How do you follow up a series that Joss Whedon, the director of The Avengers, called perfect? The answer for Bryan Lee O’Malley is to go in for Seconds.
Seconds follows the story of Katie, owner and chef of a prosperous restaurant that shares the name of the book. She continues to run in to trouble at every turn while trying to open a new restaurant and find happiness in her love life. One night, a mysterious girl visits her and grants her the ability to go back in time and fix a single mistake. When she abuses the power, Katie finds herself losing all control of her life, and realizing that she may have bit off more than she could chew.
Any need I felt to compare Seconds to Scott Pilgrim went out within the first couple of pages. Aside some couple of sly winks and nods, this graphic novel really is its own beast. An unseen narrator helps fill in important pieces of information, with Katie herself often breaking the fourth wall to get a snide comment in or offer her own feelings. O’Malley’s narrator helps to give a more whimsical, almost fairy tale type feel to the piece.
The story itself is one that anyone can place himself or herself in. We’ve all had those moments of reflection where we wished we could just fix that one little thing. What Seconds explores the truth of it, that it really just may be a case of the grass looking a little greener just over the fence. It asks the question, “How much are you willing to give up to fix one single mistake?”
The book is filled the brim with characters, but they quickly settle in to their own roles that are vital to the story. We see them all in relation to Katie, whose unique relationships with these people shows us different aspects of her personality. As Katie begins to see them past the superficial level, we get to see the humans underneath, and really connect with them. As Katie gets closer to them, we see her own evolution into a person who is happy with the life that they have.
As a follower of O’Malley on Instagram, I got plenty of sneak peaks at the interior of the book, but his art really comes to life on the page in a way that it never could on a phone screen. The book is filled with surprisingly expressive faces, vibrant colors that demonstrate a masterful use of all the shades of red, and splash pages so big and beautiful, you’ll find yourself pausing for a while just to take it all in.
The man is a master at what he does, but it’s the fact that he is always pushing himself creatively that really makes this book a visual feast. When the more bizarre and fantastical elements present themselves, the images manage to take us further in to the story, highlighting what is going on for Katie. Even when the world is falling apart and everything seems bleak, O’Malley’s manga influence style manages to go as dark as it needs to, while still keeping that element of cute that manages to find its way in to every corner.
If I were to come up with any complaint, it is that the whole thing wraps up just as you would expect. While there are plenty of twist and turns along the road, it is easy to tell exactly where you’re going to end up. The upside of that is that it does feel deserved. The happy ending is earned by the trials and tribulations of Katie, and it speaks to all of us who struggle to control that we need to look forward, and spend less time looking back.
Here’s my verdict: Seconds is a story that just about anyone can relate to. The story is well balanced between light-hearted and bleak, the writing is on point, and the art is crisp and dynamic. The ending, and the lesson learned, may be a bit predictable, but there’s enough fun to be had here that you’ll easily forgive it. Seconds is about the journey, not the destination, and it really is a great ride.