*Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness — Recommended

In the third book in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, Scott’s band drama continues. His ex-girlfriend, Envy Adams, and her group are much more successful than he is, and she’s offered to let his band open for them. Unfortunately, Scott still has to fight his girlfriend Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends, and one of them is a member of Envy’s band.

O’Malley’s work has been criticized as “too emo” by those who don’t have an appreciation for young adult soap opera. Part of that’s a matter of taste, but regardless, he keeps the story moving by inserting plenty of exaggerated action. Todd, the evil ex-boyfriend, not only is tall and buff and more successful than Scott, his vegan-ness has also given him psychic powers that he uses to slam Scott through a wall.

Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness cover
Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness
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The book’s deeper than it appears at a quick glance. At first, the reader may only notice the video-game-style slugfests, but the cast and their relationships are becoming ever more complicated, with development revealed both through flashbacks and the characters’ growing historical awareness as they come to terms with their pasts. As a group, they simultaneously care too much (so that an ex showing up is soul-crushing) and can be surprisingly superficial (such that over-the-top battles solve everything). That’s a realistic capture of how people deal with processing painful life changes, alternating between being willing to grapple with them (and often at a time awkward for others) and ignoring them in an attempt to wish them away.

I appreciate O’Malley’s passion and continued artistic growth. I don’t get all the restaurant and location references, but I don’t have to — his coffee shop likes and shopping fears are funny or involving without specifics. Plus, the book’s got a lot of energy, a quality that’s immediately attractive and oddly lacking in too many comics today.

For all of its oddities and mystical abilities, the world of Scott Pilgrim is a complex, three-dimensional one with something for almost everyone. I’m thrilled to see O’Malley continue improving his skill just as Scott continues growing up in front of us. That’s the purpose of any mystic quest, right?

11 Responses to “*Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness — Recommended”

  1. Rich Johnston Says:

    I don’t think there’s any dislike of vegans or veganism in Scott Pilgrim. It’s just a surreal use of the phrase for comic effect, akin to Vic Reeves.

  2. Shawn Fumo Says:

    Also, I think the ending implies him being a “student gone bad” kind of thing ala the jedi/sith dynamic, though that’s probably putting too much thought into it.. ;)

    As an aside, though I found it slightly jarring at first when reading the original volume, I’m now liking the “pulling stuff out of nowhere” feeling of the books. It actually reminds me of the first couple of Wizard of Oz books. If you’ve ever read those, they feel really dreamlike with a feeling that anything can happen and states (like animate versus inanimate) are not clearly defined. It is only really in the later books that rules get set down.

    I really like all of the character revelations in volume 3. It almost makes me afraid that the next oens won’t be able to get into that much depth, but then again I’m sure there’s more from the past (like Gideon) to stir things up.

    Good stuff…

  3. ~chris Says:

    I didn’t infer a dislike of vegans either. Remember the vegan shepherd’s pie in #2? (I tried that at home. Yummy.) High-and-mighty holier-than-thou hypocrites of any kind… well they are fair game for ridicule.

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  5. Johanna Says:

    Clearly, my attempt at dry humor didn’t work, so I’ve removed it. Sorry about that.

    Shawn, great comments and comparison!

  6. Comics Worth Reading Says:

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    […] I’m just close to enough to Chapel Hill to make for a long day trip. Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) and Hope Larson (Gray Horses, Salamander Dream) will be signing at Chapel Hill Comics on Saturday, […]

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