Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life Vol. 1
By Bryan Lee O'Malley
Oni Press

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life Vol. 1 is easily one of my favorite books of the year. It's sharp, funny, fast-paced, unpredictable, unapologetically silly and just plain fun. What more can you ask for?

Scott Pilgrim is 23, "between jobs," sponging off his roommate, and dating a high-school girl named Knives Chau, whom he met on the bus (“We almost held hands once, but then she got embarrassed,” Scott tells his incredulous friends). None of that fazes the happy-go-lucky Scott, who plays bass for his band Sex Bob-omb, and sports a rating of “awesome.” Things change, though, when Ramona Flowers rollerblades into his dreams, and Scott is transformed into an obsessive bumbler with whom many of us can identify.

It’s with that shift the book itself changes, but not so much that it’s jarring. It becomes layered, so that it’s more than simply a light romp through the life of a care-free slacker. Scott’s obsession with Ramona is funny, but it’s also touching and, yes, even charming. The previously self-assured rocker is completely disarmed by Ramona, and falls fast and hard. Yes, “charming” is the perfect word for it.

But just when it seems Scott Pilgrim has settled into an enjoyable slice-of-life tale about 20-something under-achievers and a quirky love triangle -- and I would’ve been perfectly content with that -- Bryan Lee O’Malley throws us a curve in the form of a Dragonball-style fight scene between Scott and Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriend (well, one of Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends). See? I said it was unpredictable and fun.

O’Malley’s art here is looser and even more cartoonish than in Lost at Sea, but it's perfect for the tone of the story. With their oversized heads and enormous eyes, his characters convey an impressive range of emotions. Like the plot, the art offers some wonderful surprises as O'Malley demonstrates he can produce some stunning sequences.

Anyone who thinks comic books have lost their sense of fun and whimsy should buy Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life. Heck, everyone should buy it.

The book, which ships Aug. 18, slipped under a lot of people’s radars, so your local retailer may not have it. If that’s the case, you can buy it direct from Oni Press, or keep checking with Amazon. If you're still not sure whether Scott Pilgrim is for you, check out Oni's PDF preview, or read the 13-page excerpt at iComics.