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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Lost at Sea

Art & Story: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Publisher: Oni Press

What’s it about?
Lost at Sea is a black & white graphic novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley. It was first published in 2003 through Oni Press.

It's a "coming of age" story about this girl named Raleigh. She is on a road trip with some fellow classmates from school she doesn't know much. She tagged along as they were driving across America, from California back home to Vancouver, Canada.

Raleigh has always by a loner, distanced from other kids at school. She doesn't talk much and keeps to herself since her childhood friend moved away.

She was visiting her father and tried to go back to this long-distance boyfriend she had a relationship with. Since she missed her train back home, she kinda took this occasion to join a road trip when these guys Stephanie, Dave and Ian were also on their way back.

She spends the story thinking back and forth about her relationship (this guy she met on the internet!), who she was, who she is now and who she wants to be.

Oh. And also, she believes cats are after her. She thinks her mom sold her sold her soul as a kid, for success and her career. Yep.

The story does get kinda surreal at times. She sees cats everywhere. She believes a cat stole her soul. She forces everyone to wake up in the middle of the night to attempt to catch the cat back, as she slowly opens up to the others.

It's a comic about a girl just as much looking for a point of anchor in her life had she been actually "lost at sea".

A fun quirky tale about four college age-kids driving back home around holidays.

What is good about it?
Lost at Sea is a great self-contained graphic novel. A really fun "slice of life"-kind of story.

Highly relatable, sweet, short, and fun.

Raleigh makes for a great protagonist. She has fears than anyone can relate to. Everyone's been that age, at that point in your life. If you're the same age or older, she has insecurities we all share at some point. And because of that, she's always been considered a loner. But the others eventually talk to her, and it turns out they always kind of saw her as this cool distanced rebel, and not as this cold inhuman being she fears she is.

Also, she has this "thing" with cats. But it's totally cool, and only makes her all the more human.

Lost at Sea is a great, well written introspective tale.

The book has lovely art - perhaps a bit less polished than O'Malley's later work - but just as good. He puts a lot of work into his characters' feel and expressions. They might look simplified but they still act and appear very human. There's a lovely sincerity about these characters.

It's a charming enjoyable read.

This segment here concerns the new edition: Around the release of this comic (before and after the publication of Lost at Sea) Bryan Lee O'Malley did a few one-shot stories around these characters. Before the release of the first edition of the book in November 2003, he made a 2-page comic, in full colors. 2002. He also did a few webcomic strips for Oni Press's webpage, and some other 1-page comics revolving around these characters here and there. These are all included at the end of the new 2014 Hardcover edition of Lost at Sea, which is a great bonus addition!

What is bad about it?

One can't say this is yet another very stereotypical "indie" type of story. With awkward teens of our biased generation. It feels like a type of story that has been driven to the ground. But since this is in comic form instead of a Sundance film, at least it feels slightly different through this medium.

Also the other characters of the cast don't seem particularly deep and the doesn't delve to much into their respective personalities. They're mostly here in order to bounce off Raleigh's interaction, who is clearly the best more defined of the bunch. The other girl, Stephanie, does get to shine a bit more than the guys.

Finally I suppose this kind of art style might have some detractors amongst some comic book purists. Too bad for them, they're gonna be missing out on a nice change of pace!

What’s the art like?
A beautiful story needs beautiful art. It might not be necessary a deep story, but it's a great exploration of those years. Giving much of the frontscene to the sense of confusion and feelings of that time in your life.

And Bryan Lee O'Malley's art is specially fitting for that kind of young/awkward-ysh heart-warming tale.

He does have an unique style. Very distinctive. His manga-influenced art style works wonder for these sort of slice of life-tales:

The new much recommended Hardcover edition doesn't' actually feature a "proper" re-coloring like the HC Scott Pilgrim series, but instead goes for simpler and perhaps more suited "peach-colored" tones over the original art.

It gives the book a sort of nostalgic/sepia-ysh tone, appropriate.

More information
Lost At Sea, paperback
168 pages, Priced at approximately £6.71 (2005 new edition)
ISBN-10: 1932664165
ISBN-13: 978-1932664164
Lost at Sea, hardcover
New "10th anniversary" 2014 edition
176 pages, Priced at approximately £12.91
ISBN-10: 1620101130
ISBN-13: 978-1620101131

Further reading
If you liked this book, I suggest having a look at other indie titles like these. Oni Press and Drawn & Quaterly are perfect publishers to look for more similar stories like this.
Otherwise, I suggest having a lookt at the rest of Bryan Lee O'Malley's work.
Scott Pilgrim which was already reviewed over here. A much more energetic tribute to our video game generation. Full of references, meta-jokes and just as much quirky dialogues.
Seconds: A Graphic Novel Bryan Lee O'Malley's latest book, released this August. Sort of a book in-between both Lost at Sea and Scott Pilgrim. It has the same charming down-to-Earth introspective nature of Lost at Sea, combined with more fast-paced storytelling, a lot more humor and meta-references of Scott Pilgrim. Also since it's his latest book, his style has since also been a lot more stream-lined.

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