Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Seconds” Graphic Novel Review: More Please!

 

BY COLIN HERZOG

 

To most, the name Bryan Lee O’Malley might be an unfamiliar one and, to be fair, it has been a while since his last work, the popular graphic novel series “Scott Pilgrim” (it was adapted into a film, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” by Edgar Wright), which ended in 2010. Released as a one shot this past July, is “Seconds” worth the wait? Overall, through its often wonderful artwork, interesting environment and relatable main lead, “Seconds” is definitely worth a fan’s time, but may turn off some readers due to its brand of humor and more hipster style.

“Seconds” follows Katie, a chef in her early 30s who is attempting to open her own restaurant in downtown Toronto, while living upstairs in her old one, Seconds. Her plans take an uneasy turn once progress on the renovation stalls, her ex-boyfriend shows up, and one of her waitresses gets badly burned in a kitchen accident. However, everyone deserves a second chance and Katie gets hers when a mysterious girl shows up and tells her, by writing a mistake down and ingesting a magic mushroom, the past will be changed. With the power to alter the past, Katie’s about to realize that fixing something doesn’t make things turn out for the better.

Granted, the whole “mistakes are a necessary part of life” story is a familiar one, but that doesn’t change the fact that O’Malley certainly puts his own spin on the concept, making it feel fresh once more.

Part of this can be attributed to his unique art style, which tends to lean more towards rounder, more anime/cartoonish rather than realism, enabling each character to have a distinct character design and the range of emotions he can instill on each face, even if they’re just background characters, is eye-grabbing (look for cameos from Scott, Stephen Stills and other characters from his previous works)—however, where O’Malley’s artwork tends to shine is in his backgrounds and layouts. Suffice to say that they are exquisite and detailed and he is not afraid to have pages of silence in favor of showing rather than telling, lending the scenes a power that might not be expected from the mushroom-chomping premise.

In addition, the story follows through with its mistake-correcting premise, taking it to a logical conclusion that is as unsettling as it is fascinating, thus giving each correction an inadvertent cost that makes watching each change both satisfying and bittersweet at times. Katie proves to be an interesting protagonist and her supporting cast at Seconds are interesting as well, with standouts being Andrew and Hazel.

Unfortunately, it’s partially in the supporting cast that some of the characters fall flat or aren’t explored enough to endear themselves—in particular, Max, the ex-boyfriend who becomes a large part of Katie’s character arc, doesn’t really have much of a character to himself beyond his role, thus leaving some wondering what makes him worth the trouble and attention Katie gives him.

In addition, as interesting as O’Malley’s character designs are, they can be a little inconsistent between how detailed or tall he wants to make them, depending on the panel, so sometimes it’s a bit difficult to get a gauge on the tone. Speaking of, that may also be a turn off to some readers: it is more of a dry-humor, rather than comedy focused and seems to occasionally be trying too hard to sound like someone pretending to be in their early 20s—which fits thematically, but might get a tad grating for some.

Overall though, “Seconds” is a solid, enjoyable, and at times thought-provoking graphic novel that is worth a look.

 

Rating: 4/5

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