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Neil Young's Greendale (Review)

Josh Desert and Cliff Chiang, Vertigo

By Rich Shivener · June 9th, 2010 · Lit
You might already love Sun Green. You might already love her flowing blonde hair, her activist demeanor and her happy place, the Double E Ranch. She is the center of the Greendale “musical novel” and film, both written and produced by Neil Young.

Now the Greendale story is ready in graphic novel form via Vertigo, with writer Joshua Dysart and illustrator Cliff Chiang re-imagining the tale of this California town and the Green family. Neil Young had a hand in it, too, but it’s clear the creative team had the freedom to highlight the more fantastical elements of the story. It’s a political mouthpiece accented beautifully by panels exploding with environmental activism and rural fantasy.

In a way, the Greendale graphic novel isn’t a storyboard of the movie, nor is it a strict lyric-by-lyric interpretation of the album. (And thank God for that — we don’t need another illustrated lyric book.) Still, the story looks at Sun Green, a teenager ready to stand against the California energy crisis and oil drilling in Alaska, controversies that empower the harmonica-wielding antagonist named Stranger (or Young’s devilish twin).

The fight boils down to this: Nature versus capitalism. But Dysart and Chiang show us Sun Green’s biggest challenge/question: “What the hell is going on with the Green family?” Following Sun, we meet the weathered Arius Green, his grizzled brother Captain John Green and the suicidal, gun-toting Jed Green, Sun’s cousin.

They’re all popping off the panels, but the most interesting characters are the vaguely meta-human family members, including Sun, who, like other Green women, is a disciple of nature. (Grandma Ciela could marry Swamp Thing.)

Dysart and Chiang’s strongest moments, though, explore Sun’s dreamscape, in which she tries to understand the mantra “Be the Rain” and why a giant mountain goat is chasing her. Grade: B



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