Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
Scott Pilgrim is 23, broke, plays bass in a band called
Sex Bob-Omb with longtime friends Kim and Stephen Stills
(no, not the famous one), and shares a single room apartment
and bed with his gay roommate, Wallace.
Oh, but Scott's
not gay. He's actually dating an underage Asian schoolgirl.
They haven't done anything, of course, but the very possibility
creeps his friends out.
So Scott resolves
himself to introducing girlfriend Knives Chau to his friends...
and that's when he starts having dreams about this strange
delivery girl. He's never seen her before and doesn't think
it amounts to much. Then he sees the girl at the library.
And at a friend's party. Her name is Ramona Flowers, and
he has fallen instantly, completely in love with her; the
girl from his dreams.
MISSION 1: Scott's still dating Knives Chau.
MISSION 2: Scott talks to Ramona.
MISSION 3: Scott has to break up with Knives.
MISSION 4: Sex Bob-Omb tries not to suck at their first
MISSION 5: Scott must defeat Ramona's Seven Evil Exes if
he wants to date her.
MISSION 6: Boss Fight.
This first volume
of Scott Pilgrim was always charming, but I don't think
any of us realized it was the beginning of something much
larger. I won't lie and say the pieces of the puzzle are
all there, because they're not. If you really pay attention,
you may notice Gideon and Envy Adams in a dream, Ramona's
subspace bag, or The Glow, but only one of them begs for
attention. This isn't like the first volume of, say, Bone,
where you know there's a long, established history you're
just getting a glimpse of.
For the most
part, this is a slice of life story that gets a bit mystical
and finally shifts into full Bollywood fantasy fight scene.
If not for the setup of the Seven Evil Exes, the story could
easily have ended at one book.
Even the visual
motifs taken from video games and manga have yet to arrive.
The style hasn't yet coalesced into Bryan Lee O'Malley's
definitive clean lines and use of negative space. It could
be mistaken for early work by indie artists like Craig Thompson,
Jim Mahfood, or Andi Watson, (which makes sense, as the
latter two are also Oni Press alumni).
The lines are
rough and chunky, much like the Sex Bob-Omb's music, and
the use of tone is minimal. While the close-ups and composition
hint at O'Malley's keen eye, he's still a newbie who has
yet to delve into the digital toolbox.
So, why read
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life? Hey, every
story has a beginning, and this one is pretty entertaining.
advise against my early choice of Sleater-Kinney. Going
back to the well for something more Canadian, I blast The
Arcade Fire's Suburbs as I start volume 2.
Pilgrim vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim is 16, a troublemaker, friends with another
troublemaker named Lisa, and smitten with a drummer named
Kim. So, they decide to form a band (not called Sex Bob-Omb).
But life goes on, and Scott's family moves to Toronto.
Scott Pilgrim is 23, still a troublemaker, once more in
a band (called Sex Bob-Omb) where Kim plays drums, and still
dating a high schooler. A high schooler named Knives who
is madly in love with him and his band. A high schooler
he has to break up with because he's fallen for Ramona Flowers,
a delivery girl using his subconscious as a shortcut on
her delivery route.
MISSION 1: Scott still has to break up with Knives Chau.
MISSION 2: Boss Fight.
MISSION 3: Scott really, really has to break up with Knives.
MISSION 4: Knives turns creepy stalker over Scott.
MISSION 5: Enter Scott's own Evil Ex, Envy.
This is where
the story of Scott Pilgrim starts taking shape. Opening
on Scott's high school romance with Kim, O' Malley reinforces
the importance of past relationships, fuzzy memories, and
how we live with those we once loved. With a more somber
character, it'd be depressingly emo, but Scott Pilgrim's
short attention span and immaturity swap the Charlie Brown
"Nobody likes me..." observations for gems like
"Bread makes you FAT??"
It should be
noted that, as the true beginning of many of the plot threads
in the Scott Pilgrim series, this volume does a
lot of the heavy lifting skipped in Scott Pilgrim's
Precious Little Life. Envy Adams goes from being a
nameless past girlfriend to the most soulcrushing loss in
our hero's young life. Kim is no longer just a girl playing
drums, but possibly the best friend Scott's ever had.
