Bryan Lee O’Malley is a genius. I’m not just saying that because he’s Canadian (but he is, so that’s a cool bonus.) I’m saying that because as a graphic novelist he is truly a genius. I love how he’s able to take very real, mature issues such as dealing with personal baggage in gems like Scott Pilgrim. As much as I enjoyed Pilgrim I admit that I enjoyed this book, Seconds much more. That is today’s review.

 

The Book

 

Seconds

Written and Illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Drawing Assistant – Jason Fischer

Lettering – Dustin Harbin

Color – Nathan Fairbairn

Publisher – Random House Canada

 

Katie is an amazing cook with a dream of opening her restaurant. She has some interesting baggage – a boyfriend she never got over, a less than savory relationship with her current cook, Andrew, and in short, much like anyone in charge of a kitchen, Katie is a bit of a control freak. As a kid, she sees a house spirit named Lis, who has a mushroom and a set of instructions for how to use them. Kate dismisses this as all one bit of her imagination until fooling around with Andrew leads to one of her employees, Hazel being badly burned in the kitchen.

With a combination of uncontrollable guilt and desperation, Kate follows the instructions of the note and ingests a mushroom. The next day, the accident in the kitchen never happens, and Hazel is fine. Relief is turned soon into the realization that whenever Katie screws up, all she has to do is follow instructions and eat a mushroom and it changes everything. Katie gets her old boyfriend back, changes the company that is building her new restaurant. Little by little, choice by choice, Kate’s life changes all around her in small and meaningful ways. Soon the fun and warmth that came in the restaurant of Seconds is replaced one nibble at a time with a darker and more menacing presence surrounding the house.

Control is a major theme of the graphic novel and O’Malley explores it with relish, deconstructing Kate’s life one choice at a time. We all have things we regret, problems we have no good answers to. Life by its very nature is imperfect, and none of us no matter how many bites of the mushroom, would ever get it right. Perfection and getting everything you want seems like an amazing concept until you have the ability to practice it.

The other major story elements I liked in the story were Hazel and Lis, the house spirit. Hazel was the catalyst to Kate chomping down the path she chose and exploring who she is and the layers she had inside her was a fascinating contrast. Both Kate and Hazel were revealing layers of themselves as the graphic novel went on. Whereas Hazel had an untapped core of potential inside her, Katie seems to unravel as she looked over the choices of her life. Being together forced each of them to grow.

And how could I forget, that Lis herself was a very important character. She didn’t say much but was very much the Tinkerbell of the story, there to warn and ultimately do her best to keep herself and her charge alive as the mushroom supply dwindles page by page.

The story is very much an O’Malley style. There’s a brashness and realism to the story that hits the chords and gives the story’s beats a bit of a fun kick. The underlying horror in the story is slow and seeps into the book as we get closer to the climax of it. Seconds is a tale that goes into the dark elements of our choices, our desires, and our need to control our destiny in a fun and magical tale. It’s a great read I stumbled on far too late in the journey.

Beyond the story, the art itself was fun. Jason Fischer and O’Malley mesh together and give Seconds, Hazel, Lis, all kinds of life. O’Malley’s gift with expression shines in this book much like his earlier works and it keeps the book’s tone lighter than some of the subject matter explored. Nathan Fairbairn’s colors in my opinion are the MVPs. The uses of reds and blacks added a sense of horror to what could have been a mundane urban story for the most part. Fairbairn is what made the book scarier and more ominous in tone as the pages turned.  All in all the creative team delivered a modern punk rock fairy tale and I dug it a lot. Cannot recommend this one enough.

 

The Business

 

I have a bunch of business to attend to. First off, my book Alice Won? Is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. You can click here and order it. If you like Alice in Wonderland mashed up with Greek Mythology this book will be for you, as Alice takes on Jason of the Argonauts in a game of croquet the likes of which you’ll never see. If undead hydras and epic poetry are your thing, give the link a click and pre-order the book. It goes live on December 1st.

On top of that, besides my podcast, I am hosting a short called the myconsultant.ca show with the amazing Sarah Ostapchuk. If you are interested in the latest news and information on immigration to Canada, you can watch the show right here. Proud of it, as it makes me flex my creative muscles in fun ways. I can do videos now and will be offering my services officially for it soon. Take a look at this.

Next time I write a column I’ll be reviewing my favorite complete mini-series in two parts. I’m very impressed with NK Jemesin, and you will too with the next column. Remember, there are a bunch of great books out there. Check them out.

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Bryan Lee O'Malley is a genius. I'm not just saying that because he's Canadian (but he is, so that's a cool bonus.) I'm saying that because as a graphic novelist he is truly a genius. I love how he's able to take very real, mature issues such as dealing...