We Love the City

The monologue is my preferred method of discourse.

Local #9

I’d forgotten how good Local could be.

It’s understandable, I suppose. The book has shipped pretty sporadically for a while now. And while I loved the first three issues (the first four? I go back and fourth on #4, but more on that later), the last few issues have been merely good.

But #9 is very good. Very, very good, indeed.

In a way, I’m reminded of Six Feet Under, and not just because this issue is about death and remembrance. Six Feet Under was often a difficult show to like: At any given point in the series, there was probably at least one main character acting like a complete jackass; the show was never afraid to explore the unpleasantness of human beings. And the show hit something of a rough spot in the fourth season, along with That’s My Dog, an episode that is both loved and hated for its divergence from the show’s usual tone.

Local had its own That’s My Dog with the fourth issue, Two Brothers, when a series that seemed to be all about subtle character work was interrupted with violence. (Interestingly, both stories begin with a seemingly innocuous hitchhiker; but then, I suppose a lot of stories do.) Two Brothers was a tonal departure from the series, but not a thematic one: Local has always been about making choices and taking responsibility (or not). And regardless of your feelings on the story itself, Two Brothers – like That’s My Dog – set the stage for the rest of the series. Set things up, knock them down, and then pick up the pieces.

Poor Megan McKeenan, who seemed to be getting her life together after a dubious beginning, had everything shaken. In the fifth issue, she was obviously kind of fucked up, but still likeable. By the end of the sixth issue, though, the reader would be forgiven for thinking Megan a complete bitch. The seventh issue offers a bit of a reprieve of sorts – Megan’s not really in it, but instead we meet her cousin Nicky, who’s even more of a fuckup but without the virtue having made any effort to pull it all together. The eighth issue came back to Megan, who seemed to be getting it all back together.

And so, of course, Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly have to pull the rug out from under her again. (They’re really bastards, you know.) Megan receives the news that her mother has died, takes a trip with her boyfriend, and relives some old memories.

Yes, I realize I just spent three paragraphs summing up the series and then covered the latest issue in two sentences. Suffice it to say that if you were getting annoyed with Megan’s behaviour, all will be forgiven with this issue. It ties up the series so perfectly that this could very easily be the final issue; it helps to explain how Megan got to where she was when the series began. And if you’ve been reading the series from that beginning, it’s entirely possible you may feel the slightest hint of a tear as you read this issue.

Local has been something of a rarity in comics these days: A book deliberately written for the single-issue format. Wood and Kelly have so far created eight stories that stood almost perfectly on their own, though each issue built on the last. In this respect, too, the book reminds me of Six Feet Under: Even when the series hit a lull, even when the characters got annoying and the stories began to drag, it was always going somewhere, always building, always heading to some unspecified release point. For Local, the ninth issue is that release point: This is what it’s all been about so far.

In that way, actually, this ninth issue is something of a failure as far as self-contained stories go. I suppose it’s a perfectly good story if you haven’t been following Local, but if you know Megan’s story so far, this is a great comic. The best issue of the series to date, and quite likely the best single issue of a comic I’ve read this year.