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Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life Paperback – August 18, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Scott Pilgrim is 23 years old, lives in a cold, unnamed Canadian town, plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-Omb and has a very cute 17-year-old Chinese-Canadian girlfriend, Knives Chau. His "precious little life" is amiably unstructured, and he drifts, happily unemployed, between band practice and time spent with Knives. His relationship with Knives is chaste—walks, chats and hugs—although Knives is getting bigger ideas. "We haven't even held hands," Scott explains. "It's just nice, you know." But then he starts having dreams about Ramona Flowers, a mysterious, equally cute and perfectly legal hipster chick on Rollerblades who delivers books for Amazon.com. Ramona is anything but simple, and O'Malley's tale of adorable slackers in love is transformed into a wildly magically manga–kung fu fantasy adventure. We meet the first of Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends, Matthew Patel, who challenges Scott and his band to a supernatural martial arts duel right out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. O'Malley has crafted a delightfully hybrid comics love story. It's an alt-lit, rock 'n' roll graphic novel with wonderful manga-influenced drawing and a comically mystical plot that manages to capture both the genuine intimacies and serial dishonesties of young love.
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As indicated in the product name, this graphic novel is drawn by Canadian artist Bryan Lee O'Malley. His art style is heavily influenced by Japanese Manga; to this end the body shapes and styles, as well as the action sequences, harken back to Japanese staples, a la Dragonball or Rune Soldier. For those of you unfamiliar with these references, this means that the body proportions are mostly accurate. O'Malley's art style is characterized by exaggerated eyes (taking up most of the face for most characters; narrowed eyes are rare), squared-off fingers and squarish-shaped heads. Clothing is varied for the characters in the story, and to O'Malley's credit, each character is distinctive, even limited by the black-and-white artwork.
In short, the artwork is well done, with bows to both Japanese Manga and American comics for their influences. Since I imagine that most people would pick up this book and be willing to suspend disbelief for any anatomical anomalies.
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life tells the tale of Scott Pilgrim, a loafer 23-year old who is in a band, between jobs, and recently became acquainted with Ramona Flowers, the female antagonist of the series. As the story unfolds, you will follow the trials and tribulations of Scott, Ramona, his friends from his band Sex Bob-Omb, and the first of Ramona's Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends.
The plot is simple: in order to win the right to date Ramona, Scott must defeat each of her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Seems easy, right? Unfortunately for Scott, it is not quite that simple. The graphic novel pays homage to many pop culture influences from the past twenty years, most notably video games. Whenever Scott defeats someone, they turn into a pile of coins. The series also breaks the rules of physics routinely, most notably by giving Ramona the ability to travel through "subspace".
What about the writing? I will sum it up with one word: funny. The tale that is woven for Scott Pilgrim is tongue-in-cheek, witty, and sometimes downright hysterical. Oh yea, and very, very random. The only complaint that I have about the story involves continuity: O'Malley sometimes has flashbacks for the characters without always clarifying that this is occurring within the text. While the artwork usually has clues to indicate which timeframe the characters are in, it is sometimes frustrating and confusing to mentally "switch" as you are reading along.
When reading this tale, it does help considerably to have familiarity with the pop culture references. As an example, one of the characters is named Young Neil. This is a play on Neil Young (of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame). Other references range from college names to video game quips.
If you want a fun romp through pop culture with a crazy storyline to boot, I highly recommend this volume. It is a very well-done graphic novel with an entertaining plot and great artwork. I especially recommend these if you plan to see the movie spinoff (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Some of the humor may pass over younger readers (younger meaning older than 13 but younger than 20), but even with a missed joke, there is still plenty of content to keep anyone entertained. Be willing to suspend reality for a bit while you read this one, and I guarantee that you will want to read more.
And you get to see all of that in "Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life," which adds a rock'n'roll sci-fi twist to the usual boy-meets-girl story. Most of it ambles across the daily adventures of Scott's life as he falls in love, but blossoms at the end into a brilliant Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
23-year-old Scott Pilgrim has everything: a cool rock band, a forgiving gay roommate, and a high school girlfriend (they just talk! Don't worry!). But lately his dreams have been full of a strange young woman on rollerblades, who usually announces that he IS dreaming -- and one day at the library, he actually sees her in the flesh.
Her name is Ramona Flowers, and while Scott's first attempts to talk to her bomb horribly, an order from amazon.ca brings her right to her door (and a date). But as Scott's odd personality charms Ramona, he starts getting messages from a guy who wants to schedule a fight with him. Can the forces of love, friendship and rock'n'roll thwart Matthew Patel and his demon hipster chicks?
When you boil it down, the Scott Pilgrim series is really just a boy-meets-girl story. But "Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life" establishes pretty quickly that Bryan Lee O'Malley has a rare talent for spicing up an ordinary story into a precious little one. Subspace highways, snowstorms, love triangles and rock concerts all come into play.
And O'Malley fills the story with mildly funny dialogue ("You're all over the place." "But I'm so sincere!") and plenty of quirky characters (I wish I had a roommate like Wallace). He has an art style that makes me think of more rounded TV cartoon characters -- everybody looks rather childlike, with large dark eyes, round faces and cute hipster clothes. And everything is rendered in stark black-and-white.
As for Scott... what can you say about him? He's an even mix of of sweet, awkward boy and budding rock god, and he even can do things like date a seventeen-year-old (chastely) without seeming weird. Ramona herself takes a little warming up to, since at first she seems kind of abrasive and dismissive of Scott. But as they get to know each other, she becomes much sweeter to him.
"Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life" is a delightful start to this oddball 21st-century love story, filled with memorable art and quirky characters.