by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour
Spoilers ahead. You have been warned…
A few issues ago (#16) it felt as though Coach Boss was nearing his inevitable rock bottom when he brutally beat a kid in order to win a football game. When the extremely injured boy took the field anyways and stood in the way of Coach Boss’s victory, I could feel that bottom closing in. Then, after Locust Fork’s Burt Reynolds (McKlusky) got the best of Coach Boss, he conceded. It appeared Coach had finally hit that bottom. Honestly, I felt a little edge and grit leave the book when Coach shook McKlusky’s hand in defeat. But, it really is a simple thing, the war he started with Locust Fork no longer benefits the team, in fact it actually hurts them as some of the team member were part of the physical encounters. Instead of leaving the Rebels with a number of injured players, Coach had only one option, to wave the white flag. However, just when I think I have this guy figured out he belts a monkey with a fucking home made bat like he is hitting homers over the Monster at Fenway. If you were missing the downright insanity of Coach Boss like I was, you are in luck, the bastard is back.
Coach Boss is one of the most compelling comic book characters around. Aaron has created this dark and despicable anti-hero who will literally do anything in the name of high school football, and yet somehow, I can’t get enough of him. While issue #18 took a slight break from the main story arc to spend time developing Roberta, issue #19 picks the main thread back up. It starts with the Rebs getting their asses handed to them. As most of these issues go, the ambiance of the book is mirrored in the football game being played. The Rebs are down 20-6 and Esaw is giving Coach attitude. Even Esaw thinks Coach has gone soft because of his most recent truce with McKlusky. Coach quickly reminds Esaw, and the reader, he still has some fight left in him.
At halftime with the Rebs down 26-9, I feel like the team sitting in that locker room, a little forlorn, not quite knowing how bad things are going to get. Then, right at this crucial crux in the game, Coach Boss is delivered a gift disguised as adversity. McKlusky is in the locker room looking to collect some money Coach has agreed to pay in order to settle their dispute. As an exasperated and defeated looking Coach walks to the back to get the money, he instead hands over a vicious beating using the infamous club as his choice weapon. With a bloody, beat up McKlusky sitting in the middle of the locker room, Coach takes this moment to deliver his killer motivational halftime speech. Here is where Aaron shines a dull light on the aggressive violent language often used in competition by making it very visual. We also witness the mob mentality as a bloodied rival backer combined with an angry Coach drive a group of kids to murder a man and then return to the second half of play. This scene is jaw dropping and only fitting that the kids pull out the huge come from behind victory.
If that wasn’t enough gut check to fit into one issue, while all this is going on, Roberta is waiting in a pickup truck in the parking lot with some sort of military grade weapon looking to “end things”. The final three pages are so exciting and shocking I can’t even bring myself to spoil them. I will tell you this much, it promises for a very intense conclusion to this already brutal story arc. I think I am starting to understand why this book comes out every fout months. It’s all I can handle. I need the recovery time.
Latour sets the stage perfectly once again portraying the ugliness and bleakness the story requires. The shadows in the final few pages are a nice touch as we have reached the highest point of tension and yet, we don’t get a clear shot of anyone’s face until that final page. For whatever reason, I haven’t seen a Latour comic in a while and I was extremely impressed here with the coarse yet flowing work shaping the body language and facial expressions, while also creating vivid and violent panels when necessary.
Aaron and Latour hit this one out of the park while Coach Boss just hit it in the gut. I can not wait for the next issue.