Megan McKeenan, the young woman at the center of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s comic series Local, is a tough character to like. Which is probably why I ended up liking her so damn much.
Simply put, she screws up. Like, a lot. For most of Local's 12-issue run, she screws up both royally and serially, propelled from bad choice to bad choice by a high-octane blend of impulse, selfishness and emotional need.
Or to put that another way: She’s in her early 20s.
When we first meet her in issue one, however, she’s still only 18 or so, living in Portland, Ore., with an addict boyfriend. By issue’s end, Megan will have dealt with that particular situation by not dealing with it — by ditching the chump and taking off for a new city without a word.
This will turn out to be something of a pattern for her; that pattern supplies Local with its theme and its structure. Each subsequent issue finds Megan roughly one year older than in the one before, having repaired to a new city in the wake of whatever bad bit of business she encountered in the previous issue.
Ryan Wood’s inks bring a meticulous, well-researched attention to each new locale that will have residents playing spot-the-neighborhood-landmark. And the best thing about the oversized, hardcover edition of the run, in stores today, is the ability to pore over Kelly’s rich backgrounds and appreciate their detail without risking an aneurysm.
Wood and Kelly set out to show nothing less than how Megan herself gets shaped by each new city, and by the particular choices — good and bad — she makes there. Over the course of the series, we watch her reckless (okay: dumb) behavior give way to reflection, her youthful, omnidirectional anger gradually recede to reveal a quieter kind of strength.
But Local's creators are more concerned with life than with life lessons, and because they assiduously avoid judging Megan, you probably won't either.
Unless you’ve completely forgotten what you were like to be around in your early 20s.