Check out my previous review of Vol1: “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life” here!
While a good chunk of Vol 1 made up most of the first act of the movie, Vol 2: “Scott Pilgrim vs The World” really has a chance to delve into some of the characters and their relationships in a way that Edgar Wright’s film adaptation isn’t able to, due to time constraints – which is pretty common for film adaptations and is often why most books are considered better than the movie. This is really where Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels begin to shine!
Scott Pilgrim vs High School
We start with a flashback: Scott Pilgrim in high school, in Ontario, where he meets a girl named Lisa, outside of the Principal’s office, immediately after a fight. It seems as though she has a crush on him, but he appears to be completely oblivious, per usual. The two friends decide to start a band together called “Sonic & Knuckles”. Soon after, Scott meets Kim Pine and they decide to make her their drummer. Scott confides in Lisa that he likes Kim, but before he can make a move, she randomly gets kidnapped by some jerks from a rival tech school!
In true video game fashion, Scott fights his way through wave after wave of enemies until he reaches ‘the boss’, atop the school, right as storm clouds roll in. The two have an epic throw down and Scott uppercuts the guy into the atmosphere.
Ultimately, Scott saves Kim and they have an awkward exchange that feels straight out of some dumb heroic dream: “I didn’t know who’d rescue me from that maniac, but I secretly hoped it would be you Scott.” “I like you, Kim. We should be dating. Also, do you want to play drums in my band?” “YES, SCOTT! OH, YES!!” It’s so bad, it’s hilarious. It definitely plays up some outdated tropes (the princess is in another castle). However, it’s cute and it seems to be self-aware enough to know how ridiculous it all is. This whole chapter really reinforces that Scott is the hero of his own story, but we’re clearly only seeing it through his POV.
Next, O’Malley gives us one of the most heartfelt montages as we see Scott and Kim dating, going out with friends, playing video games together, rocking out in their band, sharing their first kiss under a tree, etc. The use of panels here is extremely effective. In fact, I got a little choked up. It evoked memories of what it was like to be that age. It’s bittersweet because we know that they ultimately don’t stay together – but it’s reinforced by that last page of the sequence, which just shows Kim and Scott sitting together on a playground, at night. The only bit of dialogue is Kim saying “You’re moving to Toronto?” The very next panel we see Scott looking back through the rearview window as his parents drive away…
Scott Pilgrim vs Late Fees?
Throughout this volume, there’s a lot of clever foreshadowing with hints at Scott’s inevitable conflict with Lucas Lee, a famous pro-skater turned action star – who is later revealed to be Ramona’s “Second Evil Ex Boyfriend”, and we also get a lot of little nods to Scott’s previous serious relationship with Envy Adams, the lead singer of a popular band called “The Clash at Demonhead” (a clever play on ‘The Clash’ and a classic NES game called “Clash at Demonhead”).
There’s a lot of great moments in this one. Like the famous exchange between Scott and Ramona about how bread makes you fat – Scott says, “Garlic bread is my favorite food. I could honestly eat it for every meal. Or just all the time without even stopping.” Ramona responds, “You’d get fat.” “No.” “You’d get totally fat.” “I don’t think I’d get fat. Why would I get fat?” “Bread makes you fat. Butter makes you fat.” “Bread makes you fat??!!” The line delivery in the movie version gets me every time to this day, and I still laughed out loud reading it on the page.
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
One of the more random moments from the comic comes during a scene where Ramona meets Scott’s bandmates as they cook a vegan shepherd’s pie, despite none of them being vegan, but in the spirit of inclusivity. There’s a super crazy fourth wall break where Stephen Stills narrates the recipe to us, while we’re shown a breakdown of ingredients: “Hey kids! Now you can cook along at home and impress your vegan relatives! If you’re under 23, ask a grown-up to help out.”
In one of the funniest moments in the comic, Scott goes to a local video store (remember those?!) called “No-Account Video”, where Kim Pine currently works. Scott tries to rent a bunch of Lucas Lee movies on VHS to study up on how to fight him. However, he is told that he has a lifetime ban for over $1000 in late fees! On the account screen it says “Returned ‘The Land Before Time IV’ 36 weeks late. He claims that mice hid the video somewhere in his apartment. Also claims he rented it as a joke. Do not let him rent anything. He is scum.“
Looking over his list, Kim tells Scott, “‘Let’s Hope There’s a Heaven’, that was actually good. The rest of these are bad”. She then asks him why Lucas Lee is evil and after hesitating for a moment he responds, “Oh! He’s evil because he’s a sellout!” “What?” “Or… Or he sold out because he’s evil. I forget.”
