Friday, July 30, 2010

Devil Inside (Todd Stashwick/Dennis Calero)

Yay, Comic-Con! I had such a great time in San Diego last weekend, thanks for asking! It was a highly productive trip, both creatively and professionally. Soooo much fun. And it actually prompted me to try something new with DG this week...


As happens at conventions of this size and nature, I was fortunate enough to meet many extremely talented writers, artists, and other overall creative folks. One of these fine people was artist Dennis Calero, whose work on X-Factor I was already familiar with and enjoyed. Dennis and I talked about a new project that he's been working on, a weekly webcomic called Devil Inside. It follows the story of Jack Springheel, "an arcane drifter with a bounty on his head."

Now, new pages are posted every Wednesday. This past Wednesday, Dennis and his creative partner, writer and actor Todd Stashwick, put up only the second page, so this is really an opportunity to get in on a new webcomic right at its inception. Just from those two pages, though, I can already tell you that the art is going to be stunning. A lot of solid work has gone into this project so far, and I can only imagine that it'll get even better as the story progresses. It's hard to tell exactly what's going on this early, but there is still some evidence that the tone is going to be somewhat lighthearted, but with a definite gritty feel to it. The humor comes mainly from the first page, where Jack is dumped into the desert out of some kind of wormhole and simply mutters, "Women." On page two, Jack murders a man, using supernatural powers, even though the gentleman was kind enough to give Jack a lift. That seems fairly gritty to me. It also tells you that magic is involved, so when you think about it, there's already evidence of fantastic storytelling. You can deduce so much about what's to come just from these two pages. That takes talent.


Devil Inside
by Todd Stashwick and Dennis Calero

I obviously can't give this series a real rating yet, since there have only been two pages. As I mentioned earlier, this review was more to let you guys know about a brand new webcomic that's already showing signs of beautiful art and intelligent storytelling. It's a great chance to get in on the ground floor and not have to cycle through years worth of back issues. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (Bryan Lee O'Malley)

The final volume! It came out today, so of course I had to pick it up and read it for you guys. And then read it again, because it's that good. If you've forgotten what happens in the other volumes, make sure to check out DG's Scott Pilgrim recap. There's no spoilers this time, though, so don't fret. Also, today's post will take the place of a Friday post for this week, since this Friday I'll be at Comic-Con! Hooray beer! I mean, comics!


Poor Scott Pilgrim. Ever since his girlfriend, Ramona Flowers, left him at the end of volume 5, he's been descending steadily into depression. He sleeps all day, plays video games all night, and hardly sees his friends anymore. His old roommate, Wallace Wells, suggests getting out of the house more, maybe meeting new girls, trying out casual sex. This doesn't seem like the Scott Pilgrim we all know and love, however. Besides, everyone else seems to have moved on to bigger and better things, so why shouldn't Scott, right? Why can't he just forget about Ramona? He seems to be forgetting almost everything else these days. Maybe it's because Gideon Graves, Ramona's seventh evil ex-boyfriend, is opening up a new club right in downtown Toronto. Scott knows he'll have to face Gideon eventually. It's unavoidable. But considering his lack of training, lack of willpower, and lack of girlfriend to actually fight over, will Scott be able to survive the confrontation?

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour is a brilliant conclusion to a brilliant series. Bryan Lee O'Malley does an excellent job keeping the spirit of the series alive while tying together all of the loose ends he'd created in the earlier volumes. All the little things that didn't quite make sense before or seemed unnecessarily quirky are explained or justified here. In fact, O'Malley strips away his own backstory at times. It's revealed that things may not always have been the way that Scott Pilgrim made them out to be. We learn so much more about the characters, and they learn more about themselves. It's incredible how well-defined each individual has become by the last few chapters. Everything that happens is surprising, but it all somehow makes sense. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone—as much as I'm dying to talk about it!—, so I'll cut myself off short. Suffice it to say that Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour is one of the most satisfying conclusions to any series in any genre or medium that I have ever encountered, if not the most satisfying. Everything I wanted was in there, and so, so much more. You'll have a great time with this one.


Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

I could not have asked for anything more from this book. To me, it sits right up there with The Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and issue #60 of Y: The Last Man. I'm just sad that it's all over.

Bryan Lee O'Malley has developed such a unique voice. I can't wait to see what he does next.

I hope O'Malley eventually releases Kim Pine vs. The World or Knives Chau's Precious LIttle Life, because I am in love with all of these characters. Their emotional evolutions were all so completely realized. I'm going to miss these guys.


But that's not all, folks. Remember, we still have to compile the Ultimate Scott Pilgrim Rating to determine the series' overall position on the Daily Genoshan leaderboards.

Ultimate Scott Pilgrim Rating

One of the most compelling love stories of all time...

...and definitely one of the most interestingly told.

I dare you not to like this book. Go ahead, try.


Well, 9.5740740740740740... when you really break down the numbers, but who's counting?* That makes Scott Pilgrim the new reigning champion highest reviewed book here at the Genoshan, beating out Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by a mere one-hundredth of a point!

Also, don't forget to go see the film, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, when it hits theatres August 13th! I've heard nothing but amazing things so far from the lucky few who've gotten in to preview screenings and such. I hope you've enjoyed the Scott Pilgrim recap! As always, if you have any ideas or suggestions for books to be reviewed in the future, or think you've got what it takes to write a DG review yourself, leave a comment! New voices are always welcome. Until next time, keep reading, Genoshans!

*Clearly, I'm counting. For those of you interested in how I came to that number, by the way, I kept track of the original Story, Style, and General Ratings for each individual book. Each Overall Rating is actually the average of 9 different scores, though you only see 3 on the site. There are other ways of averaging the numbers together, some of which would even result in a different rating (9.58), but this is the most precise, and the way I've been doing ratings since the very first review.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (Bryan Lee O'Malley)

The penultimate volume!



Happy birthday, Scott Pilgrim! On Scott's 24th birthday, he vows to be the BEST 24-YEAR-OLD EVER! His year gets off to a terrible start, though, when he's ambushed at a party by the twins Ken and Kyle Katayanagi, Ramona's next two evil ex-boyfriends, and their killer robot. Scott easily dispatches the robot, but Ramona doesn't seem impressed. Back home at Ramona's apartment, it becomes more evident that Scott isn't carrying his weight in the relationship. Uh-oh. Meanwhile, Sex Bob-omb takes a break from recording to rehearse for their upcoming gig. Too bad they suck now. Scott, Kim Pine, and Stephen Stills are all nervous and freaking out leading up to show time, but their only option is to play. While waiting for the band to start, Ramona is confronted by Knives in the bathroom. Ramona is snarky; Knives tries to drop kick her. Ramona whoops Knives' ass, but not before Knives unleashes a painful truth on Ramona: Scott and Knives were still together when he met Ramona. They leave the bathroom to find that the Sex Bob-omb gig is already over, as it was really just a set up to get Scott to fight another killer robot.

Armed with the knowledge that Scott is a liar and a cheat, Ramona tells her boyfriend that he should probably stay somewhere else for a few nights. After two consecutive couch surfing evenings—the first with Wallace Wells, Scott's old roommate, the second with Kim Pine—, Scott and Kim plan a way to get Scott and Ramona back together: Kim and Ramona meet for lunch and Scott just happens to show up. It works, but during the ensuing conversation, Ramona's head starts to glow in a way that it hasn't in several volumes. Kim comments on the glow, but Ramona dismisses her completely. What's the deal? Why's your head all glowy, Ramona? With Scott and Ramona back together, the three decide to attend another party, and Scott is forced to face yet another killer robot. Ramona, still angry with Scott, gets the glowy head thingy again, but Kim manages to take a picture this time. After Scott beats the robot, the three get wasted on tequila and things calm down for a few hours.

