ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AUGUST 15, 2010
As with Fray highlighting my distaste for third-party comics, my review this week highlights my unwillingness to read anything that isn’t in colour. Walking into Kings Comics in Sydney to the Batman section I always steer clear of the copious volumes of Batman: Black and White that are on the shelf in favour of some full-textured pastel palaver. I guess it mostly stems from the fact that if I’m going to pay $30 or more for a hardcover I expect it to be the fullest visual experience it can be – and yes, I know that a lot of black and white comics contain compelling stories and whatnot, but I still prefer full-colour stuff on the whole.
The Scott Pilgrim series, however, has made me re-evaluate my stance on black-and-white comic books. For starters it is significantly cheaper – each one only cost me $10US, which equates to something like $14AUD or whatever – and while the artwork is substantially black and white, apart from a few pages at the start of Volume 4, it’s carried off in such a way that I really didn’t care that there was a distinct lack of shading and texturing. The story itself was so engrossing that the monochrome artwork took a backseat through my reading experience. Not to say that the artwork isn’t great and awesome and geeky and harkens back to the Nintendo era – which it totally does, on all counts – but the story is what kept me engrossed the most.
Written by obvious genius Bryan Lee O’Malley, the series takes place in Canada where a young, slack-tart dude (the eponymous Scott Pilgrim) lays around the house with his gay roommate, having no job, no money, no apartmently possessions and an underage quasi-girlfriend named Knives Chau (which really should’ve been a clue – as lampshaded in the book, who would willingly date a girl named KNIVES?). Scott’s sedentary and lackadaisical existence is thrown for a loop when he meets Ramona Flowers, an America Ninjagirl who works for amazon.ca and has the ability to travel through his mind to reach her postage destinations. In order for the two to date Scott must defeat her seven evil exes, get a job, overcome his own laid-back lifestyle, find a place to live and embark on a mystical journey to understand the power of love and the importance of having your own source of income.
If this sounds even remotely interesting so far would it sound better if I said it also takes place in a partial-game-world that harkens back to River City Ransom and a slew of old Nintendo titles, complete with additional “lives”, kick-ass swords that appear out of nowhere and enemies exploding into coins and fluffy bunnies? If you’re still not enticed by now then either I’m a poor reviewer (which is entirely possible) or you’re someone with the kind of personal taste that thinks Stephenie Meyer is a great writer (that’s right – any of you who were hoping I’d review the Twilight graphic novel can take a hike).
Character-wise, the inhabitants of Scott’s Canada game world are hilarious and yet surprisingly well fleshed out. Of particular note are Scott’s frequently-drunk gay roommate Wallace Wells, his caustic, stubborn drunk bandmate Stephen Stills and his loud and foul-mouthed, sometimes drunk (noticing a pattern?) former-ex-turned-other-bandmate Kim Pine. I found myself really liking each of the protagonists – and indeed, even some of the antagonists such as samurai-ninja Roxy Richter – because they’re delivered in a way that keeps them grounded in reality whilst still giving them an edge of fantasy in the game world. In particular I found myself relating a lot to Scott himself, right down to his troubled relationship with a broken bird who has a tendency to break away from meaningful social relationships in order to avoid getting hurt (mind you, his ending was way better than mine in that area).
Despite his layabout nature Scott is a characteryou can’t help but love anyway, especially when he’s put up against the comments his friends make regarding his unreliability and his “safe” and “cutely idiotic” nature. As the driving force of the story Scott manages to carry the plot forward extremely well, and there are few – if any – moments where it dips because of his actions. The character’s ability to make even the most mundane of occurrences in the books – such as a shopping trip or a sojourn to a local bar – hilariously funny speaks volumes on O’Malley’s excellent writing.
A minor gripe I had was with Volume 3 – focussing on Scott having to fight Ramona’s third evil ex, who has partnered up with Scott’s own ex-girlfriend, it just felt like it dragged on a little. Don’t get me wrong, reading the story from start to finish made it a small con in hindsight (and after looking at the release schedule, it kinda makes me glad that I came into it after the final book was released), but if someone were reading these one by one over a longer period of time it may make the reader a little disinterested to pick up the fourth one if it’ll be more of the same. I can reassure you all, however, that the series as an entirety is excellent, and that the problems in book 3 really are superfluous when you read the wholestory.
I’m psyched to see the movie tomorrow night, after all the good reviews I’d been hearing, and I’m hoping it’ll be an adaptation worthy of the praise and acclaim that has been heaped onto the graphic novels like sunscreen on a fat guy in the summertime (don’t think too hard about that analogy – I sure as hell didn’t).