Sunday, August 22, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
One-sentence summary: Comics don't get much better than this.
I am not a newcomer to the Scott Pilgrim series, though I did reread the previous 5 volumes in anticipation of the sixth. Therefore, my gushing is not quite that of a fanboy who has newly discovered some treasure trove of wonderment, but that of a completely satisfied fan(boy).
Scott Pilgrim manages one of the most difficult task in all narrative art: being truly funny (to the point of being light-hearted) while possessing some literary chops. I mean, think about it: there aren't too many movies that can pull this off, and usually the ones that can rely on satire. Instead, Scott Pilgrim turns one of manga's (well, comics in general, but manga seems especially tuned to this) weaknesses – the meshing of the absurd with the serious, the spandex-clad heroes duking it out with superpowers while shouting oddly-long meditations at each other – into a strength, by turning it into comedy and thus allowing it to exist within the predefined dramatic structure, so that the reader is not taken out of the experience in order to see the ideas.
Thus what felt jarringly out of place in the first volume becomes a commonplace aspect of the world by the second. Thus can this be a story of a guy fighting seven evil exes while also being the story of a guy discovering what life entails, what relationships mean, and what change is, all without it ever seeming over-bearing.
Now, for those who don't want to take Scott Pilgrim seriously – that's totally fine. You really, seriously don't have to. This isn't Asterios Polyp or, God help you, Jimmy Corrigan; this is fine comic art that can absolutely be enjoyed without having to think about it. It is funny enough that you can simply read it as a funny comic with a bit of a plot, and it would still be one of the best comics of the year by that alone.
Actually, those are two books I think it could be helpful to compare Scott Pilgrim to. All three use a non-realistic, somewhat minimalist approach (though the styles themselves are radically different; it's just their departure from a more realist art that is similar). All three, seemingly, use humor (though I didn't find Jimmy Corrigan particularly funny, I recognize that there are moments of intended humor there). And all three deserve to be treated as Art.
One argument against Scott Pilgrim as this high a level of comic is that, really, there is only one seemingly strong theme, and that is of change. I would argue, however, that this is dealt with in a thorough enough manner that it is sufficient on its own.
To wit, each volume progresses through a different idea of change, of the past. In the first, there is no change, the past doesn't exist. Though there are oblique references to the past, they are, quite literally, told to come back in later volumes. Forgive me for skipping ahead here, but I don't have the volumes in front of me and I can't quite remember specific lines from each, so I'll just roughly advance. The third, with the (more thorough) introduction of Envy Adams we have a past, but it's a very one-sided past. The respective significant others of our protagonists were clearly jerks who deserve anything that's coming to them, and the only change has been in a positive progression of the self to a better status. In the fourth, non-negative elements of the past begin to shuffle forth. Characters who come from the past and aren't so bad, while we finally have change, and it's a change that's in the current, and it seems negative. It's essentially the apparent fall from innocence. Then the fifth really starts to bring this theme, which was quiet enough in previous volumes to go unnoticed, to a head, as changes start piling up and overwhelming. Bands seem to grow apart, friends lose touch, and relationships seemingly end, as the past comes forward to reclaim and repeat. The sixth, then, closes it out beautifully. Change is finally revealed for what it is – an ever-present constant, something which has always been there, and even affects the past retroactively. Change occurred in the past, and things aren't as simple as they appear. People don't necessarily become more good or more evil; they just become different people. Sometimes the good can develop from the bad, and the past might not truly be the past.
As you can tell, I think highly of this series. I could write a whole other post about the humor.
One last detail: what's exciting to me about this is the potential it represents for all of comic-dom. I have never seen a comic book garner such main-stream attention at release as the sixth volume. I went to a store where there was a line at least twenty people long to buy it. That, to me, is nuts. I have no idea how many copies it's going to end up selling; I know last month volumes 1-5 were spots 3-7 on the NYT best-selling graphic novels list, which is an incredible feat on its own. And, unlike previous fervors, the movie of this will be quite obviously a comic book movie (versus Watchmen, which was a superhero movie based on a comic book. Semantic but important). If the movie is as good as the series, or even almost as good, or even sort of as good, I don't think it's over-stating things to say it could be a game-changer in the comic book market.
And, eh, I could be full of it and reading too much into my own anticipation. Just call it a hunch, though...
P.S. I wrote the above the day Volume 6 came out, but was unable to post it, and finally got around to doing so. I thought I would add that it was reported today that all 100,000 copies of the first printing run of Scott Pilgrim have been purchased. This is prior to the movie coming out. I reiterate: nuts.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Wednesday Comics really is a gorgeous collection. Before I go into further details, it should be noted that that really is the most important aspect of this collection: it looks good. It is a big, cool book filled with art that looks amazing, at least partially due to how friggin' big it is. That really comes before any consideration of the quality of the stories.