One of the strongest, strangest memories of my post-college life was the weekend I spent binging through Questionable Content, a comic that was one of High School Justin's earliest entrees into alternative culture.

I remember reading it religiously for four or so years as a primer on music, "culture", and aesthetic — only falling out of the habit once I hit undergrad and went through the traditional metamorphosis one goes through when they decide to re-invent themselves on a college campus.

Re-reading it over some random late-2010's weekend felt like a combination of nostalgia and apotheosis: it felt like visiting, in many ways, my former self, and the kind of esoterica and insecurity and arcana that felt so much like home for me in my teenage years. Moreover, it felt like flicking through an old childhood photo album and suddenly discovering there were a hundred pages you've never seen before: and, indeed, after I stopped reading it QC kept on humming, with lots of plot lines and panels that were altogether new to me.

I bring this up not just because Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is so literally similar to Questionable Content — a focus on indie music, relationship melodrama sharpened into relief through genre homage, and webcomic roots — but because it felt so aggressively and explicitly like it was negotiating with its former self, both delighted and a little dismayed by its past.

A lot of this show was not "great" in the traditional sense: the plot was, uh, quibbly, and while it was a literal miracle that they got the original actors all in a recording booth, the voice acting was wooden in a way that belies poor direction. But who cares? This show made me reconcile my self of fifteen years ago and my self of today in a way few other pieces of media do, and I had a great time doing so to boot.

Frequent readers of my writing will note that I approach projects like this with a high level of skepticism and, at times, outright derision — it's easy to feel like a bit of a mindless consumer being fed "hey! remember this thing from twenty years ago?"-inflected IP slop by an increasingly lazy coterie of producers, directors, and capitol allocators.

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off does not — I cannot emphasize enough — fall under that categorization. It is the rare piece of work — like the HBO miniseries Watchmen — that not only subverts the original product but elevates it. SPTO could not exist without its original, and both works are enhanced by the shared lineage.


Lightning bolt
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