Monday, January 07, 2008


Book Report

I've been falling a bit behind in my book reporting, what with the holidays and various family demands. I'll try to play a bit of catch up in the coming weeks. First up, a couple of comics that everyone else raved about last year, but that I'm only now getting around to reading.

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

When I reviewed the first three volumes of O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series a couple of years ago, I stole Pete Mortensen description of it as "Nintendo Realism." I still think that tag is particularly apt. Here's how O'Malley's site describes the series:

Scott Pilgrim is a 23-year-old guy living in the big city with his gay roommate, just trying to make his way in this crazy world.

Scott Pilgrim likes the new girl in town, Ramona Flowers, but to win her heart, he has to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Wait, what?

It's in that "wait, what?" territory that the series really grabs me. On one level, it's a story about a slacker dude and his friends, playing occasional gigs with his bands, having to go out and look for a job, navigating the intricacies of dating and such. But on another level, it's about a guy having to fight kung fu battles with a succession of evil exes, in love with a rollerskating courier who can take shortcuts through dreams and other dimensions. It's set in a meticulously detailed version of Toronto, but a Toronto that follows the rules of a Ninento 8-bit game, with save points and power ups and such-like. And occasionally, there are even big musical numbers (really!).

There are few unalloyed joys in life, but one of the few is a new volume of Scott Pilgrim. If you haven't started in on the series yet, I envy you. Ridiculously highly recommended.

Brandon Graham's King City

I started hearing about King City last spring, when everyone in the comics blogosphere was raving about it. But I managed not to pick it up until a little while ago, and then not to read it until just this last Friday. Now I'm sorry for all the time I've wasted...

There are immediately obvious similarities between King City and Scott Pilgrim, but they're very different books. If anything, while Scott Pilgrim sometimes seems like a Canadian romantic comedy version of Kung Fu Hustle, King City is in a lot of ways a much heavier, much more serious work. Of course, it's about a "cat master", so maybe it isn't all serious. What's a cat master, you ask? Here's how Graham described it in an interview last year:
The cat master is a serious dude that is trained in the dark arts of cat, trained to use a cat as the ultimate tool or weapon for any situation. With the right injection the cat can become anything: cat periscope, cat-apult anything. And on top of that, the cat's a genius that can solve any problem or perform any kind of brain surgery or rocket science that Joe might need. It really puts a utility belt to shame.
So yes, Joe the cat-master and his cat ("Earthling J.J. Catingsworth the Third") do all sorts of cool spy/ninja/thief stuff as he carries out "missions" in the eponymous King City. But along the way, Joe ruminates over returning to his hometown after a long time away, about the prospects of running into the ex-girlfriend he left behind. And then there's the guy who his ex-girlfriend is seeing now, Max, who is a veteran of the Korean xombie war addicted to "chalk", a drug that gradually turns users into the drug itself. Pete, at whose apartment Joe is crashing, wears a luchadore mask and is a runner for a shady organization, but starts to question his involvement when he's asked to deliver a beautiful alien water-breather for dubious purposes. The streets are filled with various gangs and crews, most notably the Owls, a ninja gang with nefarious plans of their own. And then there are the strange, inhuman dudes in business suits with the strange cannibalistic practices.

King City is a hypnotically strange story. I was reminded in some ways of Brian Francis Slattery's Spaceman Blues, with which it shares a similar at-street-level-in-a-science-fiction-world vibe. Highly recommended.


I love Scott Pilgrim, of course. I've somehow not heard of King City - sounds very interesting. Guess I'll have to look for it.
If you like Scott Pilgrim, I definitely suggest checking King City out. They're different kinds of books, but they share that "Nintendo Realism" vibe I mentioned.
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