Local changed how I viewed comics.
I started reading this book about three years ago, with the first issue. I’ve been a comics junkie for years now, but Local was something different. It read like a short film, and its single-issue size made it feel like a perfect indie rock song.
Now all twelve issues have been collected into a beautiful, oversize hardcover, complete with backmatter from the originals and extra art to boot.
It’s more a mixtape than a movie, a series of significant moments from one girl’s life strung together to show, at the end, how she became who she is. And real memories are like that, too–single days or even hours that stand out more than entire months or years, sometimes. Those pieces of your life that, after they happen, you know you’ll never be the same again. They’re what Local is all about.
Megan McKeenan is a teenager when the series starts, and we follow her through twelve years of travel, of changes, of failed relationships and family dramas and even little run-ins that may seem insignificant but upon reflection meant so much more.
Who doesn’t remember the time when you met a musician or artist you idolized, only to have them disappoint? And isn’t that as life-changing a moment as the collapse of your first love? There’s nothing so trite here as lost virginity, leaving for college, or graduation. Just the little things that you remember later.
The photo-perfect details of Megan’s surroundings–a different Local each issue–somehow by their very specificity make each story more universal. Rendered in deceptively simple black and white by Ryan Kelly , the settings are those places we all remember and love: your neighborhood bar or coffee shop, the pharmacy, the indie movie house, even the soulless subdivision your parents stuck you in before you were old enough to run away and start your own adventures.
Critics, mostly male, love to point out that Megan screws up a lot in the Local books. But I love her more for it, that she’s the antithesis of the manic pixie dream girl that we see so often in movies like Garden State. She’s not beautiful and she’s not perfect and she doesn’t make everything all better in the end. Because after all, aren’t the mistakes we make the things that really shape us?
Brian Wood is the master of the single-issue comic, which is infinitely harder than the ongoing story the way writing a short story is infinitely harder than writing a novel. Every detail must be loaded with meaning, and any missing piece can bring the whole house of cards down. He’s found his artistic match in Ryan Kelly, and together they’ve created one of the most complete portraits of a person that I’ve read not just in comics, but anywhere.
At the end of Megan’s story I was sad, but satisfied. I’ve gotten to know her over the course of three years, sometimes with the comics coming every month and sometimes not. She’s come to feel like an old friend, one I catch up with on a semi-regular basis to share the stories of what’s happened in between.
Now I want to share her with you. You can read her story all at once, or pick and choose your favorite bits, along with the notes from her creators from the back of each issue, and extra art, with other artists’ views of Megan.
I hope you love it as much as I do.
(and if I haven’t sold you, you can read an issue for FREE here .)