Sunday, 30 August 2015

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley Review


“Scott Pilgrim is dating a high schooler!” - so begins one of the finest comics sagas of all time. 

I’ve read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim before, seen the (extremely faithful) Edgar Wright movie adaptation, and have just re-read it (this time in colour), and the comic still blows me away with its quality. Reading the same story the third time around and it’s not boring in the least. It even somehow feels fresh despite having been published in 2004! 

On paper the story seems like no great shakes: 23 year old Scott is dating 17 year old Knives Chau, the aforementioned high schooler, (nothing funny, just holding hands), and then he meets Ramona Flowers, his literal dream girl whom he falls hard for. Just one catch: he’s gotta fight her 7 evil exes. And of course break up with poor unsuspecting Knives! 

It’s comedy romance mixed in with a Shonen Jump-style fight manga but the comic transcends the sum of its parts. O’Malley’s dialogue perfectly captures how young people in their late teens/early twenties talk albeit making them all very entertaining conversationalists. I’m sure it helped that he was in his early twenties when he wrote/drew this, but even then there’s a skill here with the writing and art that belies his (then) age. 

There’s very witty and warm-hearted humour that utilises the visual comics format well too - adding captions in a scene to emphasise how poor Scott is when in his and Wallace’s flat. The script is funny and fun and real and fantastical all at the same time - brilliant! Their names don’t bother me, nor the fact that the characters are all hipsters, that’s how good this comic is! 

It’s hard to describe how little seems to happen and yet it feels like so much is happening. The opening sequence is: 1) Scott and his friends in the kitchen talking, 2) Scott and Knives’ (intentionally) mundane meet-cute, 3) Wallace Wells (Scott’s gay flatmate) is introduced, 4) Scott introduces Knives to his band Sex Bob-Omb and they play a song. That’s it. Hardly anything really and YET - there’s so much energy, vibrancy, and urgency in these pages that’s indicative of the rest of the book (and series). It crackles with originality. 

O’Malley creates great characters and a helluva good story - Scott proving his love for Ramona in a way suited to his character and exciting to read too - but more than that, he captures the experience of being young and in love. That’s special. That’s something I’ve yet to come across in any other comic and that’s how you know you’re in the presence of a truly unique and obscenely talented voice. 

There’s not a single thing I could say I dislike about this book. Every scene brings it - not an ounce of fat is there to be found here! There are so many great moments, from Scott stalking Ramona at the party, to their first kiss, the battle of the bands against Crash and the Boys, the first evil ex, Matthew Patel, and their epic, synchronised fight. Ramona talking about using a shortcut through Scott’s mind to explain why he’s been dreaming about her is utterly bizarre but also fit perfectly into the tone of the book. 

O’Malley tosses in an occasional pop culture reference but it never overwhelms the story (Ernest Cline, take note!). Nathan Fairbairn’s colours are nice but the story was just as powerful in the original black and white so whichever version you read, the comic is still awesome. 

There are other creators who excel in both roles of writer and artist and have created startlingly original works - Frank Miller’s Sin City, David Lapham’s Stray Bullets, Eric Powell’s The Goon, Jeff Smith’s Bone, Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, and Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar stories - and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim easily joins these elite ranks. 

Scott Pilgrim is about as flawless a comic as I can recommend to anyone. Whether you read comics or don’t, it’s absolutely worth reading. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life doesn’t age and wins over everyone who reads it - an instant classic and one of the best examples of the comics art form!

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

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