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Thursday, 11 February 2010

Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life

written and drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley
publisher: Fourth Estate

“My name is Matthew Patel… and I’m Ramona’s first evil ex-boyfriend!”

What’s It About?
Scott Pilgrim is twenty-three years old, between jobs, in a band, sharing a single-room (and single bed) apartment with his friend Wallace and trying to find his way in the world after university. The Scott Pilgrim series tells the story not only of his trials and tribulations in his music but also the story of his relationship with “American ninja delivery girl” Ramona Flowers.

Every relationship has baggage, though, and Scott has to fight and defeat Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to keep dating her.

What’s Good About It?
The world of Scott Pilgrim, whilst cartoonish, comes across as very real. He has a large circle of friends, each of whom O’Malley draws and writes distinctly. Never does a Pilgrim character become more real in my mind’s eye than the scene in which Scott asks his “cool gay roommate” Wallace what the web address of Amazon.ca is because we’ve all been in the situation where someone has said something so mind-numbingly dumb that you just can’t react.

Scott’s pursuit of his dream girl (and that phrase is more literal than you might first think) is complicated by unhelpful friends, lack of funds, ex-lovers of his own, a seventeen year old Chinese-Canadian rival for his affections (she’s called Knives, which should give you some idea as to the sort of rivalry we’re talking about) and his own personal stupidity.

Largely, Scott Pilgrim is a soap opera full of wonderfully relatable moments like wandering around a party asking people if they’ve seen the one person you’re looking for. This doesn’t stop O’Malley from peppering the plot with some weird and surreal moments. Scott’s confrontations with the evil ex-boyfriends are played like boss fights from computer games which is both fun and dramatic to read.

Scott Pilgrim is funny and surreal with a very human cast. Its also a love story that every now and again breaks from human drama so that the main characters can engage in over-the-top battles to the death with “evil” ex-lovers and who can argue with that?

What’s Bad About It?
This is less pointing out a flaw as giving fair warning: though each book is largely self-contained with episodic chapters, the soap opera elements mean that the series is one ongoing plot. As such, this is a long read. I’m two volumes in so far and the plot is only two evil ex-boyfriends along.

The usual warning concerning large casts applies: you may every now and again be stumped for who someone is. For the most part, O’Malley manages to make his characters distinct enough that this isn’t a problem but when a new member of the ever-expanding cast appears you might have a moment of “Do I know him or is he new?”.

What’s the Art Like?
The art is black-and-white, sketchy and impressionistic. O’Malley’s figure work is soft curves without jagged edges or straight lines. In fact, there aren’t many straight lines in the art at all, even those things that should be constructed of straight lines have a little wobble in the inking.

As you can see, expressions are as kept basic as possible but still convey a great deal of emotion. The simple, soft and organic style is charming and distinctive. There’s something of manga about it in the simplified facial features, big heads and disproportionately large eyes but without the thin, crisp precision usually associated with manga art.

Other Information
There are now five books in the series.

Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life ISBN 978-0007340477 (Amazon)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World ISBN 978-0007340484 (Amazon)
Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness 978-0007351466 ISBN (Amazon)
Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together ISBN 978-0007340491 (Amazon)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe ISBN 978-0007351473 (Amazon)


  1. I'd heartily recommend Scott Pilgrim - lovely pop culture references and a beguiling combination of the believable and the surreal.
    The sixth (and final) book is due in the summer, and the brilliant Edgar Wright is in the middle of editing a film based on the series (featuring Michael Cera in the title role) - I think it's to be released about the same time.

  2. Is this the Scott Pilgrim referenced here? You'll have to scroll down to see the bit.

  3. Hi Red. Yes that's the one. I didn't know Brandon Routh was going to be in the film, that's quite interesting.