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Seconds h/c


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Seconds h/c back

Bryan Lee O'Malley

Price: 
15.99

Page 45 Review by Stephen

Katie had never liked cause and effect anyway.
“It’s a flawed system.”
Still, she had to admit that toying with the universe was a little unsettling.
“She did not. Katie admitted nothing of the sort.”

That will prove part of the problem.

Fresh from the creator of SCOTT PILGRIM and LOST AT SEA comes a big, bold, full-colour graphic novel, completely self-contained and weighing in at a whopping three-hundred pages.

If you enjoyed the authorial mischief of SCOTT PILGRIM then you will love chef Katie’s recalcitrant attitude towards this new, hands-on narrator and her wayward relationship with reality.

Katie used to run Seconds, a highly acclaimed restaurant just out in the country on top of a hill. Four years on and its imaginative menu and impeccable cooking makes it as popular as ever but Katie’s mentally moved on.

She has her heart set on starting a brand new restaurant in a very old building in town. Although empty for ages and dilapidated as hell, Lucky’s old stone building oozes character and Katie can picture exactly how it will look with a grand wooden staircase, an ornate central chandelier and an open kitchen run by bright, energetic and respectful staff serving the very best cuisine to an adoring public. Reality check: its condition is causing her grief.

It’s way behind schedule and gobbling up money but at least she is fortunate in her business partner Arthur’s practical optimism and seemingly limitless support. Even when she decides she wants to call it “Katie’s”.

“She’d fought for the location:
“Wrong side of the river. Tucked away under the bridge. It was an up-and-coming spot, she swore.
“She drove back and forth sometimes four, five times a day. As if one of these times she’d cross that little bridge and find a finished restaurant.
“The waiting was hell. Seconds had become her purgatory. At least purgatory had its perks.”

It does. Still its executive chef, Katie’s name remains on the menu and she basks in the adulation of diners; the waiters are lucky if they can get a word in edgeways. In addition, to save money, she’s still allowed to rent the restaurant’s top-floor apartment. She doesn’t know how good she’s got it.

But tonight two things go wrong: Katie’s ex, Max, comes out to eat in and although he smiles kindly Katie blows him off and stomps downstairs to argue with Andrew, the new head-chef with whom she’s having an affair; they make out in the store room and in Andrew’s absence there is a accident in the kitchen leaving waitress Hazel’s arms dripping in scalding hot fat.

Having left hospital late at night, Katie despairs. Then she remembers a dream she had about a strange, glowing girl with wide, haunting eyes hunched on top of her dresser. In that dresser she discover a little box which hadn’t been there before and in that box she finds a notebook titled “My Mistakes”, a single red-capped mushroom and a card printed as follows:

A SECOND CHANCE AWAITS.
1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4 Wake anew
EVENTS MUST OCCUR ON THESE PREMISES

She follows the instructions and awakes to find reality rewritten.

Katie never canoodled with Andrew so the accident never took place and quiet young Hazel is right as rain. Everything’s been corrected, everything is better. Lucky, lucky Katie. Time to move on.

Well. What follows is a cautionary tale about pushing your luck.

It’s one thing to hoard multiple saves in a video game; to go back and restart from more favourable junctures (though you could, you know, just move on?). It’s one thing to plan conversations ahead, steering them in different directions to see how they go most in your favour (I do). But although we might wish on occasion to reset the reality button, the ability to do so increases the temptation and that temptation comes with consequences. If you can reset reality as often as you like then why concentrate on what is important the first time?

This book is masterfully constructed with impeccable control under what must have been mind-frazzling circumstances. You’ll see what I mean as everything unravels, increasingly, over and over again.

Egotism becomes egomania and, unlike so many protagonists, Katie’s self-awareness doesn’t grow gradually over each page. Instead – after what was essentially a compassionate, altruistic revision to save Hazel’s skin – Katie loses sight of priorities, her sense of perspective, her sense of responsibility and her comprehension of cause and effect: of ripples and repercussion.

The strange glowing girl returns time and again with increasingly incandescent eyes that had me howling out loud. I’m glad I can’t see my dresser from bed. Her hair is spectacular. Nathan Faibarn’s colours are so warm that I cannot imagine this in black and white.

As well as the broad strokes and fine fashion of the characters you’ve come to expect from O’Malley (the designs are exquisite, Yana’s eyes shining a pale, milky blue like semi-opaque fishbowls), there’s a lot more intricate detail on the architecture. Rickety 22 Lucknow Street, the site of Katie’s second prospective restaurant, is a star in its own right. Its brown brick and beige stone climb precariously towards a fourth-storey, castellated tower. The aerial views of the town itself – rising on either side of the river before opening up to fields and foliage and Seconds sitting under its trademark tree in the distance – are breathtaking and again coloured beautifully in greens, browns and antler grey under a late-afternoon winter sky.

The panel composition is much tighter with strict, straight-ruled borders – gone altogether are the bleeds – with some parts of the page unused altogether during moments of disorientation, waiting or “what’s happened now?”

There are some startlingly dark pages unlike anything you’ve seen from O’Malley, but SECONDS is also, as you’d expect, very, very funny in places even as things fall apart, and I like our new narrator enormously.

“I don’t like it back here anymore. The walk-in… you don’t feel that?”
“Feel what?”
“I don’t know. Never mind.”
But she did feel it. The shadow. She knew it was real.
“I don’t feel anything.”
Um, yeah, she did actually.

Bryan Lee O’Malley will be signing SECONDS at Page 45 on Monday 18th August 2014, the exact 10th Anniversary of SCOTT PILGRIM VOL 1:

http://www.page45.com/world/2014/06/bryan-lee-omalley-signing-sketching-at-page-45/


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