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Comics Review: Local a refreshing take on slice-of-life tales

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Writer Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly are the talents behind the novel 12-part comic book series Local, which is a series of loosely related slice-of-life stories, each issue taking place in a different part of the country, all somehow relating to one girl’s life. Two issues have been published to date, and it’s worth looking for at your neighborhood comics shop.

I haven’t read Wood’s highly acclaimed DEMO, the toast of comic book critics last year (although I’ve got the collection on order). But Local, published by Oni Press, doesn’t require any sort of introduction — you just dive right in and enjoy the tale. #1’s bittersweet script features a girl named Megan at a crossroads in her life, and her lightning-quick thoughts about which ways she might go. #2 catches up with Megan, now in Minneapolis, and her strange flirtations with a mystery man. Each story is light on plot, but big on honest, real moments and details. Megan will apparently be a part of each issue, according to Wood.

Wood’s script is given life by great, weighty art by Ryan Kelly, whose thick and fluid, detailed style is a thing of beauty. Many comic artists can’t draw anything not in spandex or exploding, but Kelly handles the many little permutations of real life. Panels are packed with tiny, telling fragments of the characters’ lives. The setting in a different city each issue is a nice touch — the first issue was Portland, Oregon, which I’m pretty familiar with, and the second, Minneapolis, where I’ve never been, but in both issues Kelly’s art makes you feel like you’ve visited the city. #2 includes a cool page of hip “factoids” on Minneapolis written by a local (I wish #1 had done the same for Portland and hope this feature continues).

I’m curious to see where Local is going, if there’s a giant overarching story or more a series of moments, but either way, it’s shaping up to be one of the best independent comics on the market.

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