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#13 – Lost at Sea

September 8, 2008

In addition to slowly, slowly reading a few novels over the past few months, I’ve also been reading a number of graphic novels.  I decided to not include reviews for those books here, because most of the time, the comics I’m reading are ones that people who care about the genre read 20 years ago (Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns) or ongoing series (The Walking Dead) that I’m not enough of a scholar, nor a close enough follower, to critique month by month.  So I think, proceeding from here, I’ll make a note of graphic novels when they’re unique, a bit more obscure, or there’s something really special about them.

And hey, look!  This one is all three.  Lost at Sea is Bryan Lee O’Malley’s first published work, and the only book he put out before his masterwork Scott Pilgrim series.  While the books are in some ways very similar, they kind of exist in two different planes.  If Scott Pilgrim is about how awesome it is to be in your mid-twenties, out of school and living some kind of video game fantasy life in Toronto, Lost at Sea is about how awkward and crappy it is to be eighteen, between high school and university and generally having no idea what you’re doing.  Lost at Sea isn’t as much fun as Scott Pilgrim, and it’s definitely “artsier” however you want to define that, but it never feels fake or pretentious.  In fact, it’s feels completely honest – all the adolescent fantasies from Scott Pilgrim are stripped away, and you’re left with a book that feels more like a journal comic than anything.  I definitely would have believed Bryan Lee O’Malley was an eighteen year old girl after reading this if I wasn’t told otherwise.

I’m realizing as I write this how unfair it is to compare this book to Scott Pilgrim.  Despite a few little touches that carry over, and some familiar drawing and dialogue styles, these books have nothing to do with one another.  And if you’re sitting there asking yourself “Who the hell is Scott Pilgrim?” then I’ve said nothing that will convince you to read this book on its own merits.  So I’ll say this: Lost at Sea is a brief, poetic, gorgeous black-and-white book about being young and feeling uncomfortable and isolated.  To say anything about the plot beyond “a group of kids take a road trip” seems to be missing the point – to be 100% frustrating, it’s more about the journey than the destination.  In fact, there’s really no better way to say it then to take the summary from the back of the book: “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.”  That about says it all.

BONUS EXTRA COMIC REVIEW: I also just finished reading Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight by Chris Onstad recently, a collection of the pages making up the webcomic Achewood‘s finest story arc ever.  If you’re a fan of the site, then the book is well worth checking out – the individual page titles may be missing, but Onstad adds new history on the Fight, profiles on past Champions, and other little bits of his gifted, mind-blowing prose.  If you don’t read Achewood yet, then it’s your lucky day: you can read the entire Great Outdoor Fight arc for free online starting here!  There are not many better introductions to this comic than this story.

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