Scott Pilgrim vs Lucas Lee!
Scott shows up to face off against Lucas Lee where he’s filming a movie. Scott’s a little star struck, “He’s famous and he talked to me!” and goes to introduce himself with a smile, mixing him up with Luke Wilson. As Scott’s asking for his autograph, Lee punches him and then throws Scott into the a castle tower!
One of the coolest things about this whole sequence is that it takes place at a real life location. The “Casa Loma” in Toronto, Canada and there’s a super meta story behind it. The castle which once belonged to Sir Henry Pellatt has a history of being used in film productions. In 2005, Bryan Lee O’Malley was walking by when they were filming a scene from the Hilary Duff movie, “The Perfect Man”. This inspired him to set the Lucas Lee scene there where he’s filming a romantic comedy called “You Just Don’t Exist” co-starring a Hilary Duff type character. The crazy part though, is that they actually used this location in the Scott Pilgrim movie – which was produced by Marc Platt, Adam Siegel and Jared LeBoff – who were all producers on Hilary Duff’s “The Perfect Man”! (They even used it in the video game!)
Back to the story…
Anywho, Lucas and Scott take a break from the fight to sit on a bench and talk about Ramona. Earlier on, Ramona told Scott that they were in drama class together, “or maybe it was math, but I just remember there being a lot of drama.” Turns out that Lucas never really changed, because he tears up over how Ramona broke his heart, before revealing that he’s part of the ‘League of Evil Ex-Boyfriends’!
Before Lucas Lee goes back to kicking his ass, Scott tricks him into doing a “cool skateboard trick” down the railing of an impossibly huge staircase. Lucas takes the bait, unable to let his ego take a hit. He ends up hitting the pavement and vaporizing from the sheer velocity! Scott bemoans not getting his autograph, before picking up “Fourteen bucks or something – in coins!” Then, just like in a RPG, Scott earns a bonus item: a Mithril Skateboard (+4 to speed, +3 to kick, +1 to will!), but unfortunately he can’t use it.
Scott Pilgrim vs… Anxiety
Scott finally worked up the courage to break up with Knives (breaking hearts left and right!), *but* he still never told Ramona about her. This becomes problematic when Knives attacks Ramona at the Toronto Reference Library! (another totally real location that O’Malley describes in his notes as having an “awesome 70’s-futurist look”). During the epic confrontation, Knives realizes that Scott was cheating on her with Ramona.
Meanwhile, Scott’s busy playing video games. His sister, Stacey can’t get through to Scott because he’s on the phone with Wallace, bugging him at work for the cheat code to Sonic 3. “Don’t you have anything better to be doing?” Scott completely misses the battle, but then gets a very dramatic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, Envy Adams, where she asks his band to play at her show. The conversation sends him into a catatonic state…
Scott tells his bandmates the “bad news” and Stills responds, “That’s Great News!!” Scott talks to Ramona about Envy, who’s currently dating a guy called Todd. Ramona talks about how she once dated a Todd and jokes about how it might be the same guy. (Spoilers: it is!) He then goes on a tangent about this awesome job he used to have in college working at a sketchy Mexican restaurant that got shut down for money laundering… and he wrote a sad song about it…
They arrive at Lee’s Palace for the show, there’s some inter-character drama, Knives shows up with Neil and Knives finds out that Scott used to date Envy Adams, who she’s also obsessed with. The book ends on a cliffhanger when Envy walks onto stage and Ramona recognizes the guy on bass, it’s Todd! And it turns out it’s the same Todd – Ramona’s Third Evil Ex Boyfriend!
Check it out for yourself!
So yeah, if you haven’t read this series yet, go check it out! If you’re a fan of the movie, it’s being re-released in theaters for the 10th anniversary celebration. So if you’re vaccinated, go support it!
Erik Slader is an author, podcaster, and full-time nerd. He’s the co-author of the “Epic Fails” book series (The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving Into History, The Age of Exploration: Totally Getting Lost, etc). The creator of Epik Fails of History, a podcast and blog about the most epic fails… of history. He’s also a co-host on 2 Young 4 This Trek: A Star Trek Podcast, a frequent contributor to ComicZombie.net, and an editor on Podcasters Assemble. ErikSlader.com