Scott Pilgrim, volume one: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
Writer: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Cover: Bryan Lee O'Malley
By Aaron Robinson
21 May 2009 — Scott doesn't have to worry about much in life. At 23 years old he's perfectly happy to spend his days lounging around, living off his roommate and friends. Without a job or any long-term goals, he pretty much drifts through each day. His only real motivation is Sex Bob-Omb, the rock band he plays in. Of course, that doesn't stop him from charming the naive Knives Chau, a high schooler who quickly becomes Scott's biggest fan. But Scott's life goes through a bit of a shake up when an American delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts showing up in his dreams. After a chance encounter with Ramona leads to an awkward but fun date, things start to look up. Of course, dating Ramona will take more than a bit of work on Scott's behalf. Not only does he already have a teenage girlfriend in tow, he'll have to defeat Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to continue dating her, and they aren't going down without a fight.
Scott Pilgrim is yet another entry in a long line of comics I've been ignoring despite considerable praise. I'm actually kind of glad I did, if only for the knowledge that there's just one book left in the six-part saga. I wasn't sure about the concept or the artwork, but the more I read it, the more I liked what I saw. I found myself really getting into the characters. I even ducked out and bought the next couple of books after I'd finished reading this one
For a while Scott Pilgrim stays firmly entrenched in reality. Sure, O'Malley uses cartoony expressions and occasionally overemphasizes action, but the story mainly concentrates on Scott's relationship with his friends and family, and his slowly growing infatuation with Ramona. The second half of the book starts to add fantastical elements, eventually crescendoing with a video game / manga-inspired fight between Scott and Ramona's first boyfriend. It's a bit of a jarring shift, but I still found myself having fun — if only for the sheer ridiculousness of it.
O'Malley artwork isn't amazing in a technical sense, but it's perfect for the style of story he's telling. It's a very cartoony, sketchy style of drawing. The entire book is in black and white, with everything given thick outlines. Characters have massive eyes and pupils with round faces and very basic features. Because the artwork is fairly simple, everyone is given distinct appearances so they're easy to tell apart. It's an idea that works well; there are no two characters that look alike.
Where O'Malley really succeeds is in the pacing of panels, and with expressions and poses. Even with the simplistic style, it's always easy to tell how a character is reacting to a situation. He's not afraid of playing around with panel sizes either, or having artwork overlap between panels. It's constantly playful in how it frames text or over-exaggerates action. It all comes together to create a style that's just so fun to see.
The writing is fantastic, too. Most characters fit into fairly standard archetypes, but they're all so well written that it's hard not to get into them. A large part of that is how everyone is given a unique personality; there's never a situation where dialog could be interchangeable. The banter between characters is always great; when Scott is with Knives, he gleefully plays along with her high school gossip. When he's with Ramona, the conversations tend to be more adult and a little more awkward, but still playful. It feels genuine, even when random video game references or jokes that break the fourth wall are worked in.
If you're looking for something a little different, or just want to read a comic book about relationships that ends with a musical battle between two superpowered characters, Scott Pilgrim is a safe bet. With the final book due for release next year, and a motion picture in production, now is as good a time as any to get into the series. It's a solid, fairly lightweight read with a bunch of playful references to nerd culture, indie bands and life in Canada. If you haven't already, go and check it out.