Book Review: ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley
After being the singular driving force behind a modern pop-culture smash hit you’ve got to expect a bit of scrutiny on your follow up. The now well known Scott Pilgrim comic series (further popularised through the Edgar Wright film adaptation) was not O’Malley’s first published work – that would be Lost at Sea – but it is certainly the franchise his name will forever be associated with. Seconds is thematically and stylistically similar to Scott Pilgrim but doesn’t feel like it is trying to replicate on his big hit.
Seconds is about Katie, a girl in her 20s who has found quick success with a restaurant she opened with her friends. Her friends have moved one and Katie is left living above the restaurant and working hard to save her money to open her new restaurant with her name above the door. One night she encounters the house spirit, an unusual girl who sits above her dresser. The spirit offers her a gift – the chance to undo one mistake by eating a special mushroom. When Katie finds more of the mushrooms under the cellar she begins undoing more and more of her life without considering the consequences. Before she knows it she is spiralling through alternate realities and losing her grip on what matters most.
O’Malley’s art style hasn’t changed much from his previous work so it takes a moment to adjust to a new setting and new characters after the long time spent following the adventures of Scott Pilgrim. Katie and her co-stars are bursting with such personality that it doesn’t take long for readers to get on board with her story (although a couple of choice background cameos not only puts this in the Scott Pilgrim universe but on its timeline). The appearance of the supernatural element sets happily alongside the real-world, relatable problems of the characters. Initially Katie’s attempts to fix her problems present alternate realities where her actions sometimes produce deeper running consequences. Later, when an element of surrealism creeps in, we have the chance to probe deeper aspects of Katie’s psyche.
She’s the wonderfully created character with real world aspirations whose central conflicts stem from an internal decision. Anyone who has regretted a choice made in their life, big or small, will find Katie’s struggles relatable. When afforded the opportunity to undo those mistakes she compounds upon the problem but it’s easy to sympathise with her actions. The darker presence that begins to grow under the restaurant adds an effective countdown to the stories final confrontation, giving the story a tight, well plotted feel.
If you enjoyed O’Malley’s previous works you’d find it easy to get into this new title. If you’re finding your way in the world as an independent you’ll also find Katie’s story easy to relate to. If you want to read a good story…go and by it. A wonderful graphic novel.