Another blast from the past! In this piece, Keb takes a look (and a snipe) at Brian Wood's Local and where the series went right and wrong.
This piece was originally published sometime before I originally published the Alan Moore piece (from Monday). It was one of my more critical looks at a book that I had high hopes for. I recently read the series again about a year ago and I still have the same gripes. Therefore, this piece still remains entirely credible. Enjoy!
I finally got the last two issues of Local in the mail. I’d almost given up on and forgotten about the series until about a month ago when my friend Nate told me the last issue came out.
I decided to drag the other ten issues out of my long-box and read the entire thing from start to finish. There are a lot of really great things about this series, such as Ryan Kelly’s art. Some of the issues are well-written, some are poorly written. The thing I liked about each single issue was the little essay that Wood and Kelly would each write for the back-matter. A few things about these essays started to bother me as I read.
From Wood’s essay in issue one: “Poor Megan McKeenan. Look for her to pop up in every issue of LOCAL, sometimes as the lead, sometimes as just a background character.”
From Wood’s essay in issue eleven: “…it underscores how important Megan became to me as time went on, that she changed as time went on, that she changed from a nameless tour guide to, basically, the outright star of this series.”
I believe here, Wood has committed a sin in terms of writing: he got too attached to his character. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but his attachment deviated the plot a great deal.
Maybe I too became attached to Megan McKeenan, enough to buy all twelve issues of Local, but I think I became attached to the idea initially, and the complete-ist in me wouldn’t let series go. There are some truly bad issues like issue seven about that irritating kid or issue four about those two bickering brothers. There are some issues where Wood nailed the idea of Local on the head, like issues two and three (and in some respects, even issue six). But once the series got about mid-swing, the character of Megan became more important than the city she was in and the idea behind the series changed too much for my liking.
I’ll take issue 3 as the quintessential example of what the series should be. There are three or four separate narratives revolving around this telephone interview about a band, placing the various members in different spots around Richmond, VA. Megan pops up, and goes away quickly. The issue starts with a look at the city, the issue ends zeroing in on a single spot in the city. Well done!
Now the perfect example of how the series went wrong is in issue 9. In this issue, set in Norman, OK, Megan journeys to the spot where her parents met with her then-boyfriend Len (who isn’t named until issue 12). The issue revolves around Megan’s memories, it becomes all about her relationship with her mother. It begins in Chicago and ends with a shot of Megan’s face. I just didn’t care.
I’m sorry but I just don’t care much for Megan. She’s too one-dimensional and typical to try and give life to. It’s like trying to breathe life into a beaten plastic bag full of holes. She’s no different from every traveling-man in literature and making her a female doesn’t really do much for the character. I think the initial idea should have been stuck to throughout, and Megan should have stayed a minor character, or as Wood puts it “a vessel” in a story about places where we as humans live. This is why I think it’s important to stick with the original idea of the series. By getting attached to the character, Wood really dropped a lot of readers into the mud, those readers who really enjoyed the idea of the “local” in the series. I felt like a lot of issues centered on Megan to develop her character needlessly, and sacrificed the essential idea, leaving us only with glimpses into the setting instead of putting any focus on it.
Or maybe I’m just jealous of Megan because she had an Atmosphere CD in 1995, two years before the group put out any material. I’ll take my no-prize now, thank you.