Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Seconds is a playful, bright, colorful graphic novel by Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley. As a successful chef and restaurant owner, Katie has a lot on her plate (pun intended). Things seem to be going her way until she makes a few big mistakes. Luckily, Katie finds magic mushrooms that upon consumption, followed by sleep, will erase and rewrite her blunders. The ability to rewrite the past seems to be quite the gift, until her life becomes more and more complicated.
If you’re familiar at all with Bryan O’Malley’s work, it’s likely the Scott Pilgrim series. I’ve been a fan of O’Malley for a while now, both with Scott Pilgrim and Lost at Sea, so I pre-ordered Seconds as soon as I could. O’Malley has a way of writing good stories with fun characters that go deeper than his cartoonish art style. Scott Pilgrim was my first introduction to O’Malley’s work and I hold those books in very high regard. This of course fed my expectations for Seconds.
One thing to keep in mind: Seconds is not a Scott Pilgrim sequel. Though there are elements of O’Malley’s writing and art style, this is a very different book.
Seconds is a cautionary tale of getting what you wished for, and all of the baggage and troubles that it may bring. Katie is at the top of her game as a successful head chef at the restaurant Seconds, and is even thinking about opening her own restaurant that will be even better. As we get to know our protagonist, we see her first few careless mistakes lead to a waitress being hospitalized. If only there was a way for her to undo her missteps! Katie recalls a strange dream she had. One night she dreamt of a mysterious house spirit who gave her a gift that allowed her to change her mistakes with specific instructions:
- Write your mistake.
- Ingest one mushroom.
- Go to sleep.
- Wake anew.
We see Katie start to use this gift in order to manipulate the world around her for her benefit. For example, she uses a mushroom in order to reignite a relationship with an old flame. But does he truly love her or is this just a product of her manipulation?
As per the style of O’Malley, the story is rife with humor and pop culture references. Fans of the Scott Pilgrim series will find jokes and subtle hints to the series, and even a few background cameos!
Towards the end of the book, the story can get a bit repetitive. Sure, the basic premise is to relive moments and change the outcome, but the pattern never breaks, which can get annoying.
With each book in the Scott Pilgrim series, we got to see O’Malley’s art improve. Seconds is definitely at the height of his skills. The character designs are unique, down to the last details in their clothing. O’Malley is amazing at building characters’ unique sense of style. As per his standard, the characters are very expressive, making them charming and relatable. The environments are some of the most detailed and rich that I’ve ever seen from O’Malley. The overall color palette is bold and bright, which makes the book a visual treat.
One thing I love about O’Malley’s books is the equal weight given to the art and the story. It’s such a shame when a comic or graphic novel is extremely well written but the art is lacking, or when the art is great but the story is weak. Seconds expertly brings these two things together.
Despite the manga and chibi-esque nature of O’Malley’s art style, one thing to note is this is definitely a book geared towards a mature audience. Characters get drunk, smoke, and have sex. There’s also a bit of nudity. Two characters are having an affair. There’s some strong language used sparingly throughout the book. As far as spiritual things, part of Seconds’ world involves “house spirits” who are mostly invisible beings living in and protecting people’s houses. Also of note, Katie’s magic mushrooms are little more than a plot device—there doesn’t seem to be any intended parallel with drug use.
We all have things we regret. At some point in our lives we’ve probably wished we could jump into a time machine, and take back something we’ve said or done. But we don’t have time machines. What we do have is the knowledge and belief that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross all of our past, present, and future mistakes have been paid for. There may still be some consequences for our actions, but we don’t have to worry our lives away about being perfect. Jesus was the perfect lamb who took our place.
Seconds is a great graphic novel with a relatable story told through colorfully bright and rich pages. There is some strong content, so it may not be for everyone, but those who pick it up will find charming characters that will make you laugh, and hopefully make you think about the effects of your actions.
Have you read Seconds? Does bread actually make you fat? What are your thoughts?
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+ Relatable characters
+ Gorgeous, colorful art
+ Good pacing
+ Easter Eggs for Scott Pilgrim fans
- Supporting characters could use more depth
- Slightly repetitive story elements