Saturday, May 14, 2011

Exfanding Review: Local

Well, not quite sure when you’ll be able to read this, as Blogger has been down for a couple of days at this point. But if it’s Friday or Saturday, hopefully you’re enjoying your weekend.

And hopefully I am, too.

See, I’m writing this Friday morning/early afternoon, with a pretty major deadline looming over my head, so I’m really interested as to whether or not I’m in the office as you read this.

Because your present is my future.

Now that I’ve blown your minds, let’s get down to the heart of the matter. Last night (or whenever...I hate time travel), I sat down and re-read Local, a wonderful series published by Oni Press and written by Brian Wood with art by Ryan Kelly.

I’m a big fan of both creators, and their work on The New York Four and The New York Five has been featured in a number of Waiting for Wednesdays. NY5 is in the running for my favorite book of 2011, and from the response the book received online, it seems like a lot of people enjoyed it just as much as I did.

Much like NY4 and NY5, Local is a slice-of-life comic focusing on the (sometimes) wayward adventures of a young woman named Megan. Megan is doing her best to find her way in life and, hokey as it may sound, her identity.

Each issue of Local is essentially a vignette that showcases a moment in a different year of Megan's life after finishing school. In that sense, we get to see the character grow up and progress (and, sometimes, regress) right in front of us.

As she does so,Megan travels from state to state, trying for a seemingly endless number of “fresh starts” after a seemingly endless string of screw-ups, false starts, and near misses.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. I’ve seen this before.

Only, you haven’t. Not even a little bit. Sure, the concept of finding one’s identity is pretty much as old as storytelling itself. But I can assure you that Local is something quite different from your typical "real life" comic book story.

First off, it’s just more...grown up...than the vast majority of comics on the stands today--even the ones you'll find in the independent aisle at your LCS. Told with an economy of words by a writer who is, in my opinion, one of the best voices on the comics scene, there's nothing quite like this book on the market.

Local is one of those rare instances in fiction where, while I’m reading it, I am wholly immersed in the characters and their world. I was worried for the protagonist; I was invested in every single move she made. I was completely captivated by her life.

But when I put the book down last night, I started thinking about my own life.

And mistakes I’ve made similar to the mistakes made by characters in the book. And, despite the fact that I was up at 5:00 AM, worked until past 7:00 PM, and knew I had to be up super early to meet a major deadline the next day, I just couldn’t fall asleep.

Because I was thinking about so many different moments in my own life, all triggered by this story that I read.

If that’s not the definition of the point of literature, then I don’t know what is.

And, as if this book needed any more going for it, Ryan Kelly's art is stunning. No one in comics can transport you to a real place like Kelly does. Visually, and with feeling.

His Greenwich Village is Greenwich Village; it feels like Greenwich Village. I know this because I love Greenwich Village, and I've spent years there.

And, while haven't been to other locales in the book--like Portland, for example--I imagine the art achieves the same level of reality for those places.

Lots of comics try to say something. Lots of comics try to be deep and resonating and personal and beautiful and real. Very few actually achieve any of that. And in a sea of very similar super hero and zombie comics, a book like Local should be the one in the comics shop window.

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