Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

It has been four years since Bryan Lee O’Malley released the sixth and final volume of his Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim's Finest HourIt has been well over two years since his new book, Seconds, was announced. And it was three weeks after the release of the book that I was able to sit down and read it. It was worth the wait.

Seconds is the story of Katie, a 29 year old chef at a popular restaurant called Lucky’s. Her dream is to own her own restaurant, a dream she is working toward achieving. Katie lives above Lucky’s. One night, she discovers a box in her apartment. Inside the box is a notebook, a single mushroom, and a notecard offering the opportunity for a second chance. All she has to do is write down her biggest mistake, ingest the mushroom, and go to sleep. When she wakes up, the mistake will not have happened. But you’re only allowed one chance, and the mistake must have occurred in Lucky's. What would you do with that power? Would you change one large mistake from your past and be satisfied? Or, would you find a way to change all of your mistakes, attempting to create your perfect life? That is the dilemma facing Katie once she finds the source of the magic. Like all great fantasy, things are not as simple as they appear.

Seconds is one part science fiction, one part fantasy, and one part reality. It is, first and foremost, a character driven book. Most of the story revolves around Katie’s emotional development. Bryan Lee O’Malley is a master of blending the fantastical and the mundane. The fantastical elements of the story serve to highlight the more realistic elements of Katie’s journey, a journey I was happy to take with her. I found myself identifying with Katie more and more throughout the book, as someone who wants to own my own business, as someone who wishes they could change their mistakes, and as a person who has learned from their mistakes. I wanted things to end well for her; I felt that if things ended well for her, they could end well for me as well.

O’Malley’s stylized artwork comes to life in this book. Seconds is some of his best artwork to date. His cartoon-inspired style serves to beautifully mix the elements of reality and fantasy. Like Scott Pilgrim, many settings in Seconds are based on real places which helps the book seem more real. I always love that O’Malley draws characters that look sort of the same, yet entirely different. They look like they all belong in the same book together and the same world, but you never get characters confused for other characters. Too many graphic novels run into the problem of characters looking too similar; Seconds doesn't have that problem at all.

Seconds is aptly titled. As soon as I was done reading it, I wanted to read it again. I was skeptical that Bryan Lee O'Malley would ever be able to churn out something as fun, poignant, and enjoyable as Scott Pilgrim. Not because he's untalented, but simply because Scott Pilgrim was incredible. Then he releasedSeconds, and I remembered why it's worth it to wait four years for his work. O’Malley never fails to impress.

If you have never read a graphic novel, Seconds would be a great choice for your first.

P.S. – Fans of Scott Pilgrim, keep an eye out. You may recognize a few of the characters in the background.