Few comics outside of the world of comic book movies and superheroes have had greater influence in recent years than Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The story was created by author Bryan Lee O’Malley and follows a man named Scott living in Toronto who is forced to battle the evil exes of a girl that he’s interested in.
The legacy of Scott Pilgrim only increased after a movie adaptation was released several years later and became a cult classic in its own right. Now, with the new animated series adaptation Scott Pilgrim Takes Off streaming on Netflix, we’re here to make the case that Scott Pilgrim is the best comic book ever. Here are 10 reasons why:
It has a unique sensibility
Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice when you open a Scott Pilgrim comic is that it isn’t like most comics. It has its own style, its own sense of humor, and creates a totally distinct world.
Plenty of comics that you’ll read can feel interchangeable, even if they’re about different characters or set in different places. Scott Pilgrimmanages to feel distinct in a fairly crowded marketplace, and that’s a huge part of the reason it is so successful.
It pulls from a wide array of influences
One of the more remarkable things about Scott Pilgrim is the myriad of different influences that it pulls from to tell its story. Many manga creators have acknowledged the similarities between the fights in Scott Pilgrim and their work, but the comic is also pulling from the formulations behind video games like Mortal Kombat 1.
The combination of influences makes for a totally distinct tone and, just as important, the influences are all out there and in the open. This is a genre pastiche, and it’s super comfortable being that.
It translated well to the big screen
While plenty of great comic book stories don’t work as movies, it speaks well to the accessibility of Scott Pilgrimthat the movie version managed to be such a smashing success.
Having director Edgar Wright behind the project certainly doesn’t hurt, but Scott Pilgrim’s self-contained nature, as well as its easy-to-understand concept, made it perfect for an interesting, visually gripping adaptation. Not all great comics get the silver screen treatment that they deserve, but the fact that Scott Pilgrimdid definitely doesn’t hurt its legacy.
It features a complicated protagonist
One of the best things about Scott is that, as a character, he’s not always the easiest person to root for. He has complicated relationships with his bandmates and is dating a 17-year-old even though he’s 23.
All of this makes him a little bit prickly, and while he certainly has his charms as well, they are counterbalanced by things that might make you question why you’re rooting for this guy. That ambiguity offers some nice shading to what could otherwise be a hero’s story that’s a little too straightforward, and ultimately makes the comics more interesting.
It manages to distinguish each of its villains
Part of the conceit of Scott Pilgrimis that he battles a barrage of different exes over the course of the film, but one of the most remarkable feats of the comic is the way it manages to make each of these villains distinct from one another. There’s a vegan, a hipster, a skateboarder, and of course, Gideon, the leader of the League of Evil Exes and a master manipulator.
These exes aren’t always necessarily full characters, but they nonetheless feel visually distinct from one another, so much so that you can probably name at least half of them off the top of your head.
It doesn’t take itself seriously
Although stories that are too self-reflexive and unserious can be a bit exhausting, Scott Pilgrim manages to be light on its feet while still taking its characters and its world seriously.
Scott feels like a pretty regular guy who happens to live in a universe where crazy stuff happens, and it’s that mashup of elements that makes the comic so consistently funny. Plenty of comics totally earn their immense gravitas, but Scott Pilgrim never goes for a tone that serious, and it’s an important reminder that comics are supposed to be fun, at least sometimes.
It turns small-scale stakes into much, much bigger ones
The central premise of Scott Pilgrimis both absurd and banal, and that’s what makes it work. The movie tells the story of a boy who meets a girl and wants to be with her ,but discovers that he has to beat all of her evil exes in a fight first.
It’s really a movie about overcoming the past in order to build a new relationship, but it uses the best possible metaphor en route to that idea. Instead of suggesting that the world is going to end, all that’s really at stake is this relationship and how much Scott cares for it, and the comic is all the better for that small scale.
It’s set in a fully realized world
When you first sit down to read Scott Pilgrim, you may be inclined to think that it’s pulling its influences from too many different places, or that the comic itself is just too busy. One of the miracles of Scott Pilgrim, though, is that the comic never feels like it’s disjointed or random. Instead, it manages to pull those influences together to create a world that is entirely its own.
As soon as you understand all the different elements that the comic is pulling from, you know what’s coming. Does being vegan give people special powers in this universe? Yes, and that’s part of what makes this universe special.
It didn’t go on too long
Plenty of great comic book stories have lost their luster in part by sticking around too long, but Scott Pilgrim ends in exactly the right spot, having told its story and come to a fitting conclusion.
One of the reasons the comic adapted so cleanly into a movie is that it only tells a single story, promising a climax and then delivering on it exactly the way you might want it to, instead of finding artificial ways to keep the story going issue after issue.
It has its happy ending
Although Scott is a fairly complicated figure, one of the things that a defined story length gives you is the chance to end your story happily. Scott goes off with Ramona, starts a new band where he can play songs just for fun, and finds a way to move forward with his life.
It’s a satisfying conclusion that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it’s a fitting end to a comic that has, above all else, been really fun to read.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off and the live-action Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are both streaming on Netflix.