Sunday, September 25, 2011

Neil Young's Greendale

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Cliff Chiang

I will confess that I'm not a Neil Young fan.  I know that, for a Canadian, I'm risking a lot in making such a statement, but his music is not my thing, and I didn't know until I read this book that he's made movies.  So there.  Why buy the comic then?  I have a lot of respect for Joshua Dysart's Unknown Soldier, which was one of the best books Vertigo published in the last decade, and Cliff Chiang is an amazing artist.

The story, which is based on a concept album and film of the same name, works as an interesting study of a young girl from a family filled with mysterious and powerful women who have a tendency to disappear.  Sun Green, the youngest of the family after whom the town of Greendale California is named, is torn up inside, trying to understand her place in the world, and the strange elemental-like abilities she exhibits.  Her female ancestors all had similar abilities, and they all have more or less disappeared.

The book explores Sun's relationship with her grandfather, who has Alzheimer's, her cousin, who is an angry drug runner, and her parents, who are artists but don't quite understand her.  Then, a mysterious man starts showing up in town, and things get harder for Sun.

There's a lot to like about this book.  The characters and their relationships to each other are fully realized, and setting Sun's environmentalism against the backdrop of the beginning of the war in Iraq helps show how America's priorities were shifting at that time.

Chiang's art is as beautiful as it always is, although the colours of the book were purposely washed out, in a way that I don't think works all that well.  I'm not sure how this material worked as an album or film, because it seems perfect for comics.

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