Scott Pilgrim graphic novels (Volumes 1 to 6) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Over the weekend I’ve been reading all 6 volumes of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels:

1. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
3. Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
4. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe
6. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour

These are my husband’s books which he nagged me to read because.. heh, I didn’t want to watch the movie without reading them first, and he’s been dying to watch the movie.

The series is about Scott Pilgrim, a 20-something slacker, living in Toronto, Canada.  He falls for a mysterious American girl, Ramona Flowers and has to defeat her seven evil exes in order to continue dating her (this is neither her idea or Scott’s. It seems to be something concocted by the League of Evil Exes).

1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
I was a little concerned in reading Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life that I would ultimately be rather annoyed by this series, because I thought that Scott was a big fool. I mean, he’s got the adorably clueless thing going on, but he’s twenty-three and he’s dating a seventeen year old innocent who is still in high school (Knives Chau). And then he sees another girl (Ramona), and becomes obsessed with her, but continues to date Knives, who is falling in love with him. Even though he’s not blatantly malicious, he sure is incredibly oblivious. Luckily, he is the only one, and everyone around him has more sense.  Part of the humor comes from Scott’s doe-eyed blundering and inability to take care of himself while his friends watch him with exasperation.

The story is full of video game and some music references (Scott is both in a band and plays a lot of video games), with lots of odd, off the wall going-ons thrown in. There’s little hints throughout the story that there’s a reason for some of the oddness, but it’s hard to say. I wasn’t sure if I was just missing some video game reference, or if this was a story clue, but these hints actually do go somewhere (you have to wait for later volumes to find out).

2 & 3: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
These two volumes have Scott fighting the second and third evil exes, and also shed a lot of light on Scott’s dating past, including a past relationship with Kim Pine, who is now the drummer in his band, Sex Bob-omb. There’s also some fallout from his dating two girls at once. I liked his roommate Wallace because he’s the one to tell Scott he has to break up with Knives if he wants to date Ramona. In fact, Wallace is my favorite character – what a friend, he pays for EVERYTHING for Scott – he’s practically a surrogate parent. I think that in these two books, there are the seeds for some growth in the characters, including Knives. My husband thinks that Knives gets annoying in these two books, but although I thought she went a little uh, strange, I felt rather sorry for her despite not quite connecting with how she acted. My favorite book in the whole series ended up being volume 3 – Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness, because it focused on his most recent ex, Envy Adams. There’s something about their bad breakup and the aftermath for Scott that was strangely compelling, and I liked how things got resolved when she returned to his life.

4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
This is the Scott Grows Up volume. The previous books kind of got Scott to the point where he’s willing to be more than a moocher, and he also begins to move forward in the relationship with Ramona. This is also the book where we get a significant clue about Ramona’s recent Big Ex. He’s been mentioned before (she even names her cat, Gideon after him), but this hint moves the story towards the climax.

5 & 6: Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe and Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
These last two volumes are where Scott fights the last three exes (two of which are twins, and the last is, like video games the final Boss he has to defeat). It’s also where Ramona’s breakup with Gideon and this whole league of evil exes and all the odd things to do with Ramona are explained. Things sort of fall apart, there’s introspection, then things come to a head.

I don’t know how I feel about the ending. Sigh. To tell you the truth, it got a little too weird for me, and the weirdness seemed rather… I don’t know, it took a metaphor a little too far and it ended up feeling like it was weird to be weird. I don’t think I really got it. And just about everyone in Scott’s world – all his friends, had big life changes. The wrap up jarred me, even if it happened over two or three volumes. I’m not really sure why, but I felt somewhat dissatisfied by how everything played out. When I compare the books to the movie, I missed some of the details that were in the book but not in the movie (and I missed the storylines from volume 3 in particular), but I preferred how the movie ended because it didn’t have the metaphysical weirdness of the book or the bittersweetness I suppose.

Overall: I enjoyed reading it. It has geek humor and I liked the interactions between Scott and his friends and I could identify with the twenty-somethings hanging out and living their lives, although I suppose I was a lot more focused than this group is. But there was something that didn’t work, and I haven’t put my finger on it, but I just wasn’t satisfied by the way these books ended. I think maybe it was the use of unreality mixed in with the relationships. I just didn’t connect with the concept. I don’t want this issue to dissuade others from reading these graphic novels though because they were otherwise quirky and charming.

Geektastic – Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

I picked this one up at BEA since I’m a Holly Black fan and she was signing it.

Geektastic is an anthology of geek related stories. According to the charming Editors’ note, the idea was formed after Comic Con, where, in line for a burrito, Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci discussed what would happen if “you were a Jedi and you woke up with a Klingon in your bed” (the first story in this anthology). It’s a fun concept, and this book has different varieties of geeks represented.  Although some stories have me thinking the idea was better than the realization, it was cool to see how many big names in the YA genre have geek cred.

Throughout the anthology are one page comics illustrated by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley about geeks like “How to Hook Up at the Science Fair”, “What your instrument says about you” and “Top Five Words or Phrases You Need to Know in Klingon” – these were amusing and nice breakpoints between stories.

