Bryan Lee O’Malley
Ballantine Books, $25
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds is a difficult book to review. As a dude who gets paid to review comics, it’s sometimes hard to be critical and fair of the material from creators that you really dig. You have to separate the fan from the professional, and all that junk, or risk losing whatever credibility with have.
It’s also difficult to review Seconds because it’s really friggin good, and now I have to stretch that point out for 500 words without the end result sounding like an ad for the book.
Seconds is the Hayao Miyazaki movie for adults that I’ve always wanted. And note, I don’t mean it’s mature in the sense of violence, adult language and sexy time stuffs (although there is some of the cursing and sexy times). It’s very much a story that someone like myself who in his early 30s can appreciate and relate to.
The story of Seconds is this, and I apologize in advance for some of the brief but potential light spoilers brought up ONLY in this paragraph. Our lead Kate
Bish is a talented young chef on the cusp of 30. She has plans to open a new restaurant, but her world and plans are quickly rocked by several different problems that spring up all at once. Kate’s offered a chance to fix these problems with access to time travel via a strange mushroom offered by a even stranger woman, but is given some rules to follow. Kate also immediately breaks these rules and that’s going to be a problem obviously.
Let’s talk about O’Malley’s art first. Assisted by Jason Fischer and colored by Nathan Fairbairn, O’Malley’s style reminds me of a Super Nintendo era Japanese Role Playing game set in the world of Scott Pilgrim. That’s like several levels of references, I understand that, but honestly that’s the best way to describe it. That being said, the end results are beautiful, especially when O’Malley tries something different and goes full Miyazaki. There’s also some really strong horror manga moments to this book, which really work thanks to Fairbairn’s colors. This is my first time experiencing O’Malley’s interior work in color ( long side note: he’s done some Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie comic covers in color that I’m aware of, but I’m skipping over the colored versions of Scott Pilgrim because $$$) and I’m really digging it. There’s a lot of use of the color red in this book, which I think is intentional and may have some deeper meaning, but I’m still trying to figure that out. Luckily, Seconds is the type of book that encourages re-reads, despite the plot being relatively straight forward and easy to understand.
In terms of plot and dialogue, Seconds is also pretty great. The story, according to O’Malley on a Nerdist podcast, is heavily influenced by the film Inception, but it definitely stands on it own. The dialogue is also very natural, not unlike Scott Pilgrim before it, and is incredibly charming. Watching Kate development relationships with her cast is as delightful as her time traveling/altering misadventures, and ultimately makes her a more relatable lead.
Seconds is arguably one of the most, if not the most important comics released in 2014, and it’s something you can’t afford to miss. Bryan Lee O’Malley is easily one of the most talented people working in the medium today, and Seconds a fantastic read. I cannot recommend you reading this book soon enough.