Warning: This review ABSOLUTELY contains spoilers for both the upcoming film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the entire Scott Pilgrim comic book saga.
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life is the first book in the Scott Pilgrim saga, which consists of six volumes (the most recent of which was released only last month). In anticipation of the upcoming Edgar Wright film adaptation of the comics, I intend to review every volume leading up to the movie’s release date. So let’s beginning at the beginning!
In this, the first volume of the series, we are introduced to our hero Scott Pilgrim: an unemployed, oblivious, loveable hipster twentysomething who lives in a Toronto basement apartment with his gay roommate Wallace Wells. Scott spends his days slacking off, playing bass guitar in his band Sex Bob-omb, and, in a recent development, dating a high-schooler. The girl in question is a 17 year old Chinese girl named Knives Chau – innocent, sweet, and hopelessly devoted to Scott. Things begin to go off the rails when Scott becomes obsessed with a girl who keeps on rollerblading through his dreams, only to discover that she’s a real person named Ramona Flowers – an American girl who recently moved to Toronto and got a job at Amazon.ca. Upon his discovery that Ramona isn’t just the girl of his dreams, Scott immediately begins a quest to win her heart, completely forgetting about Knives in the process. After convincing (read: pleading with) Ramona to go on a date with him, Scott invites her to his band’s next gig…a gig which he has already invited Knives to attend. After a brief moment of awkwardness when Knives and Ramona meet and Scott flees backstage to escape, a crazed stranger literally smashes through the roof and flies down onto the stage to challenge Scott to a fight! The stranger reveals himself to be Matthew Patel, Ramona’s FIRST EVIL EX-BOYFRIEND, imbued with unexplained mystical powers and ready to fight Scott so that Scott can win the right to date Ramona. The fight, which involves laser beams, succubi, Street Fighter combos, and a sing-a-long song, concludes with Patel’s defeat and Scott’s confusion. Ramona explains to Scott that if they want to be together, he will need to defeat her seven evil exes. So endeth volume one.
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life is an awesome comic. Creator Bryan Lee O’Malley does a fantastic job of establishing the world where our story takes place and the principal players in the tale. Even side characters who barely say anything, such as Young Neil, the roomate of Stephen Stills (Sex Bob-omb’s front man, referred to as the Talent), are given moments that make you love them and make you feel as though they’re just people who don’t say much, rather than interesting characters who’ve been shafted by the writer. Everyone feels like a real person with real emotions and well-established backstories. The character interactions and relationships will remind you of people you know, friendships you’ve had and relationships you’ve been in. O’Malley has truly captured the essence of being a modern twentysomething in the big city with very little pocket money.
These realistic-feeling characters and relationships are integral to the Scott Pilgrim universe, because without them as a foundation, the story wouldn’t function. The comic is a glut of movie, video game, comic book, anime, manga, and pop culture references, to the point where, if the characters didn’t feel like real people, it would be just a little too bizarre and therefore impossible to get invested. When Scott Pilgrim fights one of the evil exes, we’re rooting for him, even if he is a bit of a space-case and not really the brightest bulb in the box. We cheer for him because we like him, because he reminds us of ourselves, or at least people we know or knew (he reminds me of me at age 18, frankly), and when he wins a fight, we can’t help but smile.
This brings me to the fights! The fights in Scott Pilgrim serve a dual purpose, both as outpourings of characters’ feelings when their emotions reach a breaking point (kinda like song and dance numbers in musicals), and as mini-boss fights like you would find in a video game. Each ex brings Scott closer to achieving his goal of being Ramona’s boyfriend. These fights are some of the best bits of the Scott Pilgrim books because they are so unlike the fight scenes we are accustomed to in comic books and movies. Characters fly around like they’re in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, hurling impossible numbers of blows against their opponents and shooting magic beams from their hands. These fights are a visual feast, and trying to put them into words when they are so perfectly designed for the comic book medium would be both pointless and futile. They’re amazing. That is all.
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life is a great book. It sets the stage for the upcoming volumes, but does so in a way that doesn’t feel as though it is leaning to heavily on what is to come. It’s the first chapter and it comes off as one, but by the end of it, you’re absolutely hooked. You want to know what will happen next, how the characters will change and grow, and just who the mysterious Gideon is that Ramona keeps referencing…
5 out of 5
Coming soon: Gill’s review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (the book, not the movie)