We also start
to see more from Knives' perspective. No longer the focus
in Scott's life, it's through her eyes we see what happens
when someone you desperately love no longer wants to be
with you. Sure, it may not necessarily turn you into a sai-wielding
uber-ninja, but it damn well hurts.
also start to emerge. Some, like The Glow, are more pronounced.
Others, like the holes in the moon, are just background
oddities. Then there are the mentions of Gideon and the
League of Evil Exes that seem like simple exposition, but
foretell tragedies yet to come.
O'Malley's style matures greatly, removing clutter from
his panels without drowning in minimalism. Tones are used
to much greater effect, but the art still has a rushed quality
that would be lost after the third volume when he adopted
a less breakneck pace. The use of captions and videogame
elements increases, and the resemblance Scott's world bears
to ours begins to slip away.
And this is where
we have to question what genre Scott Pilgrim falls into.
It's too fantastic for slice of life, too down to earth
for fantasy, too hip for superhero, too light and funny
for urban contemporary. With Ramona's constant trips through
subspace, kids suddenly exhibiting superpowers, and video
game rewards popping up at the end of a fight... well, one
might be tempted to call it magical realism, but that label
almost seems too tame.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World will get you hooked
on the series.
while appropriate, wasn't nearly manic enough, so I head
into volume 3 with a hint from Young Neil's shirt worn during
the gig in volume 1: Sloan's Parallel Play.
Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
Scott Pilgrim is 23, dating the mysterious Ramona Flowers,
in a band with his high school sweetheart Kim, and opening
for his superstar ex-girlfriend Envy Adams' band, which
his last girlfriend, Knives Chau, is smitten with. He also
must defeat Ramona's third Evil Ex boyfriend, Todd, who
happens to be Envy's bassist and boyfriend. Todd's also
a Vegan with Super Psychic Vegan Powers. And the drummer
is an evil, teleporting, cyborg girl.
MISSION 1: Scott and the band need to survive hanging backstage
with Envy's band.
MISSION 2: Knives is confronted with the fact her idol is
a complete bitch.
MISSION 3: Boss Fight.
MISSION 4: Scott must hone his psychic powers to overcome
the Evil Exes.
MISSION 5: Scott realizes he has no psychic powers.
MISSION 6: Kim has to get over not having a boyfriend.
MISSION 7: Scott has to get over Envy.
MISSION 8: Boss Fight.
MISSION 9: Boss Fight.
MISSION 10: Boss Fight.
As the title
of this volume suggests, Scott spends much of the book recalling
his relationship with Envy. How it started, how it went
bad, and how it went worse. But, true to form, Scott's memories
are disjointed and brief, dropping us in abruptly to see
Stephen Stills (even more not the famous one), his longtime
bitchy girlfriend Julie, and Envy back when they were a
bunch of nerdy college kids eating pocky and playing Bomberman.
Almost as if
a switch had been flipped, Envy changes from geek to chic
and abandons their band, taking the lucrative record contract
and Scott's still-beating heart with her. Does it completely
make sense? Yeah, if you're ready to assume Envy's just
an evil bitch-- but the clues to bigger things have been
vs. The World was the first book in the series to delve
into the importance of Scott's relationships. By breaking
plot linearity even further, O'Malley is able to create
a vortex of romantic doom. We see how Scott worshipped Envy,
how Ramona evolved and fell for Evil Ex Todd, how Todd's
fallen for a completely inaccurate notion of Veganism, how
Envy's been tricked into living a fairytale that really
True to form,
Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness surpasses
those that came before in art as well as story. O'Malley
finally embraces Photoshop and all its powerful tools to
take the production value beyond late 90's indie fare and
into the big leagues. Every line is now crisp and vital,
shading is studied and done with care, and the use of greytones
makes a compelling argument for colorization.
has also taken a step forward. Each character appears distinct,
not just the same cartoon head with a slightly different
haircut. Envy's features mark her as harshly beautiful rather
than the pretty girl hinted at in previous books. You can
understand her being someone millions of people would fall
in love with, but the fame also appears to be eating away
at her body.
Play lasts a good way through this volume, but it still
isn't manic enough. I try to reconcile this by switching
to Be Your Own Pet's Get Awkward, but that's not
Canadian enough. Volume 4 is read to the sounds of Sloan's
rapid fire 30-track Never Hear the End of It in
hopes of bridging the gap.
2: Scott Pilgrim volumes 4, 5 and 6