Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Appreciation [Indeterminate Amount of Time]: Day 3

Scott Pilgrim (Comic Book) Review

And so as promised I finally have the review of the Scott Pilgrim comic series. The reason it took so long was partly because I didn’t want to burn myself out by writing several thousand words on the subject in one setting and wanted to give myself a break (Hence the Avatar review) and partly because I have re-read the comic twice since seeing the movie in order to give it a fair and balanced review not influenced by how much was I’m in love with the Edgar Wright film (I’m thinking about proposing marriage to the movie, but I haven’t figured out the best way to propose yet. Suggestions?) Anyway I do a pretty decent job of explaining the details of the book in Day One of Scott Pilgrim Week Month However Long it Takes, so I won’t repeat myself too badly.

Anyway we’ve all heard this story a few times by now: Scott Pilgrim is a good for nothing, blah blah blah, dating a high school girl, blah blah blah, he meets Ramona Flowers, blah blah blah, has to fight evil ex-boyfriends, blah blah blah Canada.

Canada: Capable of beating your ass; polite enough not to

It should b pointed out that is comic is very beloved by a good section of people (Among them is Joss Whedon of all people, who’s quoted a giving heavy praise to the books). I’m not sure exactly how large the fanbase is but there is a lot of love floating around for this series. Some folk are calling it one of the most, if not the most, important comics of the last 15 years. Wow, really? Alright then, that’s cool I guess. Anyway when reading these books the first thing you notice about it how similar it is to the Japanese style of comic artwork, or “manga”. Now this is an indy comic so I would therefore assume that this black and white piece lacks color more for financial reasons than artistic ones (Dude, coloring crap is expensive as hell) but other than that a lot of the artwork itself is clearly influenced by that manga style. It looks like it may have be imported from overseas if you didn’t know any better but this is very much so to the comic’s benefit. With this style Scott Pilgrim looks very unique compared to a lot of the comics out there and helps it stand out among its peers. Sure there have been lots of so-called “American Manga” (Note: This comic is Canadian) over the years, Gold Digger and Ninja High School come to mind, but I can tell you that this series stands out in a comic book store…possibly also due to the fact that they’re also in graphic novel form rather than single issue (A lesson I may be using for me own independent comic once I find an artist…hint hint).

Scott Pilgrim is a manga without all that messy Japanese culture

The setting is memorable. As I’ve said in past entries Scott Pilgrim takes place in a fictional, video game-like version of Toronto. The world of this comic is filled with physic bending shenanigans and quirky residents who range from criminally passive to the chronically snarky. This is a place where a concert in a bar can be interrupted by a super powered hipster who engages in a super battle with a seemingly random bass player that wrecks up the joint and no one is surprised or worried enough to call the cops, sue anyone or react too emotionally if someone dies in the process. This could have been a negative but it works very well with the series tone. Slapstick isn’t the exact word but it’s very silly and the characters, at least the side characters, are clearly taking all this craziness in stride so we should probably do the same. Sue me: I like the fact that Scott earns experience points for mundane things like getting a job as well as defeated enemies turning into coins. I’m a goddamn gamer, I’m supposed to like it (That said I’m a terrible gamer).

The cast of this comic is pretty good and if I gave any praise higher than that in an earlier post I apologize. At the time I had only read the books twice as opposed to the six hundred times I forced myself to read it for this review. It’s not bad by any means, but there are better ensembles out there. As I said before Wallace Wells, Scott’s roommate who acts as his mentor, and Kim Pine, who drums in Scott’s band are my two favorite characters. Wallace is just hilarious, especially when compared to Scott (“Today a child will be born onto us and his name will be ‘Bacon’”). Kim has the task of being the straight man in the story since everyone else in the comic are either morons, mysterious, or insane. Scott…well, he starts off really unlikable, but that’s probably the point. He’s lazy, treats his much-too-young-for-him girlfriend poorly, and is pretty self-absorbed. Luckily he grows-up a bit throughout the story. The real plot of the books is not so much his romantic endeavors but rather the story of a young man getting his immature baggage together and growing the hell up. That said I don’t find him to be a very redeemable character. I think the reason the reader will click with him is due to how funny his moronic tendencies are. If you can’t be likable at least be funny. Of course by Vol. Six I think he may have used up all of that comedy buffer, but what can you do? Ramona isn’t as bad as I may have said previously. She is indeed kind of a bitch but she’s clearly not heartless and, like with Scott, she goes through the character development necessary to be an actual human being. She comes off a hell of a lot nice than her movie counterpart. In the comic Ramona smiles a lot and seems mostly laid back while in the movie she seems matter-of-fact and aloof. Take in mind she insults Scott way more in the comic so this should tell you how far a friendly attitude will get you in life.

