COMICS: John Reviews “Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour” by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Time to switch things up!  Since this is the final installment of the excellent six-part slice-of-life-romantic-comedy/over-the-top-video-game-action (holy-crap-that’s-a-lot-of-hyphens) graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim, much of the usual introductory fare is unnecessary.  Instead of structuring my reviews as I normally do, I will invert the pyramid and start with my final summary:

  • For those who have been reading and enjoying the Scott Pilgrim series up to this point, rest assured: Volume 6 brings the story to an action-packed, emotionally satisfying conclusion.
  • For those who have been reading the Scott Pilgrim series and aren’t sure they like where the later volumes were heading, there’s a very good chance that Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour has brought back everything you loved about the early volumes and will make you a fan again.
  • For those who haven’t been reading the Scott Pilgrim series at all, it should be rather obvious that the last volume is hardly the place to start.  Go out and pick up Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, resting comfortably in the knowledge that the whole story is a well-crafted arc and the big ending doesn’t fall flat.

And now, the specifics!

In addition to his surprisingly intricate plotting and his entirely-human-yet-witty-and-hilarious dialogue, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s artwork has dramatically improved in Finest Hour.  Perhaps it’s the assistance of John Kantz and Aaron Ancheta, or the fact that Oni Press has put a lot of work into the production side of what is likely their biggest property yet, but the end result is a spectacle that practically jumps off the page and socks you in the mouth!  The action scenes are more kinetic than ever before, and the general look of the characters is far more polished and well-realized.  Even the cast of female characters, who sometimes have  a tendency to look confusingly alike, all stand out proudly and each have their own distinguishable style.  Furthermore, many of the story’s themes are excellently realized through illustration, and Finest Hour really shows that there were serious literary concepts in play here and sprinkled throughout the series.

Speaking of serious concepts in storytelling, don’t let the fact that this is an epic no-holds-barred final battle story lead you to believe that that’s all it is.  Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is also the grand finale to a fantastically close-to-home slice-of-life romantic comedy that captures real human experience and emotion.  It deals with struggles we all face in this world, from the internal (owning up to your mistakes and facing your inner demons) to the external (being willing to fight for what you hold dear.) For the first (and sadly, last) time, Scott and Ramona really do seem like a couple who truly love each other.  Neither one of them is a paragon of virtue, but both are willing to finally confront their mistakes, learn from them, and forge ahead to a brighter future together.  Indeed, Scott and Ramona exhibit my favorite kind of love to see in entertainment media (or anywhere, for that matter), love that looks and acts like real partnership.  You don’t see it very often, because writers prefer more typical sitcom doofy-husband-naggy-wife pairings, or Moonlighting-esque tantalizing almost-relationships, or Desperate Housewives-esque house of cards relationships frought with secrets, drama and infidelity.  Nevertheless, there are still relationships in comics and elsewhere that give the rest of us hope for the future: Mr. Incredible and Elasti-Girl, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, Superman and Lois Lane (when written well,) Green Arrow and Black Canary (for about a year, before they decided to ruin it) … sadly, they’re few and far between. Nevertheless, it is my secret hope that one day, when I’m old and grey, I’ll be able to reread the last few pages of Scott Pilgrim‘s Finest Hour and still feel the same sense of wonder, hopefulness and love that I do today.

O’Malley’s spectacular storytelling is evident in more than just the Scott-Ramona love plot, however.  Like any great final work, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is filled with revelations both great and small that make you smack your forehead and exclaim, “Of course! Why didn’t I notice that before?!”  These also make re-reading the series a joy, as you can really see how much of the story O’Malley had planned from the start and how expertly the pieces came together with each volume.

Oh, right! Video game references!  Not to worry, dear readers, for many of the flourishes and references you’ve come to love throughout the series return in force for the big finale.  There are even callbacks to references from as far back as Volume 3!  Personally, I was thrilled to see yet another video-game-reference band name, and can almost fill out my referenced-games-I’ve-played bingo card (darn you, Clash at Demonhead!)  There are even references to non-video-game action story tropes, such as Scott’s battle with the NegaScott (yes, I know that this is a trope that has been used for ages by sources more important than Darkwing Duck, but what can I say? I was raised on The Disney Afternoon.)

As for the plot itself, I’ll do my best to sum it up without any major spoilers, but just in case:

[Potential SPOILER WARNING!]

Scott begins the volume at the low point he fell to in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe, but after pulling a High Fidelity-style grand tour of secondary character conversations and revelations about his own exes, confronts his demons both without and within and engages in a final battle with Gideon Gordon Graves.  The fight is truly epic, and spans about three-quarters of the book.  Have I said too much?!

Well, that’s about it for the saga of Scott Pilgrim in its original medium!  Tune in to future installments for reviews of the upcoming feature film and video game!

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