July 27, 2014

"But something HAD changed."
Bryan Lee O'Malley et al.
Ballantine Books, 2014
336 pages, cmyk, hardcover

Katie isn't happy with her life. She's the successful head cook at a small restaurant called Seconds, but as she aproaches thirty, she realizes that everyone she knew has moved on to better things and that she needs to do something of personal value with her life.
When one night she is visited by a strange young woman and one of her co-workers is hurt because of her neglectful desires, a notebook and a mushroom offer her a second chance to do things right.
This is the basic scenario of what happens in "Seconds", Bryan Lee O'Malley's long awaited book since 2010's Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, the final volume of the series.
If you're expecting something in the line of Scott Pilgrim, I mean, an action/romance comic with lots of fighting and video game references, then you're going to be disappointed. But if you're expecting something in the line of Scott Pilgrim, a comic about young people trying to cope with their decisions that has an element of the supernatural (not in the traditional sense in Pilgrim), then this is exactly what you were looking for.
In fact, I believe Seconds is a stronger comic than Scott Pilgrim.
Bryan Lee O'Malley's art is crisper than ever, a confident line than has cut out (almost) all the extra fat and uses the essential to represent action and emotion. His character designs remain flawless and he has this way of tapping into a youthful fashion that is rarely seen in other artists. It also helps immeasurably that this time around he has Jason Fischer as his drawing assistant, filling every page with the smallest detail that makes the whole the more pleasureable.
Another thing that this book has that the original editions of Scott Pilgrim didn't is Nathan Fairbairn's colors, adding another level of enjoyability to an already beautiful comic.
In terms of plot, it's a relatively simple story about trying to do the right thing and not knowing when to stop, you just add a twist of supernatural and a bit of quarter-life crisis and the formula is set.
The best thing about the book is its main character, Katie, she is extremely well developed, as it should be since it's her life and relationship with the restaurant that is dissected throught the book's three hundred plus pages. And all because of this habit of her of constantly narrating her life.
Not having to rely on constant references to pop culture and video games and instead on character based humor to give your reader the most subtle of smiles is yet another aspect of this book that I think makes its stronger than O'Malley's previous series.
My only less positive remark is about the ending that is a bit too sacarine for my taste. After all the character has been through I can see why a happy ending is in order, specially if your aim is to please a larger audience, but it just didn't feel real to me. Then again, real isn't about house spirits and reality-warping mushrooms (no, not that kind!).
But (!) as it is implicit in the begin of this text, it's a matter of personal taste, of what you're expecting of a Bryan Lee O'Malley comic. I can only say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this comic.

P.s.: a shout-out to Dustin Harbin's, comics' coolest traditional letterer.

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