Review: The Scott Pilgrim Series

200px-ScottPilgrim.jpgI’m luke-warm on manga, and I’ve never been to Canada, but toss these two flavors in the mix along with a heap of 21st century, 20-something cool kid goodness, and you get a series of graphic novels that make for damn fine reading.

Scott Pilgrim’s Good Start

The series is written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, a Canadian cartoonist with a few other books to his name, as well as a number of nominations for Harvey, Eisner, and Eagle awards, among others.

The story revolves around Scott Pilgrim, a 23 year-old citizen of Toronto who’s simultaneously a jobless layabout, a fighting hero, and the bassist of a band called “Sex Bob-Omb”. He’s recently fallen for cool, tough delivery girl Ramona, but in order to earn the right to call her his girl, he’s got to fight and defeat her seven ex-boyfriends.

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I was hooked by the first volume (there are to be 6 total, with the 4th published in late 2007). The main character, the surreal, yet familiar situations, and realistic dialogue, the deceptively simple art, and the story in this first volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, were all top notch.

But as I moved into the 2nd volume, more characters were introduced, there were more slightly confusing flashbacks to high school and there was more time spent on events and relationships that seemed to move the story laterally instead of forward. The 2nd and 3rd volumes still had a bit of the spark of the 1st volume, but it was diluted and impure. I still intend to grab volume four, but the urgency is gone. As evidenced by it’s 2007 publication date and the current calendar reading nearly mid-way through 2008.

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But truthfully, this series of graphic novels isn’t special because of its story of getting the girl, becoming a successful musician, and living a happy fulfilling life. It’s the soldering together of pop culture bits that makes this series really stand out from other indy comics. To name a few:

You got your classic Roadrunner cartoon where the action stops in a freeze frame and the names of the characters appear. The video game conceit of defeating an increasingly hearty sequence of enemies in one on one combat, the victor being rewarded with the spontaneous appearance of a weapon or item. And the phenomenon of young human beings identifying themselves almost entirely based upon what music they listen to.

All are fused together and then applied directly to the comic page. The results? Good stuff. O’ Malley, in his simple artistic style and rambling, unfocused storytelling technique, expertly captures the life of the 20-something: the sense of impermanence in relationships and responsibilities, the lack of a practical, directed application of effort, and the odd mix of anxiety and apathy.

Scott Pilgrim: From Page to Big Screen

A film version of the series is in the works, with a couple of big names attached to it. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) is slated to direct, and Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Superbad, Juno) has been cast as the title character. Sounds like they’re going to start filming in the fall of this year.

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Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (Amazon.com)
Scott Pilgrim (wikipedia)
Bryan Lee O’Malley (wikipedia)
Radiomaru.com (website of Bryan Lee O’Malley)