Anyone who knows me knows that in almost any conversation revolving around graphic novels, one name is inevitably going to come up. At some point, the floodgates will open and I will start singing the praises of Bryan Lee O’Malley as if he were the personification of all things good and comic-y.
It’s true, he may be my favorite graphic novel artist and writer out there (with Brian K. Vaughan running up there in the writing category), and there were a good three months in which I found myself unable to talk about anything but O’Malley and just how very much in love I was- and am- with his fantastic Scott Pilgrim series.
But this week I’m not here to talk about Scott Pilgrim, one of my favorite graphic novel series’ of all time. Instead, I’d like to talk about O’Malley’s first, slightly less famous, publication with Oni Press: “Lost At Sea”.
“Lost at Sea” is the story of 18 year old Raleigh, a Canadian girl visiting the United States. Raleigh goes to Sturton in Canada, but visits California to see her father (although that’s not really why). While she’s there, though, she runs into three other Sturton students she doesn’t really know: Ian, Dave, and Stephanie. Though she doesn’t really know them, she gets in the car with them on their roadtrip back to Canada. This is where the story begins.
Oh, and one more thing: Raleigh is pretty sure her soul has been stolen by a cat.
This is the world of Raleigh, an average girl with insecurities, who doesn’t think she fits in with the rest of the human race, who doesn’t consider herself pretty, or even human. Who is pretty sure the devil gave a cat her soul.
“Lost At Sea” isn’t really about the fact that Raleigh may or may not have a soul, though. Moreso, it’s about being a kid and being really, really confused. It’s about being unsure of yourself. It’s about being scared. But it’s also about having fun anyway. It’s about learning that it’s okay to open up to people, that having friends is what keeps us alive. It’s about acquaintances, and those random coincidences that save our sanity. It’s about questioning everything. It’s about love, and loneliness, and all the awkward feelings in between. I’m not hesitant to place the ranking as is:
Catcher In The Rye > Lost At Sea > Perks of Being A Wallflower
Okay, I might be a little bit partial. But I really do love this book. The novel is dialogue and narrative-driven, and it thrives in both. The majority is spent in Raleigh’s head, and she speaks in such beautiful, truthful words that you can’t help but feel for her. Throughout the novel the mysteries of her life are slowly, though not completely, unraveled; they leave just enough to leave the reader gloriously in a dimly-lit room. And while Raleigh’s inner monologues are often thought provoking and deep, the outwards dialogues are anything but. The conversations between Raliegh’s unlikely friends are natural and reminded me exactly of the kinds of conversations I had with my friends at my age. They are witty, silly, and pointless. They’re fun, and they epitomize the strange feelings of adolescence: holding on to the fun, carefree sense of childhood while the looming, dark weight of adulthood can be seen just over the horizon. Without hyperbole I can say that this book made me feel the pang of tears one page, and made me laugh out loud the next. And it flows perfectly, at that. No senseless jumps from one emotion to the next- only smooth, sensible transitions.
As far as the art goes, it follows in Bryan’s relatively simple, yet incredibly expressive. The style is noticeably different from the style used in “Scott Pilgrim”, but it’s still obvious that the books are made by the same artist. The entire book is done in black, white, and gray shades, highly appropriate for the tone of the book. Whole panels are filled in black with white lettering, giving these segments a dreamlike, inner-voice quality. The simplicity of the drawings blends well with the poetic storyline, making the story that much more moving and involving.
“Lost At Sea” is kind of about a girl and her friends looking for the cat that stole her soul. But not really. And I don’t think I can come up with any better words to suggest it than an excerpt from the back cover:
“Raleigh is eighteen years old, and she has no idea what she’s doing. If you’ve ever been eighteen, or confused, or both, maybe you should read this book.”
“Lost At Sea”, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
P.S. Sorry about the late update. Beig sick and Moby Dick do not a happy Zack make.