Mushrooms of Second Chances: A Review of Seconds

Seconds is cartoonist and author Bryan Lee O’Malley’s first release since the conclusion of the Scott Pilgrim comic series. While it maintains a similar art style and is still heavily referential towards the big hits of nerd culture, Seconds is a more mature story.

Katie, the story’s protagonist, is the chef and primary owner of a restaurant called Seconds. At the start of the story we learn that she is also trying to open another restaurant, which will appropriately be called Katie’s, and she is waiting for the construction to finish. In the meantime she continues to work at Seconds, keeping tabs on the restaurant and distracting the workers.

After an accident in the kitchen, for which she is partially to blame, Katie is given a mushroom and a notepad by a mysterious girl who shows up in her bedroom (which happens to be in the same building as Seconds). The instructions say that Katie can write down something she wants to change and eat the mushroom, so she does just that. And when she wakes up the accident has never happened. This small change doesn’t have much impact, but by chance Katie finds more of these mushrooms growing beneath the floorboards of Seconds’ kitchen. And as she consumes more of them and starts to change more events, things become more complicated.

The story contains a similar sort of humor as found in Scott Pilgrim, and it manages to always keep things just a little lighthearted, even in instances where drama is building. For example, at one point Katie’s ex-boyfriend, who has become her boyfriend after several time rewrites, discovers the notebook and wonders at all of the strange detailed past existences she writes about. It’s an interesting dramatic moment kept humorous when he calls her out on having bad grammar.

Also similar is the protagonist in that Katie, like Scott Pilgrim, is selfish and doesn’t deal well with people often. However, I found that she was in some ways more relatable because she had a goal outside of her love life. The quest for Ramona is what drives Scott, and he sort of figures out life during this journey. Katie is already a successful business owner looking to expand on her career. Her issues is juggling everything and trying to make it work, and the way she interacts with people sometimes makes this difficult for her.

One of the main things that I thought made Seconds distinct and perhaps feel more mature was how it draws on mythology for its story line. I couldn’t say what mythology exactly, but the story involves house spirits, which are prevalent in a lot of cultures, so it was cool to see O’Malley building on that idea. I loved how Scott Pilgrim seemed to evolve out of an amalgamation of pretentious music scenes, gamer culture, and being a young person in the 21st century, but it’s also nice to see O’Malley taking a slightly different tact with this story and drawing on different influences.

While Scott Pilgrim was a coming-of-age story about a young man trying to navigate adulthood, Seconds is more of a fable about working with what you have, since you don’t really get do-overs (or in the case of this story, having do-overs can go completely wrong). Even with the ability to change events, nothing can ever be perfect, so we shouldn’t strive to make it so.

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