Vital stats on Scott Pilgrim:
Twenty-three years of age. Plays bass for Sex Bob-omb. Generally jobless. Likes video games. Gay roommate. Doesn’t drink. Must defeat girlfriend Ramona’s seven evil exes. Likes nachos. Canada, eh.
Ah, Scott Pilgrim… Why do we love you so? Most likely because Bryan Lee O’Malley has masterfully crafted this scruffy slacker and his aimless friends to be fun, cool, and utterly lovable. Allow me to explain…
The Scott Pilgrim series follows the misadventures of 23-year-old Scott Pilgrim and his tight-knit group of friends as they try to get their band Sex Bob-omb off the ground, and just generally get by in Toronto. Scott is also tasked with defeating his American girlfriend Ramona’s seven evil exes in a series of video-game-boss-style showdowns in order to keep her hand. Further complicating matters, it seems that Scott has dated basically every female character in the book at some point in his young life.
Sound kind of ridiculous? Ok, it is. But make no mistake – O’Malley has created something truly unique and wonderful in this series. The characters are really believable, which is important. You get the sense that these are people the author knows, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. The plot is also very engaging – but the real fun comes when reality shifts and suddenly our characters are avatars in a classic video game sequence, trying to remember cheat codes and ducking into warp zones to get out of a jam. Sort of inside jokes for anyone who’s ever spent a summer in front of a NES console… And as another little wink to the reader, the characters drop self-referential quips, referring to events in Volume 2, or remarking that this book is getting awfully long.
Volume 4 of the series finds our adorable anti-hero on the ropes as his relationship with Ramona is strained by the surprise appearance of old flames from both of their pasts. Adding to his troubles, his lease with Wallace is about to expire, and he decides maybe it is finally time to find a job. And then he’s attacked by mysterious ninja-like adversaries (naturally). Scott’s normally comfortable, charmed existence in a decidedly uncomfortable state for much of this book.
I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so I’ll stop there. But if you require any more evidence on the quality of O’Malley’s magnus opus, I’ll list some of the awards the Scott Pilgrim series has won, which I stole directly from Wikipedia:
In 2005, O’Malley won the Doug Wright Award for Best Emerging Talent for the first volume of Scott Pilgrim and was nominated for three Harvey Awards (Best New Talent, Best Cartoonist and Best Graphic Album of Original Work).
In 2006, O’Malley was awarded Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist (Writer/Artist) in the Joe Shuster Awards. He was previously nominated in the same category in 2005.
O’Malley was nominated for a 2006 Eisner Award in the category Best Writer/Artist—Humor, for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but lost to Kyle Baker. O’Malley and Scott Pilgrim were also nominated for two 2006 Eagle Awards, and nominated for a second Wright Award (for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World).
In 2010, O’Malley won his first Eisner Award in the “Best Humor Publication” category for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe.
I have a little confession to make: it took me a long time to pick up that first issue of Scott Pilgrim (Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life). I’d seen the Scott Pilgrim series mentioned on numerous “best” or “top” comics lists, but based on the cover illustration that usually accompanied the recommendation, I just didn’t think it would be “my thing”. That’s right, I was literally judging a book by its cover. Don’t grow up to be like me, kids. Somewhere LeVar Burton is crying.
So if you’re a Scott Pilgrim virgin, I know what you’re probably thinking: “What is this, some kind of manga? This book looks a little too cute for me.” That’s what I thought too! And O’Malley is definitely influenced by manga. The lines are clean, there is a scarcity of detail, the characters and their cutesy proportions look like they’d be right at home on some raver kid’s hoodie. (Am I dating myself? Do they still have raves?) I guess what I would say (and I don’t mean this as any kind of slight to manga or manga fans) is that the thing that makes this not manga is the characters and the plot – and how awesome they are. The story is so good that it actually quickly turned me into a fan of O’Malley’s illustrative style.
My one gripe about O’Malley’s renderings would be that sometimes the characters look so similar that you have to hunt for tiny clues – or figure out from context – who exactly you’re looking at. They all dress pretty similarly (as friends often do), so sometimes – especially with the girls – details as tiny as freckles or the number of eyelashes are the identifying characteristic. Seriously.
But that’s a very small gripe.
One other note: if you care about color (or the lack thereof), the Scott Pilgrim books are black-and-white. Not even really grayscale. Aside from the cover and occasionally a few colored introductory pages, it’s just pretty much straight up line art. I used to kind of be bothered by that, but then I read so many great books that were devoid of color that I learned to appreciate it just as much as the chromatic kind, just for different reasons. Also, BLO is writing and drawing these books all by himself, so what do you want???
If you’ve read a Scott Pilgrim book before, I doubt there’s much I tell you. You’ve probably already read them all or are in the process of doing so. If you started reading the series and gave up, please, I’d love to hear why in the comments section.
My point is, this is an excellent series, and Volume 4 is another excellent entry into this excellent series. So if you haven’t read a Scott Pilgrim book before, for god sake man run out and get Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life ASAP. Then get Volume 2, and 3, and … you get the picture.
I give Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together a 9 out of 10 for an excellent story, cool art, and and abundance of awesomeness.
And of course, happy, happy reading!