Bryan Lee O’Malley, with Nathan Fairbairn
This book is beautiful. I usually try to start these review off more measured, maybe talk about the dialogue and a little back story but for this it wouldn’t really be doing the book justice – beautiful is simply the best way to describe this book!
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s popularity has been growing and growing with the success of his Scott Pilgrim series and then the Edgar Wright directed movie introducing the comics to an even wider audience, so when I saw that he had a new original graphic novel coming out, after quite a long wait, I was pretty excited, having had each of the new colour trades of Scott Pilgrim on my pull list every time they were coming out (coincidentally volume 5 of the Scott Pilgrim Colour hardbacks also come out this month from Oni).
This book does not disappoint!
It is very similar in tone and art style to Scott Pilgrim but presents a more grown-up world with more grown-up, mature problems – it’s almost as if Scott Pilgrim was a book about being a twenty-something in the early 2000s and this is about moving on, getting that bit older (facing the thirty year milestone!), dealing with things like jobs, relationships and magic mushrooms… (no, not quite those kinds of mushrooms)
As if to compliment that, the writing itself feels more mature and you can tell how much O’Malley has grown as a writer – he even plays with new dialogue styles and features a central character, Katie the chef, that loosely (and often hilariously) breaks the fourth wall, talking out to the narrator of the story, or more frequently arguing with the narrator (for instance the narrator on her approaching her thirtieth birthday, feeling a little burned out by her current life, a little old, Katie snaps back out of the page she’s not only, dude, she’s like only twenty nine…).
The dialogue contains similar awkward humour and characters who you instantly love for their adorableness on top of their unique complexity, and each character is as believable and grounded as the next which makes the unique fantasy elements in this book that more interesting, because as most readers know before you can introduce some flights of fancy sequences you also, paradoxically, need some well grounded elements first.
…but enough of the writing, did I mention this book is Beautiful!!
Really, it is! I can’t stress that enough – O’Malley has matured as an artist as well and he wilfully plays with panelling to draw the reader’s eyes in new and fun ways, on top of the manga-esque style caricatures that he’s become known for. As you look through each page, you get a feast of emotions and expressions, and each character seems to be riddled with life as O’Malley has their body language, hairstyles and clothing down to an art – you can tell that every character in this book was fully fleshed out and not just thrown in for the sake of a joke or to make a scene work.
Then you’ve Fairbairn’s colours; they’re mouth watering. And after working with O’Malley on the colour trades of Scott Pilgrim you can tell he knows how to compliment O’Malley’s art style. He plays with full washes and minute colour detail depending on the scene and really gets the scenes in the panels to pour out of the page, giving a treat for the eyes.
This book is set in a restaurant and talks of food a lot and it delivers a full three-course meal of deliciousness for its reader at the same time! If you’re a fan of O’Malley’s work, get this book! If you’re a fan of fun stories with great humour, get this book! If you’re a fan of a look at ordinary life through a fantastical lens, get this book! Trust me, this is a highly enjoyable book!
A reminder: Bryan Lee O’Malley will be signing in our Edinburgh FP on Sunday 17th of August from 12 noon to 1pm and in our Dublin store on August 20th from 5 to 7pm. Bryan will also be talking to the blog’s own Joe Gordon on Sunday 17th at the Edinburgh International Book Festival