Following the massive success of the Scott Pilgrim series and the graphic novel Lost at Sea, Bryan Lee O’Malley is giving fans with another unforgettable masterpiece. Seconds is a charming graphic novel that follows a young female protagonist named Katie, the head chef of a well-known restaurant with high expectations and ambitions to open an eatery of her own. Though she eyes her goals with fierce determination, love complicates things for Katie (just as it does in O’Malley’s other novels) and she struggles with unresolved issues between herself and her ex. One day, Katie crosses paths with a supernatural force that gives her the opportunity to erase a past mistake by simply writing it down in a notebook, eating a mushroom, and falling asleep. For Katie, utilizing this opportunity leads to inexplicably abrupt sequences of mysterious happenings, keeping readers hooked yet confused when following Katie’s quest for perfection. As paranormal as it all seems, Seconds isn’t your typical time traveling, past-altering sci-fi tale; it is one exploring the consequences of striving for flawlessness.
With each release, Bryan Lee O’Malley tells tales that are progressively more thematically mature and atmospherically psychedelic,but he does not leave behind the quirks of past works that made his novels great. There are numerous references to pop culture and flashbacks to Scott Pilgrim, including guest appearances of characters from previous books. However, the most prominent allusion of them all is the art style; if there is one thing definitely remains consistent throughout O’Malley’s works, it’s the simple cartoony art showcased in each panel. Seconds is not a graphic novel by the artistic standards of Watchmen or V for Vendetta, but it is rather a more understated take on visual storytelling that is reminiscent of the simplistic style of some anime comics. This makes characters and written content all the more memorable and exemplifies O’Malleys skill at doing whole a lot with just a little.
In terms of storytelling, Seconds showcases some of O’Malley’s best work. With a perfect blend of maturity taken from Lost at Sea and the occasional ridiculousness and humor of Scott Pilgrim, Seconds is quirky and does it well. It knows when to be funny and when to be serious, unlike many of the hit-or-miss graphic novels that aim to be simultaneously funny and meaningful.The character development is also interesting and visible throughout, boasting dynamically relatable characters going through the struggles of young-adult life.
Whether you read the book because you enjoyed Scott Pilgrim, appreciate nods to pop culture, or just like graphic novels in general, Seconds will have you coming back for more no matter what.
This article originally appeared in the August/September, 2015 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Alan Ke, a student at the International School of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.