The rest of the main cast is, more or less, made up of distinct and likable characters. Knives, crazy Scott obsessed stalker/ninja, laid back except when it comes to music Stephen Stills, dopey Young Neil, soft spoken Joshua (Who is barely in this comic but still makes an impression on me), the bitch and a half Julie, Scott’s younger but more mature sister Stacey; there are a lot of people to like in this book and they all seem to have their own distinct voice. It works as well as it possibly could and it near impossible not to find person in this cast you’ll love. That says a lot.

Knives Chau, Age 17

Rating: 3 to 5 Years in Prison

Not all the characters are super great, but I blame the problem of just how many freaking characters are in this damn comic. I mean seriously, there is a ton of supporting, minor and named incidental characters floating around (Did I really need to know Jason Kim’s name? Or even really see him?). On the one hand it’s hard to keep track of them all but on the other hand it does help create the illusion of a populated world. A lot of works of fiction fail in this category so Bryan Lee O’Malley shouldn’t be too harshly judged for that. However most of the characters do nothing to move the plot forward and there’s a real sense that they’re more window dressing than an ensemble, which is a shame. Of course they’re a fun window dressing. On the villain side of things…it’s not so good. The whole story revolves around Scott fighting the League of Ramona’s Evil Ex-Boyfriends but almost all of them are tokens. We don’t learn a lot about most of them other than they’re jerks who are mad at Ramona. Even the Final Boss Gideon is never fully fleshed out. Sometimes one f the ex’s will only be around for a few pages, playing only a minor role in the volume as a whole (And sometimes not at the climax of the book) then never show up again. The fact is I didn’t find the majority of the antagonist interesting at all. Strangely my favorite villain is Envy Adams who is Scott’s ex. She has a fully fleshed out back-story that is tied closely with not only Scott past but another villain as well, and she actually comes off as the true mastermind of Vol. 3.

Crash & The Boys, who contribute nothing to the main plot

The artwork is okay. Yes yes, I said all that stuff about the manga influence but frankly I don’t find it particularly world shaking. I’ve seen better in that style dozens of times over and even certain frames in certain volumes look awful and amateurish. Luckily art in comic books has never been a priority for me. Then again, many of the characters have the same features, in some cases only made distinctive by their hair style. Combined with the giant amount of characters it is possible to confuse people for each other, especially if you’re new to the book. I had a hard time at first but it wasn’t too bad by the time I finished. My real problem with the series is how much it drags. Between major points (Like a fight or story points) the plot slows the hell down. I swear I was reading the books at certain points and then passed out from the boredom. You can’t do that, damn it: you can’t have awesome stuff buffered out by filler crap! Now on paper this so-called “filler crap” is really supposed to be character and story development but sometimes it’s just people talking and/or going to parties where they talk. Or sit around and complain. Nothing is learned or gained, and sometimes it’s not even funny. Vol. 2 and Vol. 5 probably could have been half the size if O’Malley had just trimmed some of that stuff out. This is too good a series to have been so dull that much and shame on the writer for making me feel this way. You bastard.

Our heroes making dinner...for four or five pages

Thankfully the ending is much, much more satisfying than the movie.

Spoiler Alert: This comic book series will not a receive a perfect panda score. This is NOT because I liked the movie better. I do not believe a film and a comic book can be held to the same standard and therefore the scores are not equivalent. Don’t forget that I consider myself a comic book nerd above all else, not a film geek. This is a great series...but it’s not my favorite. Maybe I don’t possess the correct sensibilities for it but I honestly am not as gung-ho about it as many others. Lots of people are saying it’s one of the best comics ever made but I do not get that at all when I read it. However this is still a work that easily stands above many of its peers. Its fun, has a lot of great characters, and has tons of shout outs to all sorts of nerdy subjects. If you’re a nerd you’ll love it. If not you’ll probably still enjoy it. Check it out if for no other reason than to see what everyone is going on about.

I give Scott Pilgrim as a series 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas (Not an average)


Pros

-Fun characters

-Great setting

-Unique style

-Very, very nerdy

-Good ending

Cons

-The art isn’t great

-The plot can drag at times

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