Friday, April 3, 2009

Review: Lost at Sea - Bryan Lee O' Malley

So sorry, precious blog, for not updating you. The last few weeks have been schedule/busy hell, so you're going to just have to deal with it. Oh, and I sent P&P&Z over to raych at books i done read and she reviewed it. Pretty nifty!

Now, I've never reviewed a comic book before, so you're going to have to bear with me here. I've talked a lot about comics, since I draw comics myself, and though I've never really gotten on the superhero train, I definitely know a thing or two about comics. Well, as much as a college kid can know without being male, smelling bad, and hanging out exclusively in a dank, moist room (I hang out in coffeeshops! Difference!).

Bryan Lee O' Malley is currently best know for his work on the Scott Pilgrim series, of which I have read the first two books of and love. But. The comic (at least the first two volumes) are flawed by two things:

1) Being a little weak on character motives
2) Making girls confused as to why we're supposed to forgive Scott Pilgrim's <plot point removed>.

But! It is awesome because it is an English-language comic book that takes big cues stylistically both from manga and alternative American comics. And I won't explain that because I'll get rantish.

Wait... I was reviewing Lost at Sea, though. And let me tell you--where O' Malley fails in Scott Pilgrim, he absolutely nails in Lost at Sea. I'm not sure if this is because the comic is stand-alone and really gives off the sense of completion, but either way, it is just a pile of awesome.

First off, for summary: Lost at Sea is the story of a just-graduated-high-school girl, Raleigh, traveling with three acquaintances north through the American northwest on their way back home to Canada. Raleigh is disconnected and unsure of herself, for reasons that she tries to explain through the comic. It's hard to say exactly what the plot is because so much of the comic is rambling and going on in Raleigh's head. The moving action is not the journey to Canada, but the exposition of Raleigh's dilemma.

The art is simplistic and unique. It seems sloppy at first, but everything is perfectly framed and put together--the sloppiness adds to the writing and message of the comic. The comic is dark, and I've heard it described as depressing, but I don't know if that only works on the extrovert-types-over-thar because I thought the ending was somewhat uplifting. Some other criticisms I've also heard are that O' Malley inserts way too many pop culture and video game references, but honestly? Even if you don't get the references (as I didn't in a lot of Scott Pilgrim) there's still the sense of the bizarre associated with them to make them entertaining. Lost at Sea does not depend at all on the understanding of references; as a matter of fact, I can't even remember any of the references right now.

Probably the best part of the book is the characterization of Raleigh and her friends, because it is one of the most honest depictions of teenagers I've seen before in current works--no, not just comics, I mean everything. Movies. Books. That kind of stuff. Sure, these teenagers are probably somewhat part of the nerd culture that O' Malley originates from, but who's reading this comic? Seriously? The conflict seems real without being melodramatic, and the teenagers actually have brains! Take that, Gossip Girl! So I say pick up Lost at Sea, and for God's sake, buy it because you will be reading it over and over.

I give it nine arbitrary numbers out of ten.