Comics superstar Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new book takes his hip twenty-somethings on a Groundhog Day-like journey through time and regret

Seconds - Katie

Scott Pilgrim fans need little introduction to Bryan Lee O’Malley, an American graphic novelist who brought a youthful, manga-style illustration to a mainstream, grown-up audience. Seconds follows a similar artistic theme, blending Japanese-style illustration with a Groundhog Day story that gently mixes fantasy and science fiction into the everyday setting of a provincial restaurant.

Katie was the chef at Seconds, the eatery in question, though she’s recently quit in an attempt to follow her dreams and open up a restaurant of her own. It’s not going according to plan, however. She’s feeling left out by her business partner, she’s regretting her choice of location, and the building work has stalled due to over-running budgets and lack of funds.

Katie, a mushroom and the House Spirit

Then a strange creature turns up in her life; a small, magical girl who squats on her dresser and scowls. Through her, Katie learns of some special mushrooms that can correct a mistake you made in your life, by taking you back in time so you can fix the error. Things have a knock-on effect, however, and when Katie fixes her mistakes, she finds that the universe has shifted in other ways that she never anticipated.

O’Malley uses this to take his extremely likeable (despite their flaws) characters through their paces. Katie’s life is a roller-coaster of emotional turmoil as she ends up in a chain explosion of disastrous life tweaks that always go a bit too far. The book is extremely enjoyable, brilliantly written and superbly illustrated. O’Malley’s characters ooze charm and emotion, bringing a spark of life to every page in the book.

If there’s one problem with it, it’s the feeling of déjà vu comic readers might get from the book. Despite O’Malley’s near perfect interpretation and handling, it feels like a familiar story in new clothes. Jeff Smith took the parallel universe thing a step further in 2013’s RASL, and we preferred that story’s depth and justification. Seconds feels looser, perhaps easier to access, but also lighter and less substantial.

Don’t let this distract you from buying, though. Seconds is still one of this year’s must-have books, and is well worth the investment of time and money you’ll put into it.

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