Thursday, July 22, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1 - Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life - Review

This happens to me all the time: I jump on to a series just as it ends. It happened to me with Lost, with Arrested Development, and now it’s happened with Scott Pilgrim. With the recent release of the final volume, I am just getting started with the series. Still, with the movie and video game coming out in a couple of weeks, I thought it would be a good exercise to review all of the volumes in the Scott Pilgrim series, all of which were written and drawn by series creator Brian Lee O'Malley. Hit the jump to read the review of the first volume.

Written by Brian Lee O’Malley
Art by Brian Lee O’Malley

In case you don’t know, the Scott Pilgrim books are manga-sized black and white comics, roughly 160 pages long. The story centers around our protagonist Scott Pilgrim and, as the title implies, about his life.

Scott is a loser. There is no two ways around it. He is 23 years old, he doesn’t have a job, he plays in a crappy band (Sex Bob-Omb), and he has deficient social skills. Scott is kind of an idiot, too. He lives and shares a bed (literally, not romantically) with his gay roommate Wallace, and as the book starts, he just started dating a girl from high school. It kind of makes me wonder how much of O’Malley’s personality and life story went into the making of Scott.

Things are starting to look up for Scott, as his relationship with Knives Chau (she’s Chinese) is pretty much drama-free, his band is getting slightly better, and despite being in between jobs, he is generally a happy guy.

Of course, his precious little life (did you see what I did there?) gets interrupted by the girl of his dreams. Literally, it’s a girl that shows up in Scott’s dreams, though he later finds out that she is real. Ramona Flowers has just moved to Toronto, she works for Amazon as a delivery girl, and they happen to meet each other at a party of some common friends. Scott, as he is wont to do, makes an ass out of himself in front of her. Like I mentioned earlier, he is very socially awkward, and this scene will resonate with anyone that has fumbled an introduction or a pick up line.

In order to get a second chance with Ramona, Scott orders some CD’s from Amazon, and Ramona ends up delivering them through some rather unusual means (I’ll come back to this in a second). They go out on a date and they hit it off pretty well in their first night together. Scott invites Ramona to one of Sex Bob-Ombs gigs. Of course, Knives is also going to be there, because in case you haven’t gotten it by now, Scott is an idiot.

The Sex Bob-Omb gig proves to be a convergence of all of Scott’s friends, family, and acquaintances, and he tries his best to avoid any conflict between Ramona and Knives. Lucky for him, he is pretty busy getting ready to play with his band, though just as they are about to take the stage, someone bursts through the ceiling. It is Matthew Pattel, the first of Ramona’s evil ex boyfriends.

Wait what?

Yeah, it appears that Ramona has a checkered past, and in order for anyone to date her they must first defeat all of her evil ex boyfriends. What follows is Scott and Matthew having an epic an entertaining video game-style boss fight, with reversal, combos and all that. In the end, Scott comes out victorious and we are teased some more about Ramona’s past relationships.

I found Precious Little Life to be a pretty entertaining book. Before reading it, people had told me there were a lot of video game references, and I thought I would miss most of the jokes because I am not a hardcore gaming fan, but that wasn’t the case at all. The book got a few good laughs out of me, and even the jokes that fell a bit flat were circumstantially funny. I can see how this humor might not be for everyone though. The art took me a while to get used to, but once you do, it works extremely well with the tone of the book. Some of the faces tend to blend together, but usually O’Malley gives enough visual clues to figure it out one way or the other.

The one thing that did surprise is the pace of the book, which moves patiently but surely forward, all the while exploring the world and people that inhabit Scott Pilgrim’s world. I am sure some of these characters will become more important in later books, and O’Malley does a nice job introducing them and their personalities to the reader.

One thing that did bother me was Ramona’s method of delivery of CD’s, and I know this might sound like a nitpick, but hear me out. When she goes to deliver them, she reveals to Scott that she is using a subspace highway to travel through his dreams (this is the reason why she had been appearing in them). What bothered me is that up until that point, the book was completely grounded in reality, but that scene broke my suspension of disbelief. Ideally, I think, it would have worked better if all of the book’s content and laws-of-the-universe up until the fight breaks out had remained the same as our world. Which is not to say that the scene shouldn’t have been in the book, but I felt it would have worked better if the big surprise that the world Scott Pilgrim inhabits is not the same as ours happened as Matthew came in flying through the roof. Discussing a sci-fi concept matter-of-factly might have not been the best way to do it, is all I am saying.

I think the book resonated with me because I have been in many similar situations as some of the characters in this book. The thrift store shopping, the crappy bands in friends’ house, and the dating woes. Everyone is bound to find something to relate to, though the degree might affect the end enjoyment of the experience. Still, if it weren’t for the epic fights, O’Malley could have easily gotten away with calling this book a slice of life story.

Verdict - Check It. Though I enjoyed this book a lot, recommending it to everyone is not something I would freely do. If you have the opportunity to read it from a library, or borrow it from a friend, you should definitely read it. Scott Pilgrim is not for everyone, but if it is for you, I have a feeling you will love it.

Interested in checking it out Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life? Buy it through Amazon and help support The Weekly Crisis!

Related Posts


Ivan said...

Great review, Matt.

I agree with you almost %100. I liked and disliked pretty much the same things you did. In the first few volumes I had a very hard time telling apart Kim, Ramona and Lisa. The art is something I got used to, but never got to enjoy, as manga is far from my favorite style.

Still, the story is compelling enough. Scott is not likeable all the time, and obviously that's what O'Malley was going for. While the 'flawed hero' is a staple of comics, it's usually a golden guy with just one major flaw that makes him 'relatable'. Scott is a guy that has just as many flaws as qualities, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. I know I did.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I read this recently and probably would have given a very similar review. It's good, for sure, but in my eyes I'm not sure that it's great. I think if I was a half-decade younger this would have captured me but it's just not in my wheelhouse anymore.

I was shocked that Scott is such a douche, in many ways, and that he's a cheater, and does it so casually.

Easily my favourite moment is defeating the first fight and collecting the coins afterwards, that was pretty damn funny.

blueairplane said...

I guess I'm the target audience because I loved everything about this book and the rest of the series (but I haven't gotten the new one yet). I think I'm right in the prime age bracket for the books, which I can see would be a determining factor for how one takes the books.

@Matt: I disagree about the subspace reveal. Part of the point, I think, is that all the weird stuff comes about when he meets Ramona, and that moment is the first indication of that. It is a bit of a "huh?" moment, but I thought it worked really well in hinting at all the crazy to follow. I think it could also be seen as metaphorical: Ramona starts him on the path to actual adulthood (though I can't remember how much you see that in the first book), and to Scott, that's a big, crazy, scary place. But Ramona's world is like a gentle introduction for Scott -- everything's like video games, and he can actually relate to that. He can't yet relate to being an adult. Not to say that I think it's all just a metaphor, and those things aren't really happening or something, just that I think it's symbolic.

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Crisis - Comic Book Review Blog. Comments are always appreciated. You can sign in and comment with any Google, Wordpress, Live Journal, AIM, OpenID or TypePad account.