Sean Maher's Quality Control

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Local #1: Life's tough decisions

As far as I've understood it, Brian Wood's upcoming Oni series with artist Ryan Kelly - Local - will contain more cohesive elements than its clear predecessor, Demo. Where the latter was loosely tied together from issue to issue by a "superpowers in the real world" theme (which had pretty much disappeared by the end of the series), the new book will tie together each issue in at least three ways: a character who appears in every story (though she's not necessarily the main character each time), a tough choice to be made, and a series of twelve locales as the series moves around the country.

I like the idea that the series will hold together tighter than DEMO did. Also, while I'm definitely looking forward to new work from Becky Cloonan on other projects, I've been a big fan of Ryan Kelly's work on Lucifer for years and seeing him on his own, experimenting with very different, black-and-white material is great fun.

So, the issue itself.

It's been reviewed elsewhere and many folks have already mentioned that (A) it takes a format much like the German flick Run Lola Run, bouncing from the same starting point to several different possible outcomes until we get to the "right" one, (B) the city of Portland doesn't make quite as strong an impact on the story as we might've expected, and (C) Kelly's work looks a bit like Paul Pope's. So I'll move on to other observations.

The economy of the storytelling is great. Few creative teams in comics today are able to really put together a solid single-issue story, and it's nice to see that Demo wasn't a fluke in Wood's repertoire, and that other artists can similarly respond to the demands of such a story. The premise of this story is clear after the first page-and-a-half, as Our Young Hero faces a difficult situation with her boyfriend, who has a serious problem. His desperation and her conflicted response to it are crisply scripted and drawn in an evocative, almost melodious style - Kelly really seems to be swinging across each page, creating a visual mood that keeps my eyes moving briskly across the page while nailing me with a haunting image every now and then to punctuate the flow. Crafty, concise stuff.

My only reservation is that the Big Choice that our hero finally makes seems a little too easy and obvious. By the time to story has brought us to the moment of decision, we expect it and find it to be clearly, 100% the right choice. I'm hoping that as the series develops, the options available to the characters become a little greyer, a little more complex and challenging.

However, it nicely sets up the actual means by which the series will travel around the country and still include a common character, and it's a premise I always enjoy. Makes me think of Tom Waits songs about trains and getting lost and bein' broke, not knowing where to go but celebrating the ride when you can.

By and large, this looks like a very promising series, and the clincher is that new readers can "just try it out" and even if they pass on (or otherwise end up missing) the rest of the series, this stands on its own as a story.

A PDF preview of the first nine pages is available here.


  • At 8:57 PM, Blogger Lefty said…

    I disagree that the ending was a bit to easy. I mean she spends most of that issue finding her way out in a way that fulfills what her boyfriend requires, that shows she feels in some way powerless, and it takes all her energy/realities to find the strength to not be a victim to his abuse/problems.

    I do agree it's a great book.

  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Sean Maher said…

    I'm not saying it's an easy decision for the character. I'm saying it's an easy decision for Brian Wood to write and for us to read.

    It's obviously the RIGHT answer. "Do I keep finding ways to accomodate my abusive boyfriend, or do I break free and head out into the world on my own?"

    The answer to that question, morally speaking, is pretty fuckin' obvious, y'know?


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