Scott Pilgrim, Volumes 1–3
written by Bryan Lee O'Malley
How to describe Scott Pilgrim and his strange little world? It’s funny, to be sure. It’s seemingly normal, to a degree. When we meet new characters, we often get their level rating (Scott is, of course, “awesome”). Everything about the series is so Generation Now—Scott is straight but he has a gay roommate; they share a small studio apartment and sleep in the same bed, platonically; Scott plays in a band with a female drummer, which is cool, although the band doesn’t quite rock at first (but they have heart). None of it is overdone, though. In fact, there’s so much genuine sweetness to it (in a good way; not in some treacly, sentimental manner) that you can’t help but wish you were part of the group—part of this world, even, because it’s a pretty different world.
That is to say, it’s Toronto, but some magical, videogame-like qualities exist. These characters exist mostly in the real world but at the same time, it has some decidedly offbeat properties. Scott is an innocent, a supercool, eminently likable cipher who happens to be almost irresistibly endearing.
As the series begins, 23-year-old Scott has just started dating Knives Chau, a 17-year-old high school student. It’s all very innocent; they haven’t even kissed, just hugged. Scott is recovering from a devastating breakup a year ago and views Knives as a way to move on without getting his heart too involved. His friends and sister waste no time ripping into Scott for this robbing-the-cradle transgression, but Scott sticks with it, even after meeting Ramona Flowers. Ramona is the girl of Scott’s dreams, literally. He keeps seeing her in visions, so when he sees her at a party, come to life in strange garb, he makes his move.
The series has the feel of a gentle romantic comedy at times, and the banter back and forth between Scott and Ramona (and even Scott and Knives) has the kind of meet-cute quality of cinema. It’s also hilariously hip, metatextual, and self-referential (again, it’s a Generation Now thing). When Ramona explains that she’s been in Scott’s dreams because there’s a really convenient subspace highway that happens to run through his head, Scott doesn’t really question it. Later, they get to know each other and decide that some of their stories will be revealed in different volumes, before sleeping together (again, platonically, because they’ve been holed up inside together because of a freak blizzard—although it’s clear both characters will want to do more than just sleep together eventually).
And here we come to the real meat of the story. As Scott begins to see Ramona, he first receives an email, then a letter, from a man who wants to schedule time to fight Scott. Scott ignores them, but this is a crazy guy who won’t be ignored. It turns out Ramona has seven evil ex-boyfriends, all of whom Scott will have to fight and defeat if he wants to continue seeing the delightful Ramona. (And if you’re wondering what ever happened to Knives Chau, well, there’s more to that as well.)
The content is never too adult (but trust me, adults will—and do—enjoy it quite a bit), but it’s more appropriate for teens and older (the publisher gives it a 13+ rating). The story and art are definitely manga-influenced, but it isn’t straight manga. It’s a hybrid. A very good hybrid, it turns out. Scott Pilgrim is one of those series that catches fire and, when you check in to see what all the buzz is about, you realize why immediately. This much clever, inventive fun deserves to be a smash.-- John Hogan