After the party, though, Kim is abducted by the twins, oh no! Ramona and Scott, who have no idea, head home for some make up sex and drunk sleep. Except Ramona can't sleep. Still too worked up about the fact that Scott cheated on Knives, she confronts him, going so far as to label him a future evil ex-boyfriend. He begs her not to break up with him, but then passes out, completely wastey-face. Scott wakes up in the morning to find Ramona gone, and freaks out for a bit until he realizes she's just in the shower. He then receives a text message from Kim Pine, alerting him to the fact that she's been abducted. He yells through the bathroom door to Ramona that he's going off to save Kim, but Ramona doesn't hear him and has no idea where Scott has gone when she gets out of the shower. This clearly pisses her off. She removes a towel from her head and reveals that she's cut her long hair, which Scott told her he liked, and has gone back to the hairstyle she had when she was with Gideon.

Scott heads to the abandoned building where Kim is being held captive and challenges the twins to a final battle. He quickly starts to lose ground, however, and the twins take this opportunity to reveal a few more terrible things about Ramona. Scott finds out how she cheats on everyone she dates, but is a horrible hypocrite who can't stand being with a guy who has ever cheated on a girl, even if that guy cheated with her. Kim, noticing that Scott is losing morale and about to be defeated, quickly makes up a lie that Ramona just texted her saying that she believes in him, hopes he's safe, and can't wait for him to come home. Invigorated by Ramona's renewed faith in him, Scott defeats the twins, earning $79.95 for Ken, $74.95 for Kyle, and a $2 Twin Bonus when they are reduced to coins. Scott frees Kim and rushes back home to Ramona.

Unfortunately for Scott, Ramona has actually given up on their relationship. When he gets back to their apartment, Scott finds Ramona in their room, packed and ready to leave him. He makes several futile attempts to convince her to stay, but in a sudden burst of glowy-headedness, Ramona disappears, leaving Scott with little other than Gideon the cat, a note she originally wrote for Gideon the ex, and a hole the size of Ontario in his chest. To make matters worse, when Scott leaves the apartment to go look for Ramona, Gideon the cat runs away, and Scott forgets his keys, locking himself out for good. Time passes; Scott searches for both Ramona and the cat, but is unable to find either. He switches off between Stephen Stills' and Kim Pine's apartments for places to sleep until finally his parents get him a place of his own. Eventually, Kim decides that she wants to move back home, and leaves Toronto. More alone than ever before, Scott starts to go slightly insane, imagining that he sees Gideon the ex everywhere. Finally, Scott remembers the letter that Ramona wrote to Gideon that she left at her apartment:

Don't wait up
for me, cause
I'm not coming
back. It's over.

Scott initially takes comfort from the note, until he realizes that it doesn't mean anything since she never sent it to Gideon. He has little time to ponder this, however. As the book approaches its conclusion, Scott receives a mysterious phone call. "This is Gideon. When would it be convenient for you to die?"


Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

The subtle characterization and gradual shifts in conflict are superb. Bryan Lee O'Malley builds tension beautifully, culminating in a wonderful prelude to the final book.

So good.

This volume turns a series that's often goofy and absurd into a truly suspenseful ongoing narrative. I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens to these characters.


July 20th! The final volume! Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour! All of your questions will finally be answered! Who is Gideon? Will Scott be able to win Ramona back? Can Sex Bob-omb ever recover from the loss of Kim Pine? Are Stephen Stills and Knives Chau secretly dating? Does Scott have what it takes to live in an apartment by himself? WHY DOES RAMONA'S HEAD KEEP GLOWING?!?! All this and more! Do it! Buy it! Read it! Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour! And don't forget, we'll have the culmination of all the Scott Pilgrim ratings into one final Ultimate Scott Pilgrim Rating! Until then, keep reading, Genoshans!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (Bryan Lee O'Malley)


Volume 4, wherein more ridiculousness occurs. Also wherein there are a few pages of color in the beginning! Kim Pine's a redhead!


