COMICS: John Reviews “Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe” by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5 (First printing has a foil cover)

If you haven’t been reading Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series, you’ve been missing out on the best action/comedy/romance graphic novel series in recent years.  The story builds on each previous volume, though, so if you are unfamiliar with volumes one, two, three, or four you should pick them up or at least click the links to read my previous reviews.

In Volume 5, entitled Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe, Scott turns the big 2-4.  As his “quarter-life crisis” begins to set in, his “lazy, unlucky-at-love slacker musician” lifestyle is looking less cute and more pathetic.  Scott pledges to be the best 24-year-old ever, and plans to defeat the last of Ramona’s evil exes and live with her happily ever after.  Unfortunately for Scott and Ramona, their biggest threat may not be an evil ex at all…

For the first time since they started dating, Scott and Rammy begin to seriously examine their relationship.  Shocking revelations occur on both sides, each proving that neither of them are perfect (or even particularly good) people.  All the while, Sex Bob-Omb is on the verge of breaking up and Ramona’s twin exes are sending robots to attack Scott!  It looks pretty grim for our less-than-stalwart hero.  Will he be able to patch up his relationship, rally his band, defeat the League of Evil Exes and finally get his life going in a positive direction?  Come on, he’s Scott Pilgrim!!

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe could be described in movie terms as the Empire Strikes Back or Two Towers of the series, in that it sees our intrepid hero reach his lowest point before beginning to rally.  O’Malley kicks Scott into the mud and steals his lunch money (in a manner of speaking), bringing the full weight of Murphy’s Law to bear on the poor guy.  The simplistic, light-hearted comedy of the early volumes is severely downplayed here, as characters grow up and have to deal with the reality of their situations.  Character development is far more prominent than plot progression this time around, and loose ends from as far back as the end of Volume 1 are tied up.  Some of the ever-growing supporting cast are forced to the sidelines (like poor Wallace, who barely sees the gang anymore) while others finally get the page time they so richly deserve.  Such is the case with Kim Pine, who completely steals the show from Scott (a la Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face in The Dark Knight) during the volume’s climactic scenes, showing depth of character rarely seen in a supporting cast member (or even in a lead, compared to most popular comics.)  I have a strong suspicion that Scott/Kim ‘shippers will have a field day with this one!

The video game references are kept to a bare minimum in Vs. The Universe, and the few that remain are relegated to the background of scenes.  This is presumably done to show the decreasing importance of them in the greater story, and the fact that fighting evil exes may be the easiest problem facing Scott at the moment.  The rest of the Pilgrim-verse is growing up and dragging Scott along with it, whether he likes it or not.

O’Malley’s art is in rare form throughout this volume, and serves as some of the best work I’ve ever seen in a B&W manga.  His lines are looking more refined and honed than ever, and his use of grayscale and shading techniques is miles ahead of even Volume 4.  Even the cover is gorgeous, with its shiny foil background (on the first printing, anyway) and its 8-bit “screenshots” on the back.  If anyone knows of a Scott Pilgrim rom hack, please send me a link!  I’d likely sell my PS3 for such a game!  Also, for those interested in learning more about Mr. O’Malley’s art process, he breaks down the progression from script to finished product in a short section in the back of this volume.

For those who have been faithfully following Scott’s adventures, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe should be more of the same delicious fried gold.  For those who were unsatisfied with Scott’s juvenile attitude and frame of mind in previous volumes, this one might have the growth of character you seek.  And for people who love shiny objects, that cover can’t be beat!  A WINNER IS YOU!

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