Review: “Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life”

Scott Pilgrim and his friends are totally infectious.

Scott Pilgrim and his friends are totally infectious.

What is that thing you like to do to pull yourself out of a funk? You know, when you’re in a mood and you just can’t shake those doldrums off fast enough. How do you get to your happy place? If you’re not sure, or you’d like a new tool for your toolbox, I’ll offer two words that ought to do the trick:

Scott Pilgrim.

More specifically, “Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life”. Writer/artist Bryan Lee O’Malley brings great joy to his thoroughly endearing light-hearted mythical romantic tale set in Toronto, Canada. O’Malley has filled this breezy opening chapter to the six-volume “Scott Pilgrim” saga with appealing characters (even the unappealing have an appeal), charming dialogue, and amusing omniscient narration that is used both effectively and sparingly.

Scott Pilgrim is an aimless 23 year old who plays bass in the “kind of crappy” band Sex-Bob-Omb with his friends Stephen Stills and Kim Pine. Scott lives with, or sponges off of, his gay roommate Wallace Wells and as the story opens we learn Scott has just started dating a 17-year-old high school girl named Knives Chau. Things take a strange turn when a mesmerizing girl on rollerblades named Ramona Flowers skates past Scott in a dream, then he runs into her the following day after being treated to lunch by Wallace.

A few brief encounters follow but they do not do much to endear Scott to Ramona. She finally gives in and spends some time with the smitten slacker who has all but forgotten his current girlfriend, who is similarly smitten with the two-timer. Even though Scott is dating Knives, it’s hard not to still root for the guy as he finally demonstrates that he has some drive in him; he does everything in his power to court Ramona. O’Malley has fun acquainting his two young would-be-lovers:

Ramona: What’s with the “x” anyway?
Scott: Hm?
Ramona: On your coat?
Scott: Oh this? Well, obviously one of us went to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and one of us didn’t.
Ramona: Obviously one of us is a total nerd. Did you make that patch yourself?
Scott: I don’t have to answer that!

Scott meets the woman of his dreams.

Scott meets the woman of his dreams.

We do get an inkling of why Scott is so taken with Ramona, which gives “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life” some of its slightly mythical sensibility. For the most part, this first volume feels more like a straight, albeit lively, romantic comedy until we reach the final act in which one of Ramona’s exes arrives to battle Scott in a video-game inspired battle for the young woman. However, O’Malley spends more time exploring the flourishing relationship between Scott and Ramona and it is, frankly, quite adorable.

O’Malley employs a Manga style that may look simple, but the artist’s characters are expressive and their feelings are crystal clear from one panel to the next. There is a sequence early in the book where we take a tour of Wallace and Scott’s studio apartment that tells us just about everything we need to know about Scott using labels describing who owns what: lame poster (Scott), futon (Wallace), wall lamp (Wallace), clothes on floor and stuff (Scott), Computer (Wallace), and Wallace’s socks (on Scott’s feet). There’s more, but you get the idea that Scott isn’t totally self-sufficient as the story opens. We also see that Scott is indifferent to authority in a quick panel where he is sprawled out on a couch next to a sign that reads “Do Not Sit”.

While Ramona starts out as something of an enigma, and we don’t know her whole story by the end of “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life”, O’Malley has created a charismatic young woman with enough wit and spunk to make us understand why Scott is captivated by her.

Prepare to be immediately charmed by “Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life”. O’Malley develops an enticing reality that is inhabited by a small group of characters who will win you over almost immediately; even when they themselves do not demonstrate the warmest personality traits. It’s the perfect recipe if you’re suffering from a case of the blues.

Grade: B+

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Writer: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Art: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: August 2004
Pages: 168 pages

You can find this book at one of the following recommended retailers:

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