Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Review

Scott Pilgrim is a very popular character right now. While everyone is out watching and reviewing the movie by the same name, I’m slowly but surely making my way reviewing all the Scott Pilgrim books one by one. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the second entry in the saga, which follows Precious Little Life as part of a series of graphic novels. How does it compare to the previous one? How does it stand on its own? Make sure to read the first review and then hit the jump to find out.

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

Something that I noted in the first review was that the world of Scott Pilgrim was pretty much completely normal (with one pesky exception) up until the big fight (near the end of the book) with Matthew Pattel, the first of Ramona’s evil exes. You definitely cannot say the same of this next volume, which opens in an extended flashback scene of Scott’s high school years and ends with someone being kicked into the stratosphere.

We learn of his early friendship with Kim Pine (the drummer of Sex Bob-Omb) and Lisa Miller (who will appear in later books), as well as the beginning of Scott’s journey into the world of music. All pretty much normal teen drama up until this point, but then Kim gets captured by a rival school, and we are treated to one of the series’ trademark epic fight scenes. In the end Scott rescues Kim and the two begin a romantic relationship that eventually ends as Scott has to move to another city.

Back into the present, not much has changed since we left our “hero”, he’s still a slacker, kind of an idiot, and he’s still technically dating Knives Chau (though both him and the reader know that he’s cheated on her with Ramona Flowers). Scott attempts to fix this oversight and breaks up with Knives, in a very well done scene that is mostly silent. O’Malley portrays the scene perfectly with awkward pauses and shifting glances, as the two parties deal with it differently.

Of course, the book would be nothing without its supporting cast, so we are also treated to some scenes of Kim, Wallace and Stacey Pilgrim (Scott’s sister). It’s very interesting to see how all these different people collide around Scott’s world, such as Stacey and Ramona meeting by chance. Meanwhile, Scott is preparing to battle the next evil ex, Lucas Lee, a famous actor who happens to be in town filming a movie.

There’s one small interlude where several of the characters (Steven Stills, Kim, Ramona and Scott) decide to cook vegan’s Sheppard Pie, and the book actually details all of the recipe and cooking details. It felt a bit like filler to me, to be honest, but at least there was some interesting character interaction to liven things up during the scene. Meanwhile Knives has learned that Scott is dating Ramona, and plots to “take her out of the picture”.

Eventually Scott meets up with Lucas Lee, the second evil ex, who wildly overpowers him (he knocked out Scott in a matter of seconds). The two talk a bit before finishing the fight, and we learn some important information about Ramona, namely that she might be lying about several things, and how much like Scott she is. Uncharacteristically so, Scott uses his wits to make Lucas take himself out of the picture without having to actually defeat him. I was a little underwhelmed by this resolution, as I was aching for a good fight. Thankfully, the next scene has me covered.

In another part of the city, Knives attacks an inauspicious Ramona and what follows is a prolonged and very entertaining fight scene between the two gals. Knives is hilarious as she psychotically claims ownership of Scott: she is full of adolescent and irrational love of him, and she will do anything to win him over again.

The relentless pace of the book continues as Scott receives a call from his ex-girlfriend Envy Adams, who seemingly broke his heart over a year ago, something of which he is still recovering from. It’s a powerful scene, as Envy (who is in a famous band), invites Scott and his band to open for them in one of their shows. The book ends as Scott and Ramona go to one of their shows, and we learn the identity of the third evil ex.

I thought this book was a big improvement over the first instalment of the series. The art takes a big leap forward, with scenes like the breakup between Scott and Knives, and the phone conversation between Scott and Envy being the highlights. Anyone can make action scenes fun, but O’Malley took two very quiet scenes and made them resonate with the reader. The phone conversation scene is broken up into tiny panels, that show alternatively Scott speaking, the words of Envy and an old photo of them, making an otherwise dull looking scene into a dynamic reading experience.

There are still problems with differentiating characters, though I’m not sure if I just got better because of the familiarity with the characters (something I didn’t have with the first book) or if O’Malley started tweaking them more to make them more recognizable. For example, Kim’s tell tale bit of design are her freckles, so now I immediately look for that when reading the book

The story felt more packed than the first book, with more fights, more interactions and just about everything. I did feel it wandered about during the middle of the book, but the fast paced beginning and end more than make up for it. As I mentioned above, I don’t know if my familiarity with the characters improved my experience, but I certainly found this one to be funnier and more entertaining.

Verdict - Buy It. Much better than the first volume, though still with some minor flaws. Since it doesn’t have to introduce all the concepts and characters, “Versus The World” is more entertaining and action packed, and features much more refined art than it’s predecessor.

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Naymlap said...

I like the vegan sheppard's pie recipe. I was living in rural South America for a month after I got the book and sorta (added meat, and used real milk) used the recipe to make dinner on several occasions

Daringd said...

Read Volumes 1 and two last week caught the film at the midnight showing. I was surprised by the amount of cosplay I saw. That said GREAT FLICK! Read 3-6 today, love every since volume of the book. It defiantly gets better as it goes along.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I've only read the first two trades of this series and while I will eventually catch up because I liked them I don't think they'll top any of my lists. I can see how some people can love them but they weren't everything for me.

Probably won't catch the flick until it's on dvd, which is a shame, but I do look forward to it being some serious fun.

Matt Duarte said...

@Naymlap: Well, at least it was useful for someone, haha.

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