by Joshua Dysart
illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Vertigo Comics (2010)
Take a 2003 protest album and turn it into a graphic novel: that's basically what the creators of this book were tasked to do.
Personally, I'm not an ardent Neil Young fan. I enjoy quite a few of his songs, but I only ever bought one of his albums and that was a greatest hits album back in the 90s. So, I really had no preconceptions walking into Neil Young's Greendale.
Whatever the album is about, the graphic novel is about an eighteen-year-old girl named Sun Green. She comes from a long line of Green women with hippie-ish names, including Sea and Sky. She's growing up in a small California town called Greendale during the onset of the Iraq War in 2003. She's having nightmares about dead animals and a foreboding stranger, all while various members of her family endure their own turmoil, including a grandfather drifting deeper into senility and a disenfranchised cousin battling depression. It's when she sees the stranger about town when she's awake that she realizes something is really wrong.
The story of Sun's coming of age is fun, especially with the infused fantasy elements thrown in, including the stranger not so coincidentally bears a resemblance to a younger Neil Young. She's incredibly flighty in spots through the first half of the book, like when she hooks up with a young activist vanning his way to Alaska to protest oil drilling. The fun is balanced by some effective tension among a very deeply developed family as a supporting cast. In fact, the family is so rich with back story that it borders on soap opera--the age old love triangle between her grandparents and great uncle ranks high.
Where the story seems to reenter the mundane is towards the end, however, as the promise of epiphany and confrontation falls a little flat. At least with a jade sot like me. The very on-the-nose recriminations of the Bush Administration throughout the book cannot be ignored, but the book is based on a protest album. I just thought the heavy-handedness and almost preachy quality of the book detracted from what was an otherwise engaging story.
If you're an out-and-out liberal, a fan of Neil Young, and/or a fan of YA fantasy, this is a perfect graphic novel to dive into. If you're the complete opposite of any of those, then you'll likely have a soured reading experience. Me? I liked it. Really liked it, to be honest, despite my weariness with not just the war, but the anti-war sentiment.