Scott Pilgrim Vol 1-6: Book review

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I fell in love with Scott Pilgrim vs The World when I saw it on the big screen. The awkwardness, the blurred lines of boredom that can occur in your early twenties and Ramona’s changing hair colour all contribute to a great viewing experience. Having since read the six-part graphic novel series, it’s clear the film takes the most important narrative events of boy meets girl and translates them magnificently into a cinematic experience. It’s not very often that I’m satisfied with motion picture versions of books, but Scott Pilgrim was a winner straight away – even more so in hindsight.

Unfortunately, the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels didn’t meet all of my expectations. On-screen characters that I loved quickly became a huge nuisance. Turns out that the leading characters, Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers, are only likeable in a 1hr 30 minute segment. Across the six installments, it becomes startlingly apparent that Scott is a bone idle scrounger with little motivation to get on in life. Even the comedy of Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends can’t diminish the apathy of his character. On the flipside, Ramona is self-involved, resulting in an unapproachable character who is often too mardy. I find her far too elusive given that the whole series centralises around a young man fighting for her love and affection. I really wish the series had given more space to Kim Pine, Scott’s ex-girlfriend. Although she takes a back seat in the series, her sarcasm, wit, and bluntness really cuts across each installment. I absolutely love how biting and impatient she is. Perhaps this is Bryan Lee O’Malley’s greatest skill when it comes to characterisation: the ability to pick a particular trait for each construction and really augment it.

Each installment follows the plot outlined in the film, Scott Pilgrim faces each of Ramona’s evil exes. This creates a simple and repetitive narrative. The strongest installment was the fourth: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, which finally allows for character development.  Scott Pilgrim actually starts to mature, as does the plotline. Scott gets himself a job, puts more effort into his relationship with Ramona and starts to give a damn about what’s going on around him. Character development is important to me as a reader, so this installment encouraged me to persevere.

Aside from plot and characters, what’s more noticeable as the series progresses is the development of the artwork. The style becomes far more profound. I’ve always struggled with black and white artwork, preferring full colour in series such as Saga. The subtle changes in style and even penwork make the last three installments a far more pleasurable reading experience.

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A real stand out piece of artwork for me is the frame featured above. Not only is it fantastically done, but I really love the crossover with Sonic The Hedgehog. A lot of praise needs to be given to the framework that the plot is shaped around. Taking characteristics and influences from the gaming industry – the nods to levelling up, gaining extra lives and winning coins for each ex-boyfriend that is defeated – really gives the series a refreshing quirkiness.

Bryan Lee O’Malley has really personalised his series, creating a direct relationship with the reader by giving insights into the creation of Scott Pilgrim and co. My favourite thing about the series, that I am yet to see in any other graphic novels, is the creator’s acknowledgement of things that inspired him. Each book has added extras including: playlists that inspired installments, crossovers with other artists, and descriptions of production from pens through to plot.

While I didn’t get on with the characters, there are certainly elements in each installment that different people will thoroughly enjoy. It’s safe to say I have a real love-hate relationship with Scott Pilgrim series, but at least I can always return to the film.

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