Under Your Radar: Local

by Liana

I guess it’s a couple of years ago now that, while lying in bed reading comics, Dan turns to me and says, “If I give you something, will you read it?” Usually, my answer is no; we tend to like different comics. But I was in a good mood and he asked really nicely, so I took the comic from him (though I wasn’t exactly looking forward to reading it). That comic was Local #3 and it blew me away.

Local is the twelve issue series from Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and Ryan Kelly (Lucifer, The Books of Magic), following the life of one young woman, Megan McKeenan, as she travels from town to town, trying to figure who she is and where she belongs. That’s it in a nutshell. But what in life has ever really fit inside a nutshell (other than nuts)?

Local starts off as a series of done-in-one stories, loosely held together by Megan’s presence. Sometimes she was the star of the issue and sometimes, like in issue #3, she just made a cameo. The real star of the series, at least at first, was whatever town Megan was currently living in. Great care was taken to accurately reference each town (from Portland, Oregon to Burlington, Vermont, with ten stops in between) and make them all characters in their own right. As the series goes on, we learn more about Megan’s life, and her struggle to understand herself eventually becomes the main focus.

Each issue takes place about a year after the previous and, as stated, in a different town. The famous #3 that immediately hooked me was in Richmond, Virginia and was about a successful rock band breaking up and coming back to their hometown that has seemingly moved on without them. What’s the old adage? You can’t go home again? Megan only appears on three pages, in a sequence where she finds the band’s drummer and asks him to sign an album, only to get back a misspelling of her name and his phone number. I guess Richmond goes on Megan’s Disillusionment List, which is a list I just made up and erroneously at that since Megan doesn’t exactly come across as the most hopeful of individuals.

In fact, she’s pretty screwed up. So much so that, apparently, there are people online who want to punch her in the face. I know this not because I’ve run into any of them, but because Brian and Ryan talk about them in some of their fantastically insightful essays at the end of each issue. I have to wonder why, if Megan moves them to such hate, they continue to read, but then that’s the kind of thing you have to wonder about everyone who subjects themselves to all kinds of crap. And we all do it in some way, don’t we? But still, it seems to me that if you hate the only constant in a limited series comic book, maybe you can just save yourself the aggravation every month (oh, if only this book had actually come out every month!), take your three bucks and buy yourself an ice cream cone instead. Ice cream makes everything better.

There are some pretty weird times in this book, like in #2 when Megan sort of dates a guy who sneaks into her apartment in Minneapolis and leaves polaroids of himself with messages on them. There are some pretty scary times in this book, like in #4 when Megan is held hostage by a dangerous family feud (not her own) in a Missoula, Montana diner. We meet her brother in Austin, her cousin in Tempe, her OCD roommate in Brooklyn and a slew of boyfriends and other acquaintances in Chicago, Toronto, Halifax, and Norman, Oklahoma. Through it all, Megan goes from a confused 17 year old girl on the brink to a mature 30 year old who faces her demons and accepts who and where she’s been and who and where she is.

Local is a deep, dark journey that most of us can relate to. Who hasn’t known what they’re doing and where they belong? Who hasn’t felt unconnected to the world?

Normally, I’m all about getting trades at the library. But Oni Press is putting out a nifty hardcover edition of the series, and it's currently being solicited in Previews for release in September (ISBN: 978-1-934964-00-2; Diamond Code: JUN08 4143). This one, I think I need. And I think you need it to. Go to your local comic shop and preorder it. What else can I say to convince you? If you’re a fan of Brian Wood’s or Ryan Kelly’s, this is obviously a must-own. If you like Blankets or The Waiting Place or Andi Watson or JD Salinger or The Breakfast Club or indy record shops (hi Zia!), then you’re going to love this. If nothing I’ve said has sparked even the slightest interest, then I’m sorry to say you might be dead inside. But I’m willing to punch you in the face to make sure.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Just read #12 last night and it capped off the series so incredibly (and surprisingly well). This was an impressive series from Wood and Kelly.

I think it's one of those works that anyone could pick up and enjoy.