Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness

Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness cover

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 in Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness 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

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?

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