Local by Ryan Kelly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I wanted to like this book, I swear I did.
The art is gorgeous and has depth despite being exclusively in black and white. It’s evocative and distinctive. Plus the main character has freckles-you don’t see that a lot in comics.
And my fiance recommended it to me, and most of the time that means I’m going to love it.
But I just don’t “get” Local. Or rather, by the time I did “get” it, I didn’t care anymore.
Local is an indie comic that I read in large trade form: I’m not sure if it originally debuted as individual single issues, but I pity the reader who tried to follow the story that way if it did. The idea is basically 12 loosely tied together short stories generally but not always revolving around Megan McKeenan. It’s billed as a “coming of age” story, and supposedly the stories are told sequentially by year, with Megan aging a year between each.
But it’s a mess to follow. You can’t tell that time is jumping around, and because the place IS ALSO jumping around (one of the central themes is moving around and trying to become “local” in new cities), it feels completely disjointed. Oh, and if that’s not enough jumping for you, you also jump around with point-of-view characters, including one section that focused on the lead of a band that is never again mentioned.
So. Supposedly it’s a coming-of-age story for Megan, but it comes across as a jumble. Ignoring all the non-directly Megan stuff, you’re left with the portrait of an extremely screwed up girl. Between bad luck and poor choices–and poor choices which, I feel, vastly outstrip “normal teen experiences” with their horribleness–her life is one catastrophe after another. I just want to buy her a sandwich and direct her to a counseling center.
And yet, despite the repeated failures of her life, we’re supposed to believe that things more or less all work out in the end for her. I’m finding that very hard to believe, though the final story tries hard to make it sound like she has finally seen her problems and they just sort of got better.
The “lesson” I got from this story is “life sucks and then you die.” Which…just isn’t my kind of thing to read for pleasure. Your results my vary.
No, Megan’s story is tragic at best, an overdramatic moral tale at worst.
But the art is beautiful, so if you’re feeling existential and/or you are an impressionable teenager, Local might be for you.
2 responses to “Review: Local”
This is a different take than I’m used to, but valid nonetheless. Her search for identity can def read as muddled, but one redeeming quality is the ability of Wood and Kelly to capture the essence of each local scene. Really works well as a travelogue. Great review!
Thanks Ronell. Maybe I would have liked it better if I had known more of the places and could vouch for the personality each had. I appreciate the insight!