Thursday, December 15, 2005

Local #2

What really strikes me about this second issue of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly's Local is that it feels a bit like life. Removed from the superpowers of Demo, Wood is showing he can write simple naturalism that manages to be more dramatic than a pure slice of life. While a well-documented life is a staple of the black-and-white Indy, it often makes for bad stories that can feel sloppily constructed. Wood keeps an excellent balance here of showing us real life, but only showing us the bits that matter. This issue (set in Kelly's hometown of Minneapolis) is a story of two people who obviously have deeply embedded relationship shrapnel, but try to make a connection. Only a year earlier Megan ended a very abusive relationship, so the idea of a "Polaroid Boyfriend" must be attractive: a man that sneaks into her house, leaves pictures of himself, then disappears before she gets home. She never sees him, never speaks to him, but he's always there at the end of the day. As she says: "I like coming home to the pictures. Better than coming home to nothing." It's the ne plus ultra in nonthreatening men: all the caring, none of the messy reality.

In various hands, this scenario could either be the basis for a horror tale, or a romance. It's either Fatal Attraction or Sleepless In Seattle, and Wood realizes it's both. He doesn't shy away from the fact that it's damn weird, and possibly unhinged ... but he ends the issue on a note of romantic hope. Megan herself runs through the gamut of reactions, but finally seems to realize that she needs to make a human connection (not a Polaroid one), and that always involves risk. A relationship where no one can get hurt ... that is what's creepy.

Ryan Kelly again gives the book an emotional depth past the bare bones of the script. Both his environments and characters are flawed and look "lived in", and that realism heightens the balance that Wood is trying to achieve. Since the characters are so quirky and real, it's neither horror or romance. It's just Megan's odd life. Wood mentions in the backmatter that silent scenes (which make up the bulk of this issue) can be tricky, as it takes an accomplished artist to slow the eye down and not let the reader rip through the book in 30 seconds. Kelly's most amazing feat in this issue is just that: his silent panels are highly compressed and rich with information. This reads like a long book, and the silent scenes are the ones that take the longest and are the most rewarding. The opening 13 pages are silent, and I was surprised when I flipped through the book again and realized it was only 13 pages. It felt like a lot more.


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