E-mail: [email protected] Written By: Joshua Waldrop
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Lost at Sea, the coming-of-age tale of Raleigh
Mention the name of Canadian graphic novelist Bryan Lee O’Malley to any self-respecting geek, and the first two words shouted from their lips will undoubtedly be an enthusiastic, “SCOTT PILGRIM!” But a year before O’Malley’s now iconic guitar-wielding teenager first saw print and eight years prior to the character’s immortalization on the big screen, the cartoonist made his inauspicious debut in in the comics world by way of the quaint single-volume offering, Lost At Sea by Oni Press.
Lost At Sea is the coming-of-age tale of 18-year-old Raleigh, a Canadian teenager returning to Vancouver from a holiday in California. Raleigh, like most teenagers, is lost and confused and in search of her own identity. Unlike most teenagers however, she has no soul – or so she believes. Her mother has purportedly sold her identity to the devil, who in turn placed it inside of a cat. It is for this reason, she surmises, that she cannot make emotional connections with other people, least of which, her three trip mates.
Far from mere whimsy, the tale is woven simply but deftly, employing the minimalist style that has become O’Malley’s hallmark. It explores, in a very honest and clever way, the familiar tropes of isolation and loneliness that often accompany adolescent protagonists from a broken home and who have been relocated from a place she once knew and had grown accustomed and comfortable in. It does so with a great deal of introspection via Raleigh’s pronounced inner monologue, which at once seems far more mature than that of your typical 18-year-old, while also ringing poignant with the imagination of youth. The juxtaposition results in an expression of understated emotion that ring authentic and conjure empathy with ease.
Raleigh is accompanied on her journey by three high school classmates: Stephanie, David, and Ian, whom, it turns out, invited Raleigh by something of an accident. These characters, foul-mouthed, audacious, and with just the right amount of angst, interact in a very real manner that comes across as non-forced and non-cliché. Here, O’Malley’s dialogue reflects his impressive restraint, as the characters speak (and think) to each other in a very frank manner that is not anchored by the new writer’s over-exposition. It becomes clear that O’Malley has learned and definitely subscribes to the mantra of “less is more,” and as the details of the trip and Raleigh’s past unfold, you become very thankful for it.
Those looking for the stark, in-your-face, overly sensorial artistic stylings found in the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World series will be sorely disappointed. While O’Malley’s quazi-anime characterization is present, it is far more subdued, as the character renderings are more simplistic and blend with the background. This James Kochalka-esque style would be at home alongside the Hernandez Brothers’ Love And Rockets, and aptly reflect the tone and temperament of the book in a way that allows the heart of the story to beat through unobstructed.
The blurb on the back cover of Lost at Sea says, “If you’ve ever been eighteen, or confused, or both, maybe you should read this book.” Perfectly put. The story is supremely satisfying, it is wholly relatable, travels a short distance and arrives at a decent conclusion. O’Malley successfully captures what being on the verge of adulthood feels like, and without having to fight so much as a single evil ex.
Sources / Supporting Links / Works Cited: : Lost At Sea Wikipedia page
James Kochalka bio
Hernandez Brothers bio
Lost At Sea graphic novel
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World series and film