, finally back in the town as a older, if not wiser, bull of a man heading rapidly towards his pensionable years, where his sheriff daddy used to rule the roost armed only with a very large stick both at home and on the streets, well, he just seems to have finally decided he's not prepared to walk away anymore.
He'll wish he had.
You certainly get a sense of Clint Eastwood in Earl Tubb. There's bad men running the town now, controlled it would seem by the local football coach, who was one of Earl's teammates back in the day. Earl knows he should just let it go, pack up his removal truck and head on out of town. But... the manner of his leaving perhaps means he feels he has unfinished business. There's seemingly no one prepared to stand up to the Coach and his thugs, so, when Earl receives what he takes to be a sign from his late, if not so much lamented, father, he makes a decision. There will be consequences.
Grotesquely brutal art from Jason Latour, much like R. M. Guéra on SCALPED, which will make you feel every punch, every kick, every baseball bat to the head. Teeth go flying, fingers are smashed, limbs mangled. It's extremely hard-hitting stuff, with a spectacularly brutal and somewhat shockingly unexpected conclusion to this first volume. Then, just when I was reeling from that, you get the final sucker punch, as you find out just who Earl was leaving that phone message for...