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Monday, June 18, 2007

Just a Pilgrim -- As much as anyone, I was a cheerleader for Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim when it debuted through Oni Press back in the summer of 2004.

In my review of Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, the first volume of the series, I said O'Malley had created a new series that "is charming, funny, sexy and packed with creative power and the love of storytelling." Further volumes have confirmed all that even as they have explored O'Malley's fascination with his own self-imposed videogame structure.

As a now 41-year-old guy, I'll 'fess up that I don't much care for most video games. When I bought my most recent PC two years ago, and the one before that eight years ago, both times I had to work mightily to convince the sales person I didn't need a turbo-charged graphics system, eleventy-thousand terabytes of processing power, and no, thank you, I sure as hell don't need a goddamned joystick. I don't like video games, board games, mind games, or any kind of games. Although David Mamet's House of Games is a fun little movie.

My point is, I like Scott Pilgrim quite a bit, even while realizing I am a bit younger than either its creator or its target audience. I've mentioned before that what interests me most in comics, and in pretty much everything, is what's new and what's next, a phrase I first remember being coined by Warren Ellis in the late 20th century. And Scott Pilgrim was ahead of its time when it came out, and it still feels like forward-looking work from a cartoonist who is still developing his chops even while entertaining the hell out of me and a lot of other people.

So Tim O'Neil's curmudgeonly takedown of the Pilgrim series in the new Comics Journal did not strike a chord with me. It struck me as being reactionary and contrarian without providing either a solid argument or even food for thought for those of us that have happily swallowed the Pilgrim Kool-Aid. I use this last metaphor tongue firmly in cheek, because along with Street Angel, Scott Pilgrim seemed to be one of those books a couple of years back that, when you talked about how good they were in a review or message board post or in-person conversation, really aggravated certain folks who hadn't read them because they couldn't see past the corporate superhero racks in their local comic shop.

Upon reflection, I wonder if that irritation might, in part, have stemmed from the fact that both of those independent, creator-owned and black and white titles were full of more life, energy and colour than any 20 corporate superhero comics you could grab off the racks at random? If it isn't that, then certainly it's the fact that both series masterfully utilized superhero and other traditions to put a new spin on action, adventure and comic book storytelling in general.

Anyway, that's my two cents on Scott Pilgrim and Tim O'Neil's unconvincing and badly-constructed review, inspired by reading Chris Allen's thorough dismantling of O'Neil's piece. Chris manages to find some interesting new insights into Scott Pilgrim that truly had not occurred to me before, a feat I wish O'Neil could have pulled off in his review. A bad review of a work I like has value if it makes me look at it in a new light; O'Neil's piece, ultimately, just seems like he read the series in a poorly-lit room.



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