Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness

It could have been so easy. Bryan Lee O'Malley had a critically acclaimed series, a film deal, all the components for a nascent cultural phenomenon. Scott Pilgrim's mix of soap opera, fights, videogames, and pop culture was a hit. All O'Malley needed to do was continue along his merry way, serving up repeat helpings, and everything would have been alright.

Of course, that sort of cold calculation doesn't create a Scott Pilgrim in the first place. The series didn't come out of a marketing wet dream, it came out of an artists' vision. That vision is continuing to grow and change, and Scott Pilgrim is growing along with it. It's hard to make the argument that any book which starts off with a not-nearly-sly wink to Japanese RPG save points is "mature", but Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness is an evolution, with new storytelling techniques, new structure, and a more complex look at relationships. This is only to be expected, I suppose: the ex-boyfriends that Scott has vanquished in past volumes are gradeschool affairs, barely worthy of the name. As Scott works his way through Ramona's dating history, the relationships and emotions are going to become more and more difficult. In the middle of a somewhat "adult" discussion, Scott decides to leap into the sort of wire-fu action that defined the first two books ... and meets with disastrous results. It's not going to be that easy this time around, and finally ends up with Ramona's third evil ex-boyfriend defeating himself, much like Lucas Lee (her second) did.

For all the changes, though, this is still Scott Pilgrim: charming, funny, smart, and one of the best things happening in comics today. The dialogue remains as sharp as ever, and there are moments where O'Malley stretches his art style in some new directions with excellent results. This volume also sees a lot of background characters begin to flesh out, particularly Knives Chau who is trying to find a new balance in her life now that Scott has left her.

It'll be a long wait until the next volume, but the long wait we all had for Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness says it's going to be worth it.


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