Something I've been meaning to do is regularly shine a light on some of the fantastic comic books that are out there these days. I don't have the most extensive pull list. It's certainly not as time and money consuming as it was a few years ago. There's some superhero stuff sprinkled in there but for the most part I tend to lean towards the more grounded stories and stay committed to writers more than I stay committed to a particular title. So my plan here is to try and chime in, on a couple Wednesdays or Thursdays a month, about whatever book is currently rising to the top of the stack and I'll try to find a page that best represents what I like about that book.
Local is over and done with, which I suppose makes it an odd title to start off with (if you don't include the Hellboy post a short while back, which I don't). But a gorgeous hardcover collection of all 12 issues just came out a couple weeks ago from the wondrous Oni Press and for the three years that it took for those 12 issues to come out it was always the first thing I read when I got my new stack home.
Local is the story of Megan McKeenan as told by Brian Wood (who also pens the consistently amazing DMZ which I'll probably get to sooner than later) and drawn in beautiful black and white by Ryan Kelly. We first meet Megan in Portland, Oregon as she spends the last moments with her fucked up boyfriend, trying to decide if she's going to go into the pharmacy their parked in front of and attempt to get him drugs with his forged prescription. The last frame of that first issue has Megan proudly sitting at Union Station waiting for the next train to take her away. We don't know where she's going and it takes 12 issues and 12 different cities before we find out where she ends up. The focus on each new city adds another layer to get lost in. There's a certain ear to ear grin that you get on your face when you recognize a street corner or a bar that Megan might be walking by -- the attention to detail in every aspect of these issues is phenomenal.
It's a fascinating series and one of the deepest looks into a young woman finding her identity that I've ever read. It's hilarious and beautifully sad sometimes in the same issue and the same moment. One of my favorite things about it is that there's no narration. It takes a few issues before you even crack the surface of who Megan really is -- there's no inner commentary to tell you what she's thinking as she tries to reinvent herself, put up walls and break them down. It's a much more challenging way to try and get to know this young woman who's sometimes frustratingly naive and not always the most likable person. But it is, of course, the most rewarding.
Finding one page to best show off what I love about Local is no small task. There's no shortage of great great artwork accompanied by great writing but there's also two issues of Local that focus on two of the men in Megan's family. Her cousin Nicky and her brother Matthew, and these two issues practically steal the show away from Megan. Nicky is younger a high school teenage troublemaker, to put it mildly, and Matthew is simply Nicky grown up -- about ten years down the road. Nicky's issue is called "Troubled Youth" and Matthew's is called "Bar Crawl". I didn't draw these parallels at first, but now it seems so obvious and I'm a bit envious of people who might be picking this hardcover collection up now because they don't have to wait 2+ months between issues. But at the same time I doubt they're getting the signature bits that each of the individual issues had at the end where Wood and Kelly would offer up some commentary and, my favorite touch, a soundtrack of a half dozen songs to go along with the issue (kind of like a mix tape to go along with the ebb and flow of the story within each issue).
So I'll refrain from picking a scene from one of the non-Megan issues even though she plays a part in every issue in one way or another -- even the few that she doesn't "star" in. Picking a page to represent the series should feature Megan even though this one is from an issue that only has three pages of her. It's issue #3 where she's flown to Richmond, Virginia possibly just to meet her favorite band Theories and Defenses. The dialog on the page comes from an interview one of the band members is having with a local paper. Megan's just gotten the autograph she was after (even though she had to pay for it) and she's about to get a good dose of disillusionment. It's not the greatest moment of the series but it has all the ingredients that make Local the poignant book it is: it's taking an issue (music) and treating it with a surprising amount of depth, it's got humor and sadness, it has that great eye for detail both in the characters and the city (in this case Cary Street in Richmond) and it's got a great drawing of Megan (not Meggin).
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