Tag Archives: Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim

Author/Illustrator: Bryan Lee O’MalleyScott Pilgrim

My rating: 4 of 5

You could say that Scott has a problem with commitments. That might be the reason why, at age 23, he’s lazing about, free-loading off his roommate Wallace, dating a high-school girl (the most recent in a long line of girlfriends), and playing in a mostly-awful band with some friends instead of actually getting steady work and maybe a consistent relationship. . . . Maybe. A lot changes in his life when he falls for Ramona, a delivery girl who he initially meets literally taking a shortcut through his dreams–don’t ask, it works. Ramona has issues with commitment too, and a requirement of their relationship is that Scott defeat all seven of her evil exes. Talk about unusual relationships!

So . . . in spite of the premise sounding definitely odd, Scott Pilgrim is actually a pretty neat graphic novel series. I mean, what’s not to love about a Canadian geeky shounen graphic novel?! And I’m very serious about all three of those adjectives. It’s very Canadian–classic Bryan Lee O’Malley with the super-neat art that entails. But it’s also emphatically more geeky than any of his other graphic novels that I’ve read so far (such as Seconds or Lost at Sea); seriously, there are all sorts of video game effects scattered throughout, especially during the fights, as though they were normal. I love it! And yes, this is definitely a shounen story: girls, fights, leveling up, and all. But in spite of being kind of cheesy at parts, this story is also a very telling picture of what it’s like to be a young adult today, of the challenges of getting from childhood to independent adulthood. And I really do appreciate where O’Malley brought the story–for a long while, I was wondering if it would ever make it. So . . . I don’t think Scott Pilgrim is for everyone, but for those with whom the very description “Canadian geeky shounen graphic novel” resonates, seriously, check it out. It’s fun!

Note: There are at least two editions of this graphic novel, one in black and white and another colored by Nathan Fairbairn. They’re both the same story, but I think the color really suits the story and adds an extra layer of fun.

Note 2: This review is for the entire 6-volume set. You probably figured that out already, but these are published a little differently that most manga in that they have separate titles for each volume.


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Lost at Sea

Author/Illustrator: Bryan Lee O’Malley

Raleigh finds herself on a long road trip from California to Vancouver with three other university students that she barely knows. Along the way she finds herself struggling with a feeling of lostness, of not knowing where she’s going, of not having any real friends. She even goes so far as to say she thinks she’s lost her soul, she feels so little. And maybe she’ll never really solve all of that, but just perhaps these people she’s traveling with will understand, just a bit. Just enough to help her keep going.

Lost at Sea is the most pensive, philosophical of O’Malley’s graphic novels that I’ve read to date. It really is largely a monologue of what goes on in Raleigh’s head, wondering about her existence, remembering the past. Interspersed are interactions with Stephanie, Ian, and Dave–all of whom are quite interesting characters. It’s the sort of story that could be A) boring, B) depressing, or C) so nihilistic that it’s incomprehensible. But O’Malley somehow avoids all of these pitfalls to create a graphic novel that is thoughtful, insightful, and oddly funny. I like it. The art is typical of his–kind of squared and expressively cartoonlike–but with a limited three-color style that suits uncannily well. I don’t think Lost at Sea is for everyone–certainly not for those seeking an action-packed battle story. But for those who are honestly working to make it through the confusion themselves, I think this graphic novel is a worthwhile read.

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Author/Illustrator: Bryan Lee O’Malley

Katie is a perfect picture of someone in a late-twenties slump: stressed, directionless, boyfriend-less. She’s done fairly well as the chef at the restaurant Seconds, but she’s moving on now to owning a restaurant of her own–which should be super-exciting, but the work isn’t moving forward nearly as quickly as she’d like, and right now she’s in a state of limbo. Still living in the apartment on Seconds’ upper floor, still wandering through the restaurant making a pain of herself, but no longer needed, really. Her life takes a turn, though when she discovers she can change the past. . . . After an accident results in Hazel, one of the servers at Seconds, being badly burned, Katie is given the change to prevent that–as she is shown in a dream by the house spirit of Seconds. It’s supposed to be a one-time alteration, but Katie finds a way to get around the rules and soon has made such a mess of time that she doesn’t know what’s going on!

I absolutely loved Seconds; I read it in one sitting, even though it’s a pretty thick graphic novel. This story is a zany mix-up of contemporary life, ancient lore, science fiction, etc. The result is quirky, for sure, but also very fun and significantly insightful. I think this graphic novel speaks meaningfully into a slice of life that is often ignored–those people who aren’t quite such young adults anymore, but who are still young enough that they’re not settled yet. This is a significant–often lonely–demographic, yet writers seem to shy away from addressing the needs of this age range, in my experience. Not so here–Katie’s issues are laid out in painful honesty. Katie is really a great character–even depressed, she’s full of life, personality, and enough determination to get the world in trouble. Her arguments with the narrator are the best! I think the art style really fits the story as well. As opposed to, say Sandman or FablesSeconds is more a cross between manga and American cartoons–the style is actually similar to that used in Foiled. It really suits the story, plus I personally like this style of graphic novel a lot better than the more classic comic-book style. I would recommend Seconds to anyone who likes American graphic novels, but especially to those who are stuck in that awkward late-twenties slump themselves–if only as a reminder that some people have it even worse than you!


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Editors: Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci

Contributing Authors & Illustrators: M. T. Anderson, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Cecil Castellucci, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Hope Larson, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Tracy Lynn, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Leitich Smith, Scott Westerfeld, Lisa Yee, & Sara Zarr

Admit it: you’ve always wanted to know what that super-cute, smart-talking avatar online is actually like in real life–would you actually consider meeting up to see? Or have you ever come back from a convention with a new boyfriend you can’t ever admit to your clan? Had a huge argument about whether a favorite character is actually chaotic good or chaotic neutral? Or maybe you’re the type who finds your truest self in the secret identity you’ve built for LARPing. Hey, maybe you’re the poor cheerleader who’s trying to figure out what all this geeky weirdness is all about. Whatever.

Geektastic. I was drawn by the title, and the pixellated superhero avatar on the spine cinched the deal. And I was absolutely not disappointed by this collection of eccentric short stories that feature, well, the more unusually passionate side of life. Or something. I admit to being something of a geek (well, maybe more than something . . . ), and I’m assuming most of my readers are (or why on earth are you reading my blog?!)–and for a geeky audience, this collection is perfect. Regardless of what sort of geek you are (and let’s face it, there are a million variations), there’s likely something here for you . . . and maybe something to help you understand other varieties of geeks a little better as well. If you are the non-geeky cheerleader . . . you might do better to ask your local population for the crash course, if only because this book is a pretty big plunge all at once. But really, Geektastic is an amazing collection by great authors about some super-fun topics (just do be warned of sex, alcohol, etc.)–definitely recommended!

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