Sunday, August 05, 2007

Review - Lost at Sea

By Bryan Lee O’Malley
Published by Oni Press, 2nd ed. March 2005. $11.95

LOST AT SEA is a pre-SCOTT PILGRIM graphic novel from Bryan Lee O’Malley concerning four teenagers, a road trip, lots of cats, a blinking NO, and lost souls. Our hero is Raleigh, who believes she lost her soul the summer after her childhood best friend moved away. What led Raleigh to be in this car with three strangers is something she pieces together for herself, and for us, as the trip progresses.

Raleigh’s lost best friend is given a fair amount of art-and-pagespace early on, only to go unseen for the last two-thirds of the book, but once LOST AT SEA turns into what it turns into, it’s a touching chronicle of post-high school moments that is fulfilling and truthful.

Steph, one of Raleigh’s car-mates, tells her toward the end that Raleigh has survived “your life’s great trauma,” which is melodramatic in the way it should be. But like real life, Raleigh’s story doesn’t end or crescendo with her life’s great trauma -- it just keeps going, moment by moment, as her experiences add up to be who she is. So even though LOST AT SEA doesn’t have the storytelling balance of SCOTT PILGIRM'S PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE, the honesty of the story being told still endears it to me.

What I noticed in particular about Bryan Lee O’Malley’s art in SCOTT PILGRIM, and what is even more relevant to my own experiences in LOST AT SEA, is his eye for true detail even in a cartoony world. I’ve never seen the spartan utility of rest stop bathroom portrayed so accurately -- even down to the tilt of the mirrors. I feel like every location was drawn a photograph tinged with memory, which makes the story’s proceedings feel even more important -- and makes me remember the rest stops, diners and Americana I’ve experienced in my own travels. LOST AT SEA is the kind of book I resisted at first, but now that it’s done, I keep turning over in my head again and again, finding the places in my own life where my experiences match up with Raleigh’s.

Tell me more: Bryan Lee O'Malley, Oni Press.

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