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.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Rapunzel's Revenge
Shannon Hale

I saw that Rapunzel’s Revenge was for sale at for $2.99 and my husband is a lovely, lovely enabler so he bought it along with 6 other books.. ahem.

The Premise: This is a graphic novel adaptation of Rapunzel with a twist. Rapunzel grows up in a huge, lovely house, surrounded by servants and greenery, but she always wonders why she has strange dreams about another family and why her mother, Gothel won’t let her see what is on the other side of the wall that towers high above their mansion.  Every year, Rapunzel asks, but Gothel won’t answer, until finally Rapunzel finds out herself. This leads to a discovery which makes Rapunzel turn against Gothel and kicks off a series of adventures for Rapunzel on her way to enact revenge.

My Thoughts: I really liked this one. Shannon Hale is known for her young adult novels that are based on fairy tales, but this is her first graphic novel adaptation, which she wrote with her husband. The illustrator has the same last name, but isn’t a relation. As a graphic novel, it’s easily read in one sitting, and the artwork is really good (and it’s all in color). The layout of the panels is easy to read and the faces of the characters are consistent. The story spans a few years, and so we see Rapunzel growing from a child to a young woman, which is conveyed well in the art — she still looks like herself throughout the process, as do the other characters. I thought the artwork easily conveyed desert canyons, lush jungles, strange places, and rough people. It was all very adventurous and fun to look at.

The story was great too. Rapunzel doesn’t need to get rescued by the prince from her tower, she figures how to get out herself. And she’s not put in there by her witch mother to keep her away from men, she’s put in there for actually defying Gothel, who is a tyrant in this world. And Rapunzel kicks butt! Look at the cover for this graphic novel — that should give you an idea. Rapunzel goes through a lot on her way from her tower back to Gothel to show her that “she can’t be a bully without earning a swift kick in the rear”. I loved that independence. The use of her hair as a weapon (it’s a lasso, a whip, a rope) was one of my favorite touches.

There’s a a Wild West theme in the story, because the world has been turned into “every body for themselves” after Gothel took over.  I also liked the hints of other fairy tales that are peppered throughout which are like inside jokes for fairytale and tall tale lovers. I’m dying to talk about it in the review, but I think it’s more fun to find them yourselves, so I will restrain myself.

Overall: The inside of this book met the expectations I had after seeing the cool cover. Lots of fun and I hope there’s a sequel!

Buy: Amazon | Powells | Bookcloseouts

Other reviews:
Bookmoot – “who doesn’t enjoy a new twist on an old story?”
Books and Other Thoughts – “great fun to read”

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson  Homecoming
Patricia Briggs

This is the graphic novel which collects the first four comics in this series. I pre-ordered this one since I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

Premise: This is a graphic novel prequel to the events in the Mercy Thompson books. It covers Mercy first arriving at the Tri-Cities, getting a job as a mechanic and meeting Zee, Stephan and others. In true Mercy form, she manages to find herself involved with trouble (starting by being attacked by a pack of rogue wolves), but stubbornly works through it in her own way.

My Thoughts: Wow, I’m seeing a lot of negative reviews on Amazon from people who thought this was a novel, not a graphic novel.  Yikes!  Perhaps they pre-ordered *very* early before the cover which says “an original graphic novel set in the best selling Mercy Thompson universe” was put up, and didn’t check Patricia Briggs’ website to see that the next Mercy Thompson novel is Silver Borne and is coming out Spring 2010. :  It’s a bit sad to see it getting a lot of negative reviews because of this.

Anyway, as a graphic novel, I liked that everything is in rich color (not always the case)!  I’ll probably be flipping the book open to stare at the artwork every so often this week. I’m enjoying having images of the characters to look at. It looks like the illustrators were changed halfway from Francis Tsai to Amelia Woo, so there were some subtle differences in how people were drawn, but I wasn’t completely thrown. I did feel that there was an uneven-ness in the way Mercy was drawn. First: she looked asian sometimes, white others, and native american rarely. Then in the first two comics Mercy looks similar to how she looks on the covers by Dan Dos Santos, but in the second two she has lighter hair and skin. I’m not sure why. It’s too bad Mercy looked so different when she’s the main character. Either way, I still liked the artwork, so that’s a minor complaint. I most liked how Adam was drawn by both illustrators. Zee looked the most like I imagined, but maybe more wiry and less stocky than I expected. Stephan looked the *least* like I expected (90’s grunge vamp? didn’t expect that one).

Story-wise, there is a lot of subtle back story hints which fans of the Mercy Thompson novels will like. How Mercy got her lamb necklace and her cat for example, but I do think this graphic novel is better when you have already read the Mercy Thompson books so you can pick up on these things. Bran doesn’t really show up in this book but there is a drawing of him in the extras at the end of the book (the other extra is an interview with Patricia Briggs about working on this GN).

Overall: A nice graphic novel prequel to the books. A must for die-hard Mercy Thompson fans, but if you don’t like graphic novels you may want to skip it. I personally like it a lot and am happy I bought it (*hugs it* but then I’m a big fan of this series). The only minor complaint I have is that the artwork had some inconsistencies and uneven-ness particularly in the way Mercy was drawn.


The Dabel Brothers are also making the first Alpha and Omega story into comic book form:

Kin (The Good Neighbors) by Holly Black, Illustrated by Ted Naifeh

Kin (Good Neighbors)
Holly Black

Once I found out that Holly Black was doing a graphic novel and it was similar to her Modern Faerie Tales series as in it centers on teens who get somehow involved with the faerie world, I wanted to read it. It's one of those books where I like the author but I wasn't paying attention. So when a new book comes out I am thrilled and also happy that I didn't have to go through the torture of anticipation for months! I thank the avidbookreader blog for pointing out that this book was available.

Anyway, this story is about Rue Silver, whose mother has been missing for weeks. Her father is depressed and does nothing all day, while Rue tries to keep doing her usual activities with her friends, like going to her boyfriend's concerts and breaking into vacant buildings to take pictures. One day the police surround her house and accuse her father of killing one of his students at the university – Sarasa Narayan. Sarasa's last known meeting was with her father, and now there are also suspicions he killed his wife. Rue begins to believe that Rue's dad broke a promise, and Rue's mom, had to leave because of it. Rue realizes her mother is a faerie and so she has faerie blood. Rue starts to see all kinds of strange things, while she tries to find her mother, in the meantime also running into her mother's family, who are dangerous beings with their own agenda.

Overall: I enjoyed this. Recommended to Holly Black fans. It was a quick read, with some things that make more sense the second time you flip back and reread them. The story is however not finished so after this book you'll want to read the next one. While we find out what happened to the dead university student, Rue still has to figure out a few other things. The artwork is good, but sometimes the faces were inconsistent which made me sometimes wonder who I was looking at for a second. The book is in black and white, I'd love to see this in color! The coverwork is gorgeous though, and I liked how the dustcover matches the cover of the book, but it also has a matte finish with some shiny parts. Very tactile. I find myself picking it up and rubbing my fingers against the raised shiney font a lot, it's lovely.

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