Thursday, June 4, 2015

Comic Review: Seconds

For some reason I had a hard time writing this review, I can't tell if I'm in a slump these days or if I've simply come across a lot of hard-to-talk-about stories lately.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Katie has had a good run in her 20s, now it's time for that terrifying period where she works out what to do next with her life. She's got a bit of a plan, open up a new restaurant that's completely hers but somehow going down this path has lost her all her friends and her boyfriend too. When she stumbles across a magical mushroom with the instructions to write down a regret, eat, and sleep, she's more than willing to try it out and see what a bit of supernatural intervention can do in her life.

The simplest way to sum up this comic is that I didn't like the early parts very much but as the story got more and more bizarre I enjoyed it more, not for the weirdness but because Katie was then actually in a really distressing and sympathetic situation. I thought I saw a lot of people saying that oh she's this really relatable character [at the start] but I couldn't see it at all, she's 29, well-known as a chef (good at it even), wants to do something a little different by opening up her own place (understandable), and is both unsure of everything she does and cocky as hell at the same time. She's also semi-pining for a lost love which never works for me*, I understand that her isolation and not being involved in any romantic or platonic relationships at the start is supposed to be the biggest contrast to her success but it didn't really "work" for me, it didn't affect how I viewed the story at all. In fact, the first sympathetic thing she did was to take a mushroom and wish that she hadn't stopped to canoodle, mostly so one of the servers (Hazel) isn't injured by the resulting distraction, and there are a few other times she takes the mushrooms where I couldn't blame her. But then she veers back into hard to empathize when it becomes abundantly clear that these actions are hurting her more than helping, I was left wondering why she didn't eat a mushroom and simply wished that she hadn't had any of them in the first place by the middle of the book or so.

The side characters were more sympathetic for me by and large, Hazel is a sweet girl, I could easily see why Max (the ex) got fed up with Katie, and seeing how tired and put-upon Katie's boss seemed made perfect sense. But none of them were enough to carry the story, especially considering how many times Katie change the world with her mushrooms that should have made her even more isolated from the rest of the cast but it doesn't look like O'Malley viewed that the same way I did. I think he's simply one of the comic artists whose way of telling stories never fully works for me, I was more grumpy at Scott Pilgrim than anything else until again the final acts and I'm rather curious about the people he grew up with considering the character tropes that pop up in both of these works. I do like the art though, O'Malley seems fully comfortable in his rounded art style where most of the detail work comes from the coloring than the inking (and the coloring was really great, props to colorist Nathan Fairbairn). 

In the end, I am a bit split over whether or not to recommend the work; by the end of the story I was enjoying it but the early characterization does bother me a lot (I do not think the book was terrible though!). Honestly this is one of those works where if you're interested by the initial premise, great, go read it, if not then you need to find a more effusive reviewer than I to convince you to try it out after all. And finally, for a "if you like this then you'll like that" recommendation, when I finished this book I immediately thought of the recently finished "Lucky Penny" short from the Johnny Wander webcomic. It also features a 20-something who doesn't have it all together, seems to make bad choices in life, and then gets involved in just some strange things and has to make really weird choices because of it.  I enjoy the whole webcomic, fiction shorts and auto-bio, but for people who specifically want fiction then I think that's a good one to read next. 

*I'm starting to feel like a rip-off of Spock for all of these times I keep having to say "I don't understand this emotion" but nothing in the early story was able to convince me why I should care about this relationship, especially if Katie is so unlikeable and probably the one at fault for "not making it work"

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