Review: The Scott Pilgrim series

Note: I write book reviews for Minnesota Reads. This review is totally self-referential and inside baseball, when taken outside the context of that website. But I like to think of it as the kind of writing that used to appear in Sassy magazine.

I drank the Jodi Chromey Kool-Aid and readers, it was delicious.

As anyone who has ever lurked the hallowed halls of Minnesota Reads knows, when Jodi likes something — I mean REALLY likes something — she damn near holds her very own Fourth of July celebration for that thing. Under these circumstances, I tend to listen to her. Aside from a few ticks in her taste buds (what kind of 80s teen disses so hard on Bret Easton Ellis? It’s inhuman), home girl tends to save virtual exclamation points for things that are truly delicious.

When it comes to the passionate reads, we lean similar: I’d guess that we will both end 2010 with plenty of crossover in our Top 10s, including Hot Pants Bognanni, and Cirque de Egan. And neither of our lists will include anything from the vampire domestic assault genre, or “it” books by 120 pound men with first world problems.

But when we leave the aisles of contemporary fiction, Aunt Jodi takes a left at graphic novels, and I take a right at food and addiction memoirs. And never the twain shall meet. Until she went all Tourettes on the Scott Pilgrim series by Brian Lee O’Malley. I peeked warily over the proverbial bookshelf, saw she was having a blast, and dove in.

My god, Jodi Chromey. You made me a believer. I spent an entire weekend laying around in my underwear reading six consecutive comic books (I believe this is her preferred method as well) and hot damn, I liked it.

A brief overview for those people who automatically edit Michael Cera, who stars in the movie adaptation, out of their consciousness: Scott Pilgrim is a 23-year-old (mostly)  straight edge Canuck, in the okay band Sex Bob-omb who shares a 1BR apartment — and bed — with his gay friend Wallace.

When the series starts, Scott Pilgrim is in the beginnings of a pretty chaste relationship with Knives Chau, a high school girl. A Asian high school girl. The kind of high school girl who wears a Catholic school girl uniform. Oh, Scott. While he is still navigating the leap from hand holding to hugs, he has a dream starring a mysterious girl on roller blades whom he eventually meets in his waking: Ramona Flowers, she of the ever-changing hair du and super secret who do voodoo lifestyle. He shakes loose the jail bait and gets touchy-feely with Ramona. (Not necessarily in that order). But in order for their relationship to succeed, he learns he must defeat her seven evil exes.

Throughout the series, Scott Pilgrim battles the douche bags, twins, vegans and a chick, and struggles with his own demons: a sexy ex of his own, a stalker, his own unemployment, the Fleetwood Mac-ian moments of being part of a band. Our hero is pretty clueless and self-centered (he isn’t even sure where some of his besties work) albeit totally likable. The six books are riddled with pop culture references (my favorite being a Grosse Point Blank movie poster in the background, and references to the Pixies), video game terminology (whatevs), and self-referential barbs — things like this will be explained in Book 3, or the next 30 pages will include a fight sequence. It’s all fantastically clever. For instance, one of Ramona’s exes is vegan and this is treated as a cult-like group with bylaws.

Overall, I tended to like the even-numbered books a star more than the odd numbered books in the series. Book 2 delves more into the relationships with his friends, Book 4 is heavy on the Scott-Ramona relationship, and Book 6 is a wonderful and relate-able finale for anyone who has ever had friends, relationship residue, and has successfully managed their 20s.

Quick note: When you’ve never read something in this style, it is a little clunky to get used to the relationship of pictures and words. My boyfriend used to draw comics, and explained to me all of the opportunities to communicate in this style. The words have to say something, and the picture is an extra opportunity to add another layer to it. With that in mind, I got a little dizzy until I got into a groove. It didn’t take long to get into that groove, mind you, but those first few pages were exhausting.

Overall, this was such a pleasure to read. It oozes with cleverness. Jodi Chromey: That SuperGenius business you throw around is not hyperbole.

This review originally appeared August 15, 2010 at Minnesota Reads.