Justin's Reviews > Scott Pilgrim, Volume 3: Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness

Scott Pilgrim, Volume 3 by Bryan Lee O'Malley
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's review
Sep 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: funny, graphic-novels, homage, music, pop-culture, video-games
Read from September 24 to October 02, 2011

The halfway point of the Scott Pilgrim series is where things start to get a little more complex. We’re still firmly on the “beat the evil exes to date Ramona” boss-battle rails, but in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness, an evil ex of Scott’s shows up, as well. Despite the story getting a little deeper, I had a little more trouble getting into this one than I did the previous books.

At the end of the last volume, Ramona reveals that her next evil ex is Todd Ingram, who just happens to be the bass player for the art-rock band The Clash at Demonhead. Incidentally, that band’s frontwoman is Envy Adams, the femme fatale who broke Scott’s heart by cheating on him with Todd, sending him into the pathetic spiral of insecurity and self-pity that he’s currently trying to fight his way out of. Got all that? As it turns out, Envy’s callous toying with Scott in the previous book has a purpose. She knows all about Scott’s quest, including some mysterious information about who Ramona really is. Further, she’s determined to see that Scott fail once and for all, at the hands of her current true love.

Getting into Scott’s backstory a little more is nice. The one consistent problem I’ve had with the books so far is Scott being somewhat of an unsympathetic jackass, and so a little exploration of the relationship with Envy and what went wrong alleviated that a little. In fact, it was done in a fairly brilliant way, paralleling the “main quest.” The cool art, hilarious sarcasm, and trademark video-game chic are all still in effect, as well, making for a read that’s at least as fun as the first two.

I kind of felt that O’Malley wanted to balance the more complicated plotline with an extra helping of jaded cleverness, though, and it got on my nerves a little. The story of Scott and Envy is told in choppy flashbacks that are interspersed with the main story, and the vignettes occur literally without warning upon the turn of a page. In fact, other than some slightly different hairstyles on the characters, a page turn is the only clue that the story has shifted to a flashback, every single time. It’s disorienting the first few times it happens, and annoying every time after. I could have lived with the haughtiness of it all, but it happens just a few times too often. Too many flashbacks, too little attention to the main narrative. I also thought that the forays outside the fourth wall were a little ham-handed this time around, compared to the previous books. Tablature play-alongs and impromptu cooking shows were quirky and clever; references to “the book” and character acknowledgments of a deus ex machina are trite by comparison.

All of which is not to say I didn’t like this one. I just liked it a little less than the first two. One positive note is the strong feeling that the story is going to shift a bit, now that we’re past the midpoint. The hints about Ramona’s past are much more pointed in this volume; the next three will hopefully change things up from the current formula. Even with the little problems I had, I got the definite feeling that the overarching story is really crystallizing by this point. Best of all, it does so without losing any of the charm, humor, or ridiculous over-the-top theatrics that I liked in the first two so much.
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