The Old 52: Local

If you haven't read it, it's new to you. Every month I try to supplement the New 52 with a series from the Old 52. Series I've never read, but have always meant to.
When it was new: Local is a 12-issue indy series from Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly and published in black and white at Oni Press between 2005 and 2008. It has since been collected into a single volume.

Premise: A series of 12 short stories spanning about 12 years, and each in a different North American city or town, using places and other elements locals from those places would immediately recognize. Even so, Local wasn't meant to be opaque to non-natives, and each story would be universal, an event in the life of Megan McKeenan, a 17-year-old girl we would follow until she was 30. As originally conceived, she would sometimes be the lead, sometimes be a supporting character, and sometimes be an extra in these stories. As it turned out, the project became about HER story, with an occasional look at other people from her family.

Search for review... Review located: Can I just say, right off the bat, that I love it when writers give themselves a challenge and various constraints like this. Wood, whom I've followed through DMZ and Northlanders, has always been adept at creating a big picture from smaller stories, and here the picture is of one young woman. Why IS Megan moving around so much? That, and her final destination, is the mystery. Each issue was designed around a map of North America, and each of 12 places are well researched (taking the year - the story starts in 1994 - into account as well) and beautifully rendered by Ryan Kelly, who has a fluid brush stroke and a talent for facial and bodily expression. Some cities are big and well known, like Portland OR or Austin TX, while others are more rural, like Missoula MT. As a proud Atlantic Canadian, I was stoked that Megan lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for a bit! And of course, the stories themselves have variety. I love the way Megan imagines the events of the first issue in various ways before the writer commits to a single variety. Or the almost silent issue in which a strange stalker enters her apartment to leave Polaroid messages. Some of the stories stand quite well on their own, while others are definitely part of Megan's arc. There's violence and there's love. The ghosts of the past and the uncertainty of the future. It's a life. You won't always agree with Megan's decisions, but that's what makes her a real person. Her inability to connect with the people and places around her is at the very heart of the series, and each story explores that theme cleverly and passionately.
I'm quite impressed by Ryan Kelly's art in Local. Wood hasn't given him easy briefs. Not only must he render real places without making them look like photo reference, but he has to project the feeling of those places as well. Some scripts are incredibly wordy and could have turned into boring talking heads. Others have very little-to-no dialog, leaving it to the art to tell an effective and moving story. Kelly takes on every challenge and succeeds admirably. For art fans, there's even more, as Kelly's various pin-ups are supplemented by other Megans by professional and fan artists alike. A beautiful, beautiful project from two expert craftsmen.

Trade in for one of the New52? In a heartbeat. I mean, do we really need a book like Voodoo out there?

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