Local #1

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ryan Kelly
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

Glancing at the cover to Local #1, you might get the wrong impression. I suppose you could think, based on the title of the comic and the map with Portland, Oregon highlighted that this is something that will really only appeal or speak to people who are, well, locals. Just in case you got that impression, let me assure you that it’s not the case at all. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Local is the kind of book that everyone will relate to.

Megan McKeenan’s had better days. She’s sitting in a car outside of Nob Hill Pharmacy while her boyfriend forges a drug prescription that he wants her to purchase for him. The easiest route seems to just be to do what he’s asking, but is it really the best choice? Or would Megan’s other options just turn out to be even worse? Is there really such a thing as a happy ending?

Brian Wood had in my mind two distinct goals to achieve in Local #1: to introduce Megan (who will appear, in varying levels of importance, in all twelve issues of Local) and to simultaneously make the issue stand on its own as a single unit of enjoyment. It’s an important line to be able to balance between the two; make Megan interesting enough and with a hook or two to make the reader want to know more about her, but at the same time still ensure that “Ten Thousand Thoughts Per Second” is a conclusive story. With both of these objectives, I think he’s succeeded. Megan’s multiple scenarios that run through her head say a lot about her as a person, letting us see how she sees a situation and both her initial method of reacting as well as her ability to stop and really think through a decision. Her instinct isn’t always what would lead her down the best path, and it’s something that she understands about herself. Best of all, the decision that she does make is satisfying because while it’s a definitive end to the bad situation that she’s in, it’s not an easy or even simple choice that she makes. On some level she’s still throwing away what she decides is an acceptable loss to remove herself from the scene, and it’s that decision that ultimately draws me in. I want to know more about Megan, both about where she’s going now as well as where she’s been. In other words, Wood’s hooked me.

I’m primarily familiar with Ryan Kelly’s art through his collaborations with Peter Gross on Lucifer, as well as being the artist for the Giant Robot Warriors graphic novel. For people who only know him as a finisher for Gross, they might be more than a little surprised at what Kelly’s full art looks like. It’s a lush, fluid style and I can’t help but be a little delighted that the first issue involves a rainy day for him to draw. Kelly has a thick, lush ink line that brings everything to life here; I love the look of Megan’s face and the expressions that cross it, the look of the trees dotting Nob Hill Pharmacy, and even the buckles on Megan’s backpack. Kelly’s also good at handling a lot of action on the page; Wood’s script often calls for six or seven panels on a page, and in an industry which puts far too much emphasis on the splash page it’s nice to see strong storytelling instead. Something as simple as Megan’s frantic run down the street becomes effective thanks to the panel progression, having Megan almost tumble towards the reader with a frantic look on her face.

The first issue of Local is by all means a success; it kicks off the twelve-issue series with a strong story about choices taken and otherwise, as well as providing a strong hook in the form of Megan to make people want to come back for future installments. Add in an attractive cover completing the package (and it sounds silly but the brown-and-blue color combination up in the logo comes across so strongly that I can’t help but love it) and you’ve got a real winner. Here’s looking forward to eleven more installments.

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