Scott Pilgrim is an unemployed and directionless twenty-three year old guy living in Toronto. As our story opens, he’s sharing a bachelor apartment with a friend from whom he is mooching most of his material needs. His one discernable worldly possession is his bass guitar which he occasionally gets to play as a member of the struggling local alt punk band “Sex Bob-Omb”. Scott, still depressed over the end of his last relationship, has just begun dating seventeen year old high schooler Knives Chau. And while this new relationship is raising Spockian eyebrows amongst his friends, Scott himself is left discombobulated when he learns that the woman of his dreams (literally said, as a gorgeous young stranger has been bullying her way into his somnambulistic adventures) actually exists.
Forsaking the hero worship of impressionable young Knives, Scott pursues this new woman: Ramona V. Flowers, a recently transplanted American who uses a subspace corridor to speed up her day job as a courier. This slice of subspace just happens to intersect with Scott’s dreams (and being a jobless ne’er-do-well, Scott does a LOT of sleeping).
Huh? What? “Subspace corridor”? Where did this thing take a left turn into the realm of Roddenberry? Scott Pilgrim’s world is a cross between the works of Linda Schuyler and Shigeru Miyamoto. He‘s even sets Pilgrim up with the Mario-esque task of defeating Ramona‘s seven evil ex-boyfriends in physical combat in order to secure their relationship. The fighting is straight out of video game lore, right down to special powers many of the characters hide and the coins that appear whenever Scott vanquishes a foe.
Creator/author/artist Bryan Lee O’Malley touches on familiar themes in a witty and unique way. New love, old love, unrequited love, maturity, responsibility, honesty, friendship… all these things play important roles in the lives of Scott Pilgrim and his supporting cast. O‘Malley weaves these threads together with the story-telling device of the video game hero who must defeat progressively tougher “bosses“ to level up and continue his pursuit of the fair maiden‘s hand. The combination of teen/twenty-something American angst tales and manga action/slapstick is fantastic and quickly absorbs the reader.
Visually, Scott Pilgrim is great. As O’Malley’s main character has matured from volume to volume, so has his heavily manga-influenced art. The art of Vol.4 and Vol.5 is cleaner. The character designs have improved without radically changing. The backgrounds are sharper and the increased use of screen tones has given much texture to the black and white pages. In fact, the last several pages of Vol.5 are given to a detailed description by the artist of his creative process.
One of the delights for me is that the books are firmly rooted in Toronto. O’Malley embraces the city and Scott Pilgrim lives comfortably in the very real Toronto. Scott and crew explore landmarks local like Casa Loma, Sneaky Dee’s, The Dufferin Mall, Honest Ed’s and the Central Reference Library. Conversational mentions of stores and street names and the accuracy of things like bus and streetcar designs and storefronts in backgrounds firmly ground the story in something real.
Scott faces a new and more lethal foe in each book, all dispatched by the often-whispered about (and if you pay close attention, once-seen) Gideon, master of The League of Ramona’s Evil Ex-Boyfriends. The full series is planned as six volumes, each between 168 and 208 pages long, published approximately once a year.
Vol.5 came was released 24 hours ago. Only 364 more days to wait for Vol. 6.
For more on Bryan Lee O'Malley, check out his interview in the new issue of DRAW! Magazine as conducted by HGC Radio's good friend Jamar Nicholas. And watch for the film version of Scott Pilgrim coming later this year. The movie begins filming at the end of March here in Toronto with Edgar Wright (he of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame) as director and Michael Cera (Areested Development, Juno) in the title role.