I’ve found that as my taste in comics has matured, I’ve stopped following titles and characters and began following creators. This opened up a whole new world of amazing comics for me, and the guy at the top of the list is Brian Wood.
It began with Demo, and progressed onto everything he’s ever written. I’ll admit it. I’m a Brian Wood fanboy. But of all the amazing stories he’s done - Demo, Northlanders, DMZ, the Couriers – It’s Local that sits at the top as my favourite. Mostly because of the amazing story it tells, but partly because of Ryan Kelly’s beautiful art and partly because of the gorgeous oversized, cloth bound hardcover it comes collected in.
Local follows Megan McKeenan, a young, brash, drifter, as she travels around the US and Canada. Each issue is set in a different town or city as Megan tries to discover her place in the world, physically and spiritually. These emotional vignettes each open a different chapter in Megan’s life, as she matures from a naïve young teen to an experienced, albeit emotionally insecure, young woman. The backdrops of the different cities aid in setting each chapter apart, delving into a new and different aspect of a unique character. She’s far from perfect – Megan makes bad choices, she abandons people who care about her, she lies, she bitches. She has some terrible relationships, including one with a boy she’s never seen, who leaves polaroids of himself in her house while she’s out. It is her flaws, however, that make her real. Brian Wood paints a portrait of her life so true to reality, so intense, by the time you finish the book you feel like you’ve been in Megan’s life all along. There’s a real sense of emotional investment.
Local is the kind of drama Brian Wood excels at. He has proven to be such a versatile writer, not only in the different kinds of books he writes, but also within each book. The format of Local – 12 short stories – really gives Wood and Kelly room to explore different forms of storytelling, much like in Demo (Wood’s series with Becky Cloonan). The first issue
explores multiple possibilities of how a bad situation Megan has found herself in could play out. Issues 3 and 7 barely feature Megan at all, but still advance her as a character and give insight to her life. Issue 11 recaps Megan’s life through an art installation. You won’t find any capes or spandex here, just pure human drama. Some of the most compelling stories are ones of life journeys. Local is one of them. Megan matures as the story progresses and takes us on a journey of redefinition and change. It is a heartfelt, powerful journey.
Part of the credit for the emotional balance of the story must go to Ryan Kelly’s art. His character work is masterful, and conveys emotion through facial expressions, body language, and even in the technical aspects of each panel. Kelly’s art has great tone and weight, with thick heavy lines and halftone shading (which I go nuts for). He skillfully ages Megan throughout the book – recognizable, but still changing. What blew me away the most though was the detail he puts into each panel. Kelly makes the book real with his attentive recreations of each city. They are spot on. He clearly did his homework for this series.
The collection contains the art, production notes and essays that were published in the original series. It also contains the covers in full color and a bunch of great pin-ups. If you’re a paper stock nerd, you wont be disappointed on this front, either. Local is a masterpiece of dramatic storytelling. It’s a story of one woman’s 12 year journey, with all the ups and downs, good times and bad, little moments and big moments that come with it. 4 stars.