Re-Reading Comics: Lost at Sea (O’Malley)

Last week I reread The Eyes of The Cat, thinking it’d be fun to start reviewing comics again, which I haven’t done regularly since I had a column at SF Signal (1). With the pandemic and ensuing lockdown shuttering my local comics shop for now, I’ve decided to re-read and review books I’ve already got at home. I have so many! Graphic novels and collections and boxes of floppies… I could talk about different comics every week until the end of 2021. (Fingers crossed my local reopens before then.)

So, that’s the plan.

I bought Lost At Sea, by Bryan Lee O’Malley, at The Beguiling when I was in Toronto a few years ago. It was released by Oni Press in 2003 (they also put out his more famous work, the Scott Pilgrim series).

This stand-alone graphic novel kicked off O’Malley’s career a year before Scott Pilgrim began, when he was just 24. It started as a two-page full-color comic in the 2002 Oni Press Color Special, and later expanded into a small book. Though fans will be able to see the evolution in O’Malley’s style from here to there, I actually prefer Lost at Sea. It’s not as directed toward the 20-something gamer geek crowd. (No disrespect intended; I’m both a gamer and a geek.) It’s softer, more open to interpretation, and easier to find yourself in.

Lost focuses on the story of one girl looking for her soul, which was stolen by cats, or traded to the devil. Or she could be looking for friends, or a salve for her broken heart, or a ride back to Canada. There are a lot of possibilities. O’Malley mixes a strong but cute style – grounded in his use of dark line work and sometimes-dynamic panel placement – with a not-entirely-linear story line that was so intriguing I read the whole book in one sitting the first time through. And the next time. And again this week.

What stands out to me most this time wasn’t the way in which this lost girl wandered through her life, but how much the story looks the reader right in the eyes and says, “Hey, you’re secretly pretty great and worth fighting for.” There’s a kind of companionship there we all either take for granted because we’ve always had it, or wish we had because we never really did. The idea that no matter how weird or screwed up we are, there’s someone who’ll believe in us, walk with us, go to war for us… Right now, when any connection is a lifeline, friends like that seem like a dream, and Lost at Sea becomes even more lovely.

Notes and References:

  1. You can still read all the comics reviews from my “Outside the Frame” column at SF Signal, here.
  2. The Beguiling, like a lot of shops, is closed for the duration of the shutdown but if you’re local, you can call or email them to place orders. They’re offering pick-up and delivery. Read more here.
  3. You can follow O’Malley on Instagram to see his latest work; I do.

Re-Reading Comics: The Eyes of the Cat (Mœbius & Jodorowky)

Cover for the 2013 “Yellow Edition” published by Humanoids

I reread The Eyes of the Cat this week, a graphic novel written by Jodorowsky and drawn by Mœbius – hands down one of my favorite artists. Created in 1978, the original portfolio-sized zine featured 56 single-panel pages because Jodorowsky specifically asked to “be free from the traditional format of each page cut into panels” (according to his introduction). It was their first comic book collaboration (they later worked together on The Incal series, which I also have), and was Jodorowsky’s way of making something, anything, out of the ashes of the movie-that-never-was, Dune. (1)

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Review: Reckoning 2 (Dec 2017)

I got a copy of this over the summer, and finally got a chance to read it this fall. I’m glad I discovered I should be paying attention to what this small magazine is offering.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect, or wonderful, or for me. On the surface, it’s a collection of poetry, fiction, and essays growing wild like plants in a field; like any wild bunch of things, it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which, and what works together with other creations in that setting instead of merely being there at the same time. There are essays which seem like stories – one that works and one that doesn’t – and poems I wanted more from, stories I would have cut down. But in between, there’s brilliance.

Before I get further into my review, I have to stop you right here and ask: have you read Innocent Ilo’s “To the Place of Skulls”? It’s easily one of the best and most impactful stories I’ve read this year, and I am honestly surprised that I haven’t seen more people talking about it. If I had to pick one story for you to read from this year’s Reckoning, it would be Ilo’s. So well-crafted it reads like it’s a far simpler story than it really is; the kind of craft that leads you into a dark and heavy place before you know it, without forcing you there, without feeling saccharine or unsupported. There’s nothing I don’t love about this story (except the subject, of course, which is both fiction and just barely, maybe tomorrow, going to be true somewhere).

Luckily, I don’t have to pick just one, from this thick annual magazine that editor Micheal DeLuca envisioned to showcase “creative writing on environmental justice”. With six poems, five essays, twelve stories, and art, there’s going to be something for everyone. Even the work I didn’t connect with has a purpose – like “From Paris, With Rage“, an essay framed as a story, which mostly focuses on teaching readers how to deal with being arrested at a major ecological protest, if that’s something you need to know. I was comforted, seeing a high level of quality work through a magazine of this size, because it tells me that it’s not a combination of good stories and bad ones, or well-written compared to badly constructed. It’s work that suits my tastes and what I needed to read at that moment, and other work that isn’t written for me. Maybe it’s written for you.

The work I did connect with, I’m grateful to have read. “A Wispy Chastening” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires is exactly what flash fiction should be: tightly written but hinting at vastly more than is on the page, allowing you to fill in the blanks in your head to supply the worldbuilding that wouldn’t fit into the word count limit. Marie Vibbert’s “Fourth-Dimensional Tessellations of the American College Graduate” is another one of my favorites – even if you don’t have a soft spot in your heart for bees like I do, it’s a cleverly winding tale of young adult attachment, and the way we collect the people who complete us, whether we like them or not.

Both “The Bull Who Bars the Gate to Heaven” by Zella Christensen and “A Hundred Years From Now” by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam are excellent poems that are simultaneously both stories and messages, and while some of the other poems here I felt lacked something, or tried too hard, these two were perfect as they are. Marissa Lingen’s “The Shale Giants” is another flash fiction story, but its word count barely constrains its slow-moving mass of rock and building resentment. Definitely worth reading.

Girl Singing with Farm” by Kathrin Köhler, is a weird science fiction story both beautiful and heartbreaking, but one that also hints at a happy ending, and even the possibility (never certain) is something most other pieces in this issue don’t offer. “Rumpelstiltskin” by Jane Elliott is one of the better uses of this particular fairy tale I’ve read in a retelling. A father slowly losing everything to a global famine recounts how the world came to be this way, and through his recollections, you get a glimpse of where the fault lies.

The answer is the same for much of Reckoning: the fault lies in ourselves. Maybe if we open up to more creative environmental writing, we’ll figure out how to fix some of what we’ve broken before it’s too late. (At the very least, Reckoning aims to get you thinking about the problem, which is the first step.)


Ebook released December 21, 2017.
e-ISBN: 9780998925226
Weightless Books
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Print edition released June 21, 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-9989252-3-3
248 pages, 67,000 words.
$20, free shipping