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Four Book Reviews

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Bryan Lee O’Malley
Oni Press Publications

Rock, romance, and ninjas! Scott Pilgrim gets ‘em all, even though he plays in a crappy band, shares a futon with a hot gay roommate, and seven of said ninjas are evil ex-boyfriends of Ramona Flowers, his courier-girl crush from Scott Pilgrim Volume I. Not only must he defeat each evil ex to date Ramona, Scott is two-timing a fanatically devoted schoolgirl named Knives Chau. Yes, Knives.

Part of O’Malley’s charm, here and in an earlier graphic novel, Lost at Sea, are his surprise detours into fantasy. He steeps this twenty-something love triangle in the video games that our slacker hero plays even in his sleep. When Scott beats evil ex number two, a skater turned poser fi lm-star, the
vanquished ex explodes into $14 in coins and a special item. “N-no!” shouts Scott, “I can’t even use this! Why didn’t I pick that skateboard profi ciency back in grade five?!?”

Aside from gamer geeks, Scott Pilgrim hits touchstones with the fans of Canada’s indie and alt-country music scene. “Scott Pilgrim” was originally a Plumtree song—three minutes of power pop for a high school crush. Quiet kudos to bands like Sloan, The New Pornographers, and Neko Case are sprinkled hroughout the panels of O’Malley’s wonderfully drawn, manga-infl uenced comic. The six-book series is set firmly in Toronto, and TO kids will welcome the sight of new music dens like Club Rockit and Lee’s Palace in a graphic novel. For the uninitiated, there are true-to-life illustrations of dorky Toronto
landmarks like Casa Loma and the Reference Library, complete with fun facts. I’m pretty sure my old apartment makes a cameo, minus the roaches.

The whole effect, whether you’re in Toronto, Vancouver, or anywhere and crushing to Plumtree, makes you feel very familiar in Scott Pilgrim’s “precious little life”. To start your own touching comic infatuation with an indie rock ninja, check the fi ve page previews of volumes I and II at onipress.com. You’ll like him for a thousand years.
Andy Hudson

The Roots of Desire; The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair
Marion Roach
Bloomsbury/Raincoast Books

This is the tale of Roach’s journey through science, social mythology and personal history as she looks into attitudes about red hair and ponders the volutionary signifi cance of why this particular mutation came to be and how it has endured. The story flows wonderfully through all its twists, turns and tangents as she explores topics such as the MC1R, medieval poison recipes calling for the fat of a red-haired man, anti-Semitism, customs about menstruation, her Scottish ancestors, and Roach’s irritation with people who describe her faded hair as light brown. It sounds a little scattered, but it’s a great
trip and it mostly makes sense in the end. There were also some moments of probably unintended hilarity, for instance, as she describes her fear at “witch camp” that the Devil himself was really going to appear to a bunch of Wiccans calling on Set. I guess not all redheads are witches after all.
Vampyra Draculea

Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires (Evil Eye #14)
Richard Sala
Fantagraphics Books
The fourteenth issue of Richard Sala’s Evil Eye Magzine (actually a short graphic novel) pits his usual cover-waif Peculia against a family of vampires in herfi- rst full-length story. While Sala wins for his vision of pretty girls, much like those of comic artist Adrian Tomine, Groon Groove Vampires suffers from skimpy characterization and predictable plot, and shows little of the humour or visual appeal of other creepy-cute comics. There wasn’t even much atmosphere to tide me over. Perhaps I’ve been badly conditioned by an excess of Buffy, Gorey, and Dirge, but in Peculia’s case I can’t distinguish satire from sincere imitation.
Kat Siddle

Jesse Reklaw
Global Hobo
While digging through a recycling bin one day, California cartoonist Jesse Reklaw found “what no one was supposed to see again”—a number of Ph.D. applications from an Ivy League University. Each application, fi led between 1965 and 1975, included a photo and confidential references letters meant to be seen by only the application review committee. At first, Reklaw kept them simply for the photos of the hopeful students. Fortunately for us, he later realized the files’ potential and assembled them as Applicant. Each portrait is paired with a line from its accompanying reference. The results are sometimes onsensical, often scathing, and usually hilarious. Some of them are also noticeably dated (under one girl’s photo: “Weakness: she is a female, and an attractive, modest one, so is bound to marry”). Equal parts Ann Taintor and Found Magazine, Applicant is one of those zines you read once and then want to show everyone.
Kat Siddle