Have I told you that I hated the movie Garden State? I really didn't want to; I like Zack Braff - well, I like Scrubs, at least - and I'm an indie kid who's all about the emotional sentimentality, so I felt as if I was the target market for it; I even like Simon and Garfunkel's soundtrack for The Graduate! But when I saw it, it was an awkward and uncomfortable movie that was emo in all the worst ways, the cinematic equivalent of putting on your sister's eyeliner and sitting in a corner telling yourself that no-one understands your pain, man. Even "The Only Living Boy In New York" can only help so much. The worst part of it for me, though, was that I couldn't buy into the central concept. My own mother had died not that long before I saw the movie, and so maybe everything was far too raw for me at that point, but I spent the entire movie annoyed at the way that the main character's mother's death was both hijacked as life-changing cathartic McGuffin and sidelined as not-as-important-as-Natalie-Portman-playing-kooky at the same time. I wanted to go into the movie and tell Braff that it's not like that, and then ask him to go back to being funny again.
LOCAL #9 is a death of a mother story that resonated with me to a ridiculous degree. It's not as if my relationship with my mother was anything like Megan's, nor even that I reacted in the same way to my mother's death that Megan does to her's. But nonetheless, there's an emotional honesty to the story here that's impossible to miss. Maybe it's in how quiet the issue is - even for this series, which is hardly slambang fireworks each issue - and the way that Ryan Kelly's artwork mirrors that silence with the space he gives to Megan throughout the issue (the page where she's travelling home, alone, crying on the train, is beautiful), or maybe it's in the way that the issue breaks from what's gone before and becomes much more reflective and full of memory; Megan becomes, in a way, less self-involved and stops hiding from her past and herself because she's forced by events to remember, for once in her life.
It's a skillful issue, the best of a series that has consistently been worthwhile. It works in two separate ways, the way that one-off issues always should but rarely do, both as a short story complete in and of itself, but also illuminating the series and the character as a whole. We get to understand Megan more this issue, not only because we find out about her childhood but because of how she reacts to current events (Which also shows how much she's changed; the Megan who kept changing her name as a way of staying distant and safe from the world in #5 would have taken the news very differently - Again, illuminating the series, like I said). Perhaps best of all, it's wonderfully messy; it doesn't seek to reveal all in its 20-odd pages, nor even to self-consciously set-up questions for future issues or the reader to answer. It just lets you look at people trying to do the best they can, even if they don't know what that is. There's no resolution or attempt at explanation or judgement, and it's all the better for it.
PICK OF THE WEEK - yes, I know, I've not talked about what else is out this week yet, but trust me here - and Very Good. Go and buy.