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:
- You can still read all the comics reviews from my “Outside the Frame” column at SF Signal, here.
- 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.
- You can follow O’Malley on Instagram to see his latest work; I do.