Scott Pilgrim Color Volume 1: Precious Little Life Hardcover.
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
Bryan Lee O’Malley is coming to the UK this summer to the world’s biggest literary bash, the Edinburgh International Book Festival (and he’s swinging by our Edinburgh store too!) in August, as his first new graphic novel in some time, Seconds, comes out. Which also makes it a perfect time to revisit his most famous work, Scott Pilgrim, ahead of his visit.
In this first volume we meet the eponymous Scott Pilgrim (name borrowed from a song by Canadian band Plumtree that O’Malley was a fan of), 23 years old and a bit lost and drifting. He has moved out of the parental home (or been forced out really) but he’s stuck sharing a tiny space with his gay friend Wallace, no serious job, his last relationship broke up and he’s starting to date a 17-year old high school student, Knives Chau (which understandably his friends are giving him some grief over) – basically he’s in that drifting, slacker lifestyle, technically an adult but still in that tumultuous time in life where you’re still trying to figure out who you are and what to do (not to mention how to do it – career, home, love) and part of you really wants to dive back to the seeming safety and security of your pre-adult days, so meantime you just drift aimlessly. He does have the band though – Sex Bob-omb along with his friends Stephen Stills (for some reason he always says Stephen’s full name) and drummer Kim. They may not be the most awesome band, but Knives, who has lead a pretty sheltered life till now, is blown away by their sound as she hangs around during band practise.
Then into this, rollerblading her way literally through Scott’s dreams, comes Ramona Flowers with her brightly coloured hair. Why does he keep dreaming about this woman roller-skating through his mind? Is this residual guilt about dating a girl much younger than him? Or something else? And then he actually meets Ramona at a party – she’s real. How can a woman he never met before be appearing in his dreams and then turn out to be real? Of course our loveable slacker bungles his attempt to be cool and introduce himself to her at the party. So what can he do now he’s blown his chance to get to know her? Why stalk her round the party of course! From friends he finds out she’s an American who has recently moved to Toronto and is a delivery courier, so he goes online to order something then rather endearingly sits down by the door to wait for her to deliver it (much to the amusement of Wallace, who points out he only just placed the order and it may be a while).
Of course he does finally get to meet Ramona – and as she makes her delivery he finds out the reason he has been seeing her in his dreams is because “this really convenient subspace highway happens to go through your head”. She explains this is how she cuts across town so quickly. When he looks puzzled she adds they seem fairly empty up here, maybe you Canadians don’t use them. Somehow despite falling over his own tongue he manages to get her to meet up with him later, and a cute relationship slowly starts to form. Of course there are complications – for starters he hasn’t told Knives he is falling for someone else (and someone more his own age), and then there is the issue of Ramona’s seven evil exes, the first of whom, Matthew Patel, informs him right away that he will have to face him in battle (not that Scott pays any attention to his email or letters). In fact as his relationship progresses Ramona discloses the fact that if they are to be a couple Scott will have to face and defeat all seven of her evil ex-lovers. And so the fun begins…
It’s a sheer reading delight returning to these pages again (and if you are totally new to the book, you are really in for a treat). I remember enjoying them, but re-reading them reminded me of just how damned good the series is. Not just the fun story, fusing slacker culture, video gaming, pop culture references and more into it’s structure, or the way it cleverly mixes Western comics art styles with elements borrowed from Japanese manga and anime (especially some of the battle scenes) to create something visually fresh and different (and frankly a whole lot of fun to look at, some panels just make you grin so darned much), or in the wonderful fusion of real world with fantastical moments. But also in the actual characters – each of them feels real, each has things you like about them as well as the things you don’t, but you come to know them all over the entire multi-volume series, and you see them all grow and change through their experiences in a very satisfying way (not just Ramona and Scott’s growing relationship, they all change and grow, especially young Knives), and you totally buy into it an become emotionally invested in them.
Originally published in black and white, these later colour hardback editions show off that fusion of Western and Japanese art beautifully (and some of the great expressions O’Malley gives some of the characters), and also come with plenty of bonus items, not least O’Malley talking about how he created the series, why he went down certain routes, why some characters developed the way they did and how much of it related to elements of his own life and people he knew, which somehow just makes your love of the series and characters even more satisfying. Action, romance, fantasy, real-world messy emotional problems, music, it’s all in here in one of the most charming, inventive, stylish and fun comic reads of the last couple of decades, an absolute must-have in your collection.
Bryan Lee O’Malley will be at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday 17th of August; he will also be doing a signing session in our Edinburgh store on Southbridge (a moment from the Royal Mile) on Sunday 17th August from 12 to 1pm.