Review by Woodrow Phoenix
In Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O’Malley threw together all the things that interested him – Japanese shonen fight comics and 8-bit video games, indie rock, anime and teenage relationships – to create a slacker romance adventure series that was a runaway success, leading to a film called Scott Pilgrim vs The World, which is also the title of volume two.
Scott Pilgrim is 23 years old, lives in Toronto and is utterly directionless. When he isn’t sleeping in late, in the bed that he has to share with his flatmate Wallace Wells because they’re too broke to afford two beds, he plays bass badly in a terrible band. He has no job, no plans to get a job, and no money. He has somehow just started dating a 17-year-old girl from a local Catholic high school named Knives Chau, although they only ever chastely ride the bus together, eat pizza, talk about her mother’s wishes for Knives to find a nice Chinese boy, and hang out at Scott’s band practice sessions.
Scott Pilgrim is designed to resemble a 1990s Japanese comic, with black and white art in very graphically simple Manga-esque style, the panels arranged in typical stacked manga layouts that bleed off the top and bottom. The drawing is simple, but makes charming use of stereotypical anime styles, and the characters are all big-eyed and long-legged with spiky Dragonball hair. The dialogue is nonsensical and very funny. Scott relates to his friends via a shared language of sarcastic quips and there are constant references to videogames that gradually make you realise that this is what drives the plot – it’s a quest that features Scott as the hero. This becomes explicit when Ramona Flowers appears. She’s a courier for Amazon.ca, and after Scott meets her at a party, he orders some CDs so she will have to deliver them to him and he can ask her out. The two of them go on a date and Scott is besotted, but there’s a catch. If he wants to be her boyfriend, he’s going to have to fight and defeat all her former boyfriends. Hilariously, none of this fazes Scott or his friends at all, they shout out advice during his kung-fu brawls and Scott gains power-ups, health and will upgrades and progress rewards as he defeats his new foe in speed-lined, full-bleed action panels.
Scott Pilgrim is silly, goofy fun, the eponymous hero is constantly entertaining with his total lack of ambition or self awareness, the large cast of characters are a good foil for him and the whole thing is endearingly nutty and well plotted with a winning visual style. It’s a fast read, but there’s enough incident spread over 160 pages for it not to feel too slight, and it definitely leaves the reader looking forward to the next volume.
In 2012, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life was given a deluxe upgrade and reissued in a new hardback edition, larger in size and in full colour throughout. The new colour hardcover also includes 24 pages of extra material featuring O’Malley’s original sketches and designs for the series, so it’s probably better value than the original black and white softcover version, and if you are new to Scott Pilgrim you may find it more appealing.