Seconds is a 2014 graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, well known as the author of the Scott Pilgrim series. The story follows Katie, a young woman in a transitional stage in her life. She is a talented chef who has worked at a successful restaurant —Seconds — for the past four years. Wanting to take her talents to greater heights, she currently works toward opening and co-owning her own restaurant. One night she is visited by a strange girl who gifts her the opportunity, in the form of a magic mushroom, to right her mistakes. As things start to fall apart on a particularly bad day Katie takes advantage of this gift, starting her down a path to not only make her life better, but perfect — disregarding the rules in the process.
What always stands out best for me about O’Malley’s work is his artistic style. His has always been very expressive and full of personality to me, and Seconds is no exception. The style is adorable and funny upfront, but I never found it to distract from more serious or dreary tones when a scene calls for it. Unlike the original print run of Scott Pilgrim, this book is entirely in colour as well, which O’Malley takes full advantage of in creating effective mood and atmosphere.
A lot of the plot has to do with paranormal beings and magical items, but is set entirely in a modern urban setting, making it an urban fantasy story. The story is rather grounded alongside these fantastical elements, dealing primarily with mundane and everyday issues — like her ex-boyfriend, old job, and starting up a business — making the story a little more accessible to readers who may not be as partial to the fantasy genre. The aspects of the story complement each other well, and at no point did anything feel out of place to me.
As a protagonist, I liked Katie a lot. She’s strong-willed and talented, while at the same time being a deeply flawed person. She is often very irresponsible and selfish, which is what gets her into a lot of trouble and drives the conflict forward, but I never found myself disliking her. I can’t imagine many other people would be able to resist doing what she does in her situation, at least to some extent. Ultimately, she just wants all of her dreams and ambitions to go well, trying to fix as many mistakes as she can, which I can’t say I wouldn’t try to do as well. Everybody has those moments where they wish they could go back and do things a little differently.
The only shortcoming I found with the book — and it isn’t major — is that I found the story to be a little run of the mill. Though I didn’t find it all to be obvious, from early on I had a good idea of where the story was going to go, and sure enough the plot went in the direction that I had more or less predicted. This doesn’t mean that the story was badly told, just that it hit very familiar narrative beats. There were some interesting twists and ideas, however, which helped make it more interesting along the way.
If you’re a fan of O’Malley’s work, I would highly recommend picking Seconds up. The art is great and the characters are unique, funny, and endearing. The story treads a lot of familiar ground, but does so in a way that doesn’t feel tired or overdone. It’s also a great book for someone interested in reading more comic books. It’s a one-and-done book, so you wouldn’t need to feel as if you have to commit yourself to an ongoing series. Unless you’re entirely against comic books as a medium, I’d recommend it to pretty much anybody.