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Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

July 25th, 2010

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I’m a late convert to Scott Pilgrim. Oh, I bought volume 1 the day it came out waaaaay back in 2004. But I hated it. Hated, hated, hated it. I ignored all the Internet hype for the following volumes (but enjoyed O’Malley’s art enough to grab a sketch at SPX in 2008) and pretty much dismissed Scott Pilgrim as cutesy crap for people who had no idea what consisted a good story.

Fuck was I wrong.

Last summer, after much prodding and gushing, my buddy Dave lent me volumes 2-5. (The sixth and final issue came out last week). I’ve been rereading the series in anticipation of the upcoming movie, directed by Edgar Wright(“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”). I’ll be discussing each volume here as I reread.

Spoilers ahead and all that jazz…

So I’m rereading volume 1 and my initial thought is”why the fuck was I so hard on this book six years ago”? I love O’Malley’s art. He’s fun to read, the character is engaging and, even if there are so many flat side characters that are hard to keep track of, it’s really like nothing else in mainstream comics.

In the first volume Scott is pretty much a 23-year old unemployed loser who shares a futon with a gay man, plays bass in a band and dates a high school girl. He falls hard for Ramona Flowers, an amazon.ca employee who rollerblades through Scott’s dreams to deliver her packages (it takes place in Toronto, hence the “.ca”). They meet in real life and he’s pretty much obsessed with her. If you’ve seen the trailers for the movie you pretty much know what happens- he has to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends (she definitely says “boyfriends” even though we know one is a girl, also from the trailer).

I didn’t mind the video game logic so much in the reread since I knew what happens in the subsequent volumes. But my impression in 2004 was still dead-on. After finishing it again I can only conclude that this book is inexcusably bad.

Sure, it starts off fine, but the repercussions of Scott’s hook up with Ramona vis a vis Knives Chau (his jailbait girlfriend is never really addressed). That would have been a good climax to the first volume (which is, in fairness, dealt with in later volumes, but we’re robbed of a satisfactory conclusion here).  Instead the climax is a character we’ve never met called Matthew Patel showing up during Scott’s band’s concert and challenging Scott to a fight– he’s the first of the seven evil exes that Scott has to fight in order to date Ramona.

Scott’s never heard of him– and neither have we. Scott’s ignored Matthew’s e-mails and letters, so we’ve pretty much got no emotional investment in this character or his relationship with Scott. It’s as if Darth Vader shows up at the end of “Raiders” and challenges Indiana Jones to a fight. Which, admittedly, would be kind of cool, but that’s because there’s an actual fight.

I’d nominate the fight at the end of “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life” for the worst fight I’ve ever seen in a movie, comic, etc. It’s basically a choreographed dance number over what seems like four pages as Scott’s band disco-dances some rhymes to Matthew Patel and these strange Devil Girls who just show up out of nowhere. The rhymes are “High School Musical” bad and for the life of me I have no idea why Scott’s band is joining Scott, just revealed as a two-timing asshole, to fight this schmuck who shows up without any real previous history, involvement or investment in Scott.

This is “Episode I” bad. This makes the story logic in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” seem inspired. Fuck this book. I was right in 2004, I’m still right today.

But it’s still worth reading if only to get the backstory for subsequent volumes. Like the first season of “Buffy” you have to plow through this crap to get to the good stuff.

 

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