Buy: AmazonB&N

Really quick reviews follow (My favorites were by David Levithan, Lisa Lee, Wendy Mass and Cassandra Clare):

1) Once You’re a Jedi, You’re a Jedi All the Way by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci: A Jedi and a Klingon wake up together in the same hotel room. Overall: OK. Funny and cute in a very geeky way. I enjoyed picturing the melee described here, but seems to focus more on Jedi vs. Klingon than their story.

2) One of Us by Tracy Lynn: A cheerleader tries to learn more about her football player boyfriend’s interests in geeky things by taking “lessons” from the the high school Genre and Nonsense Club – This one was like a primer into geekdom as each member of the club highlighted a particular aspect. Chock full of geek references, maybe too many, but ends nicely.

3) Definitional Chaos by Scott Westerfeld: A gamer responsible for bringing Con money to a hotel in Florida gets saddled with his crazy ex-girlfriend on the trip. The story seemed to focus on the idea of alignment, both in games and offline, and I found that aspect hard to connect to. This one took me a while to read because I kept putting it down.

4) I Never by Cassandra Clare: A girl and her friend who role play online as their favorite characters meet some other players of The Game in real life. Of course online characters differ greatly from their real life ones. A bit of a predictable Liking the Wrong Boy story, but ends up rather sweet.

5) The King of Pelinesse by M. T. Anderson: A boy discovers his mom gets love letters from one of his favorite fantasy authors and takes a trip to meet him. Um.. rather weird and somewhat creepy and sad. I’m pondering if this is saying something about certain fantasy authors or if it’s revealing the negative side of geekiness. Not sure.

6) The Wrath of Dawn by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith: A girl named Dawn attends a Buffy screening where people interact with the movie much like people do with Rocky Horror, and objects to the way the character Dawn seems universally despised. My reaction to this was “Eh”. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t move me.

7) Quiz Bowl Antichrist by David Levithan: A gay teen is part of his school’s quiz bowl team and butts heads constantly with the team leader while harboring a crush on another teammember. Told in the first person, this teens sarcastic observations had me chuckling. There were also some painful situations. This was probably my favorite short story.

8 ) The Quiet Knight by Garth Nix: Tony, a loner kid spends his time live action roleplaying as the Quiet Knight, and wondering what the Quiet Knight would do helps him come out of his shell. This was alright, sweet, but short.

9) Everyone But You by Lisa Lee: Felicity has just moved from Ohio to Hawaii, going from her High schools’ MIss Pep to No one she feels out of place and invisible. This is another growing pains sort of story and another one of my favorites. I also liked the details of Hawaii that the locals know about.

10) Secret Identity by Kelly Link: Written as a letter from a teenaged girl to someone named Paul Zell. She alternates between writing in the first and third person about herself, but I figured she met him online in a game called FarAway and they were to meet in real life at a New York City Hotel but he doesn’t show. This is a confusing story which was almost a DNF, but it did get better once I realized she was serious about the superheroes in the lobby and ignored the changing POV. In the end it left me wanting to know who Paul Zell really was, but I didn’t like the shifts in POV at all.

11) Freak the Geek by John Green: Two best friends, outcasts in a all girls high school are the targets for a school tradition to haze two geeks for a day. A nice friendship story, with I think a lighter dusting of geekiness. Left me with a warm fuzzy. One comment: Pokemon? I thought that was only a fad in the nineties?

12) The Truth about Dino Girl by Barry Lyga: Katherine loves dinosaurs and spouts off knowledge about them to her best friend Sooz, an artist in the making, but lately her obsessive nature has a new target – an unattainable guy with a perfect girlfriend. An illustration that evolution can favor the little guys too, but I thought Katherine’s “revenge” was hypocritical and crossed a line.

13) This is My Audition Monologue by Sara Zarr: A monologue by Rachel Banks arguing why she should finally get a part as cast in the latest theater production and not be shuffled off into the crew. Rambly, embarrassing, ambitious, geeky, desperate and defiant all rolled into one. I liked and disliked it for those reasons. I wonder if she got a part.

14) The Stars at the Finish Line by Wendy Mass: The narrator, Peter, has had a crush on Tabitha Bell since they were in grade school. When she declares her ambition of being an astronaut when she was nine, so does he, and the rivalry began.  Eight years later, Peter still has his crush and Tabitha still thinks he’s her biggest competition. Astronomy geeks, very cute. Another favorite.

15) It’s Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray: Leta and Agnes have been friends for a long time and friday night at the Rocky Horror Picture Show is their thing. Unfortunately things don’t always stay the same. Agnes gets a boyfriend and Leta feels left behind. This gave off a very nostalgic, teens-in-the-seventies vibe. I thought it had interesting things to say about geekiness and it’s relationship with identity, friendship, and coping with life. Liked it.

SciFiChick has 3 copies of Geektastic she’s giving away (contest ends August 22nd)