In Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley


Written and drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Drawing Assistant: Jason Fischer
Colour: Nathan Fairbairn
Lettering: Dustin Harbin
UK Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Out: 14th August 2014

The Book: The highly anticipated new standalone full-colour graphic novel from Bryan Lee O’Malley, author and artist of the hugely bestselling Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series.

Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend Max pops up, her fling with another chef, Andrew, goes sour, and one of her waitresses, Hazel, gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all — but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over:

1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew

And just like that, all the bad stuff never happened, and Katie is given another chance to get things right. She’s also got a dresser drawer full of magical mushrooms — and an irresistible urge to make her life not just good, but perfect. Too bad it’s against the rules.

But Katie doesn’t care about the rules — and she’s about to discover the unintended consequences of the best intentions.

From the award-winning mind and pen behind the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series comes a madcap new tale of existential angst, everyday obstacles, young love, and ancient spirits that’s sharp-witted and tenderhearted, whimsical and wise.


Katie, the main protagonist in Bryan O'Malley's Seconds. Art © Bryan O'Malley

Katie, the main protagonist in Bryan O’Malley’s Seconds. Art © Bryan O’Malley


The Review: What would you do if you had the chance to go back and fix a life-changing mistake? Perhaps, as you get older, you learn to live with the consequences of what you’ve done and move on: but that’s not always as easy as it sounds when you’re younger. In this beautifully told, gorgeously realised graphic novel from Bryan O’Malley, top chef and control freak Katie finds being able to change things that went wrong easy at first… but as she uses a house imp’s precious “magic mushrooms” to fix more problems, the world seems to simply spin even further from her grasp.

(The mushrooms are by the way, a drug of sorts, but not in the way some might consider them).

In Seconds, O’Malley has created a multi-layered story of parallel worlds and haunting magic in the form of mysterious house imps, weaving the lives of his characters together in a complex tale that makes sense of quantum realities with incredible simplicity – which, for me, only goes to show how much work went into writing the story, because it’s pretty hard to get your head around those theories at the best of times.

What really makes Seconds shine, though, is O’Malley’s gift for characterisation and dialogue, giving the fantasy elements of the tale a solid grounding in good old fashioned relationship issues, money problems and hopes and dreams every reader of this novel can perhaps relate to. As the story unfolds, like Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, chief protagonist Katie is forced to learn more about the people she works with, rather than just, perhaps, treating them like chess pieces for her own ends.

I really enjoyed Seconds. The art is fantastic, the storytelling superb, the characters full of life, flaws and humour, some of it at the expense of breaking the “fourth wall”. (But given this is a book that uses parallel worlds as a key element, there’s nothing wrong with the sparing use of that storytelling device). If you’re already a fan of Bryan’s work, I think you’ll love this. If you’re new to his work, right now I can’t think of a better place to start than with this thoroughly enjoyable modern fable.

Buy Seconds from

Buy Seconds from Forbidden Planet

The cast of Seconds. Art © Bryan Lee O'Malley

Art © Bryan Lee O’Malley

UK and Eire Signings for Seconds

Bryan Lee O’Malley will be in the UK to promote the book in August. Here are the dates we have:

• Thursday 14th August: Gosh London Launch Party Event
• Friday 15th August:  Comics UnMasked: The British Library in London on 15th August as part of the Comica Festival Weekend
• Saturday 16th August: Comica Comiket, British Library
• Sunday 17th August: Forbidden Planet International, Edinburgh
• Sunday 17th August: Edinburgh Book Festival (Part of the Festival’s Stripped 2014 series of events)
• Monday 18th August: Page 45, Nottingham 
• Tuesday 19th August: Travelling Man, Leeds
• Tuesday 19th August: Travelling Man, Manchester
• Wednesday 20th August: Forbidden Planet International, Dublin

Creator Links

• Bryan Lee O’Malley’s tumblr:

• Bryan Lee O’Malley on Twitter:

• Podcast – Episode 29 of The Arcade: Cause & Effect

Parallel realities, Quantum Leap, and whitewashing the past. Hazlitt audio producer Anshuman Iddamsetty speaks with Bryan Lee O’Malley, the cartoonist behind the hugely popularScott Pilgrim series, about his reality-bending new graphic novel, Seconds. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcherSoundcloud, and via RSS.

SelfMadeHero provided a copy of Seconds to downtheutbes for review purposes

Categories: British Comics - Graphic Novels, Featured News, Reviews

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