Book Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Book Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley


Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Seconds is the first graphic novel from Bryan Lee O’Malley since he finished the Scott Pilgrim series. And it is a fantastic follow-up. The illustrations are cartoonish but unique. They are still obvious in a lot of places but his style is his style. The characters are around the same age and stuck in a weird mix of immature behaviors while having mature real-life positions. Not completely unrealistic. Then some sci-fi/folklore/timetravel/string theory things happen which, although a little confusing, really makes the story interesting.

The story’s main character is Katie. Katie owns a restaurant and is a chef. She is dealing with a bad break-up and is trying to open a second restaurant. She pretty much only dates guys at work. Then becomes obsessed with befriends one of the waitstaff, Hazel, and they develop an odd sort of friendship. Most of the story takes place at Katie’s current restaurant, which is named, Seconds.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley artwork

I really loved the coming together of the story here but it seemed like there were really two different stories. One of them doesn’t have a resolution but the one clearly does.

First, there’s the plot line that she gets second chances. Katie can write down a “mistake” in a notebook, eat a mushroom, and go to sleep. Then in the morning it will have been like that mistake never happened. The only rule is that the mistake occurred on the premises of the restaurant. Well, Katie lives in a dumpy apartment right above the restaurant, so that caveat doesn’t affect too much.

As one would expect, Katie gets greedy and starts changing her whole life around. But other things get mixed up in the midst. Things don’t end all happy even when they should be. She goes back too far, erases too much. Then there is a whole string theory bit. That every revision is an entire different world. That part is interesting though far from a new concept. O’Malley’s illustrates the erasures and new revisions in an identifiable way. Through his illustrations we’re able to see more subtle differences within each “revision”, which helps to show just how much is being changed.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley inside of comic

Then there is another story-line that isn’t related to her erasing mistakes at all. This storyline involves common folklore about “house spirits”. Katie brings home a clay pot from an abandoned building, which unfortunately contains that building’s house spirit. Of course, her apartment already has a house spirit. So then there is this creepy sort of conflict/battle between the ‘evil’ house spirit and the good one. The evil one is obviously trying to take over. The illustrations are creepy, the atmosphere set is creepy. O’Malley tells all of this very well. It also wasn’t predictable, which made it even more interesting.

In the end, she is able to help the ‘good’ house spirit. And in turn receives help, that resets her world back before she erased anything. (This isn’t a spoiler because it’s exactly as you would expect). So then she truly is given a second chance to do things the right way from that point forward.

I give the book a 4 out of 5 as it was enjoyable and the illustrations worked well with the story. Although you do have to like O’Malley’s drawing style to like the book.

While I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think of another graphic novel I read a few years ago NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki. This is a graphic memoir that tells of the Yokai, similar type of house spirits as part of Japanese folk lore. If that part of the story interested you, this is definitely another good read.


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