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Graphic Novel Review: Lost at Sea

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo








For some, graduating high school is the end of an era, where they start their lives as adults. For others, it’s the stepping stone to higher education. A few may be truly sad by leaving what is familiar, others excited by the unknown. But for many, it’s a strange and awkward time between childhood and adulthood. For Raleigh, truer words have never been said. After all, she has no soul; it was stolen by a cat... or so she says. And she found herself on an impromptu self-discovery road trip back home to Canada with some classmates while in California. And there’s a boy. There’s always a boy. Oh, and all the jumbled thoughts in the present. It all makes sense in the end.


While Bryan Lee O’Malley is best known for the Scott Pilgrim comics, Lost At Sea was his first graphic novel, and when you give it a side-by-side comparison with Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, you can tell that the style is very different from Scott Pilgrim. Even if you compare the hardback covers, one look at each gives you the same impression you’d get at the paperbacks: Lost At Sea is more down to earth, not as exaggerated, and a mix of melancholic and mellow: it is a story of self-discovery and coming of age. Even ten years ago, O’Malley had a fairly simple yet charming look for all his characters and settings that just works, and with the ten-year anniversary edition the extra splashes of this almost salmon looking pink throughout the story, a color that was originally only the cover of the paperback, is an excellent touch. However, a careful eye can spot bits and pieces that would be recognized into the iconic style O’Malley had for his breakout success.


If that intro wasn’t enough of an indicator, let me be more up front in how the story is told. Lost At Sea is both a soft stream of consciousness story and not. Raleigh is telling us her life story, or at least the parts we’re privy to, and ranges from dreams, her past, her parents, school, all these bits and pieces that don’t seem all that important but her thoughts are the only insight we get to her. When we’re not in her thoughts, we’re in the real world with the three other characters as they interact with each other and with Raleigh; this is what we can know is the most certain because we see it too. Raleigh isn’t an unreliable narrator in the sense that she wants to lie to us or make us believe something that isn’t true, but rather there are things she doesn’t want to tell us… not at a specific point in most cases. The beauty of it is that this is the sort of story that merits a second reading that allows us to see things we might have not spotted before and gain a greater view of the overall story.


Along with Raleigh, the other three characters are Stephanie, Dave, and Ian. With the exception of Stephanie, who interacts with Raleigh the most, Dave and Ian seem to lack anything noteworthy… at first. They’re funny and sardonic and usually what you would expect but reading closely shows that Dave is sensitive about his ex-girlfriend and a bit aloof, Ian is something of a flirt and loves talking, there is more to them they would let on. They all have their problems and issues and a past, but we’re never truly let in on what these are because, like Raleigh, we don’t know them all that well. We get a bit more insight to what sort of people they are thanks to some extras in the back of the anniversary edition, but even then there’s not much more we know. After all, Raleigh is our eyes for the story and we know her the most: she’s confused, she doubts her thoughts, she doesn’t know how to feel or how to continue from the storms she has endured, and she’s… well, she’s lost at sea. (Shameless title drop)


Lost At Sea is not exactly what I would call the sort of comic you read when you’re wanting a laugh, though that’s not to say it’s what you read when you want mental stimulation like some classic novel or something deep. It’s more like when you’re flipping through channels on TV and suddenly come upon something that looks interesting. It’s kinda quiet, a bit thoughtful, and you sort of just… feel it. You get it. You know what the main character is thinking and feeling, and you recall memories and feelings like that. Maybe it resonates with someone my age more because my memories from being 18 are still relatively recent, so maybe I’ll need to re-read this in another ten years.


However, Lost At Sea is different from your standard fare of comics. If you needed a comparison on what sort of experience to expect, it’s similar to Craig Thompson’s Blankets in that we see a lot of introspection and retrospection. The biggest difference is that while the memories in Blankets are old memories, the recent events in Lost At Sea are painfully fresh since the story proper only takes place over two days. If Scott Pilgrim wasn’t your thing, maybe Lost At Sea is more to your liking. And, if we’re lucky, perhaps next week will give you another alternative…



Rating: 7.0

Artwork: 7
Narrative: 8
Characters: 7
Entertainment Value: 5
Experience: 8






































   Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley

  Illustrator: Bryan Lee O’Malley

  Publisher: Oni Press

  Release Date: November 2003




Final Verdict:


7.0

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