Drifting, teenage style

Lost at Sea
by Bryan Lee O’Malley

It was inevitable, after my great love of the Scott Pilgrim books, that I would search out O’Malley’s earlier work, and this is it – a simple, sensitive tale of teenage confusion. It’s touchingly written and artfully drawn.

O’Malley sticks to black and white for his comics, making great use of plain black or white backgrounds to highlight moments of loneliness, with a surprising amount of detail packed into other panes.

The story is simple and yet at times can be hard to follow. This is because the main character, 18-year-old Raleigh, is both jumbled up herself and reluctant to tell the story that she is telling. Initially I found that irritating but then I relaxed into it as I realised how necessary it was to illustrate Raleigh’s state of mind.

Action switches between a road trip from California to Vancouver, to the events that led to the road trip, and sometimes further back still. The story touches on lost friends, parents divorcing, first love, losing your soul (possibly to a cat) – the usual teenage stuff. It’s familiar without being cliché, sweet without being saccharine, quirky without being unrelatable.

Fans of the Scott Pilgrim books may not all love this as much as I do. This has none of the geekiness, boyishness or the comedy. What they have in common, in addition to the great art and believable dialogue, is the sense of drifting aimlessly through life. Those who criticised that in 20-something Scott Pilgrim may find it more forgiveable in 18-year-old Raleigh.

Published 2002 by Oni Press.