Graphic Novel Review: Neil Young’s Greendale

Neil Young’s Greendale

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Cliff Chiang
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Todd Klein

$19.99 / 160 pages / Full Color / Hardcover

Cliff Chiang mentioned this project to us a couple of years ago, as he was leaving Green Arrow / Black Canary, and I remember thinking, “hey, good for Cliff!” while simultaneously, shrugging off any of my own interest.  We’re all aware that most of the time, these celebrity pet project comics don’t turn out so great.  That’s not always the case though.  Just look at The Umbrella Academy, or… it seems I can’t think of another.  

Greendale is a story loosely based on the work of Neil Young, as as I understand it, he served as a sort of executive producer for the book, guiding what the book became, but leaving the scripting and heavy lifting to Joshua Dysart, a writer whose talent unfortunately far outshadows his acclaim.  Add in the best in coloring and lettering, with Dave Stewart and Todd Klein, and you’ve got one hell of a creative team working in service of Neil Young’s story about a small town named Greendale, and the odd family who live there, the Greens.

Sun Green is a teenager in 2003.  She has the odd ability to climb very well, and animals like her a lot.  She’s going through a separation with the old parts of her life, making discoveries about herself and her past, while leaving behind things like cheerleading.  There have been some strange happenings in her family’s past, and she wants to get to the bottom of it.  That’s when things start getting strange.  For one thing her dad is starting to go nuts, as is her cousin, and she meets a nice boy in a bar, just about the time the devil shows up in town, looking a lot like Neil Young, making people do bad things.  This all takes place while the Iraq War builds up a good head of steam in the background.  Sun learns more and more about the very odd things that happened to women in her family, and she realizes there is something different about her as well.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but that shouldn’t be that hard, because I’m not really sure what it was, or what it had to do with anything.  Sadly, the whole of the book doesn’t seem equal to the sum of its parts.  No one dropped the ball, but I just don’t get what the point was.  It might be that the girl is basically Swamp Thing, but what that has to do with protesting the Iraq War, I couldn’t tell you.  The script isn’t terrible. Dysart’s character work is very good, and he built a world full of interesting and unique people, for whom you want good things to happen. It’s just that they don’t. The art is the beautiful, clean style we know and love from Cliff Chiang.  The colors are wonderful and warm, enveloping the world of Greendale in a soft, verdant palate.  But at the end, I’m not sure why.  The basic concepts don’t coalesce into something I found ultimately satisfying, and I have to wonder if it was because the basic narrative this book was built around wasn’t strong enough to survive.  If Neil Young hadn’t brought this book to Vertigo, this book wouldn’t have happened.  I don’t blame a publisher for wanting to bring in some of that big rock star audience, but it doesn’t seem like the ideal way to build an organic story.  It feels kind of like a rock song.  Except in a rock song, you don’t have to have the same sorts of strong narrative elements as you do in a story like this, and I suppose it's easier to inexplicably transform it into a war protest.  They all did their best, but in the end, while certainly intriguing, Greendale falls a bit flat.

Story: 2.5 stars    Art: 4.5 stars        Overall: 3 stars


  1. Can’t think of another awesome celebrity pet project?!  MAYHEM!!!!!

    Anyways, awesome review – I was sorta looking forward to this book for Cliff Chiang’s art but I’m not too familiar with Neil Young and his music.  Good to know that at least the art is worth it.

  2. MAYHEM!

  3. It’s unfortunate that the story isn’t on the same level as the art.  I may give this a read via interlibrary loan.

  4. Good review. I really love Neil Young’s older stuff and I was thinking of actually getting the album, even though it’s one of his newer works, but I didn’t really dig any of the songs after I previewed them on iTunes. 

  5. O_o…

    >_>”’ who’s Neil Young?

  6. *sarcasm.

  7. When I first heard of the project, I was worried that this would be the case with the book.  I was open minded though because that Tori Amos book did gang busters, and that proved that a graphic novel with musical ties could do well. 

    It’s disappointing that it fell flat because it just seems like it should have been amazing.  Maybe if the story hadn’t been so strongly tied to the original music, there could have been a more powerful and cohesive story?