Could it be that things are finally going well for our noble hero? It's summertime, life is good, and Scott Pilgrim couldn't be happier with the way things are going. Well, except for the fact that he's broke and needs to find a job. And that some crazy Chinese guy has been stalking him. Oh, and there's this little thing about Ramona being jealous of an old friend of Scott's from high school that turns up in Toronto. And Stephen Stills has cancelled shows and put band practice on an indefinite hiatus so they can record an album that no one else wants to record. And Young Neil is a jerk. Anything else? No? Oh wait, one more thing: it turns out that Ramona's latest evil ex-boyfriend is not a boy at all... twist!

Things are going great for Scott and Ramona until Lisa Miller shows up. Lisa was Scott's best friend in high school, before he started dating Kim Pine. She's only in town for a few days, but she's determined to find a way back into Scott's life. Ramona, who has been known to cheat on a significant other or twenty in the past, is uneasy about Lisa's sudden appearance. She turns downright suspicious once her ex shows up to challenge Scott. Her ex Roxanne, Ramona's college roommate and partner in the pair's experimental phase. Roxanne isn't the only one trying to make mince meat out of Scott, though. Knives—who made out with Kim Pine when she was drunk omg!—discovers that a photo of Scott she keeps on her wall has been defaced, and then Scott notices an older Chinese gentlemen following him around. Hmm, I wonder who that could be? Tensions mount as Scott and Wallace Wells, Scott's gay roommate, discover that their lease is up and new living arrangements are going to have to be made. Scott can just live with Ramona, right? Too bad the two are in a fight after the Lisa situation comes to a head. To make matters worse, while running from the mysterious Chinese man, Scott inadvertently enters a subspace highway that goes directly through Ramona's head. Unsettlingly, he finds her kneeling at the feet of a mysterious figure. Could this be Gideon, the man she never talks about but is constantly linked to? The man she allegedly dated in New York?? The man she named her cat after???

Scott finally decides that he needs to man up in most areas of his life if he wants to win Ramona back. He gets a job (+500xp!), but loses it, but then gets it back (+1000xp!!); he defeats Roxanne—good thing he got that longsword proficiency in grade five—, discovering in the process that his next opponents are a set of twins, gross; he restores honor to the Chau family, and Knives' dad stops trying to kill him; finally, he admits to Ramona that he is in love with her (+9999xp Level Up!!!)! The book ends on a primarily pleasant note, with Scott moving in to Ramona's apartment, earning the power of love, and gaining a kick ass new sword. All is not as sweet and sugary as it seems, though. Ramona's got a secret, Scott's got to fight twins, and Stephen Stills is hiding something from his bitchy sometimes-girlfriend Julie...


Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Volume 4 seems to be the most psychological thus far. Scott and Ramona's relationship is really put to the test, but the main plot line of fighting off evil ex-boyfriends takes the backseat. Everything is brought together very nicely, but Scott is kind of a bitch for most of the book, which is slightly annoying. I wanted to see him kick a little more ass. To be fair, though, his epiphany at the end would not have been nearly as effective is he wasn't such a pussy the whole book.

Minor details and characters from past volumes are finally brought back and utilized to great effect. Bryan Lee O'Malley manages once again to keep the book original but on tone.

I very much enjoyed this book, but it feels a bit like a bridge between more important events. Volume 3 dealt heavily with Scott's emotional backstory and Ramona's true character, while throwing in some history and supporting character motivation. This book sets things up very nicely for the future, but definitely feels like the calm before the storm.


Only one more book to go! Keep reading, Genoshans!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness (Bryan Lee O'Malley)

Level up!



When last we left our hero, Scott was waiting for his ex-girlfriend, Envy Adams, and her band, The Clash at Demonhead, to meet up and discuss terms so that Scott's band, Sex Bob-omb, could open a show for Envy's. Save point! Scott spots a glowing save point in the corner of the bar, but fails to reach it before Envy enters the room. Hopefully Scott doesn't die...

Once everyone is together—Scott; Ramona; Envy and her boyfriend, Todd; Envy's drummer, Lynette; Stephen Stills; Kim Pine; Stephen's sometimes girlfriend Julie; Young Neil; Knives Chau—things proceed to get very awkward. Envy is a bitch, but Knives idolizes her for being so cool omg. Knives fails to contain her excitement, though, and lashes out with "I've kissed the lips that kissed you!!!" Envy's drummer then proceeds to punch the highlights out of Knives' hair. Peace out, Knives. Things continue to go south as Scott and Todd find that they can no longer remain civil to each other. Their evil ex-boyfriend battle begins, but Scott is swiftly dispatched by Todd's psychic vegan powers. The fight would have continued—and, for Scott, possibly ended—right there, but everyone agreed that evil ex-boyfriend fights are tedious and unnecessary at 3:30am. They all agree to meet up at Honest Ed's the next day. Honest Ed's is a ridiculous store that sells so much stuff for so cheap that it's difficult to get through the store without suffering a stroke. Envy decrees that Scott and Todd must make it through the store, and the first one through is the winner. Todd is told he can't use his psychic powers, but cracks under the pressure of all the great deals, and accidentally causes the building to implode. They agree to try again in a few days, after the show that both bands are playing.

Here the book gets pretty stellar. We finally find out what happened between Scott and Envy, as well as how Scott and Wallace became friends, and the details of Ramona and Todd's relationship. We also learn that Todd sometimes cheats on things, for example his veganism (gasp!) and Envy (shock!). All relevant parties make their way to the club where the bands are supposed to perform, but while waiting for the show to start, Ramona and Envy cross paths and get into a cat fight. It's a fairly even match, with Ramona wielding a massive hammer—+2 against girls—and Envy wielding her bitchiness, but the crowd is clearly on Envy's side. Until Wallace Wells tells Ramona to break Envy's "horsey ol' face." With the crowd's attitude gradually changing, Ramona regains composure. To further complicate things, Knives intervenes as well, kicking Envy in the face just as she's about to wail on Ramona with her own hammer. With Envy down, Ramona takes command. Envy calls on Todd to save her, but realizes that he's actually hooking up with Lynette backstage. Envy breaks up with Todd, and Todd vows to break Scott. Todd's psychic vegan powers are too much for Scott once again, but this time Scott has back up in the form of The Boys and Crash, a new band formed by the previous members of Crash and the Boys. They help to hold off Todd's attacks, but the vegan is still too powerful. Recognizing that he is finally going to be beaten, Scott acknowledges that he "need[s] some kind minute, poorly-set-up deus ex machina!!" Luckily, one arrives in the form of the Vegan Police, intent on arresting Todd for his violation of veganism and stripping him of his powers. Once unpsychicified, Scott easily defeats Todd, headbutting him into a glowing pile of coins. In the douchebag faux-vegan's wake is a strange, floating Scott Pilgrim head. Scott reaches out for the extra life and poof! It disappears in a cloud of smoke: 1-up! Sex Bob-omb plays their set and everyone loves them; Envy leaves town; all is lovely in Toronto.


Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Volume three is the most complete book of the series so far. It follows a strongly-driven linear plot, but includes flashbacks and other elements of depth to increase appreciation and empathy for the characters. We learn more about Scott and Ramona's dating history, Stephen and Kim's motivations, Knives insanity, and the subtle machinations of Gideon, the leader of all the evil ex-boyfriends. Mad dramz.

This book is stylistically perfect.

The smoothest read of the series so far. If somehow you had failed to get hooked on the first two books, this is the one that would most likely push you over the edge. It's incredible how seamlessly Bryan Lee O'Malley is able to evolve the plot and characters while remaining true to the overall style and tone of the series. Fantastic job.


Keep reading, Genoshans!

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