Writer / Artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
“…things were never the same. Change is… it’s what we get.”
– Ramona Flowers
Ok, so the movie is out in the UK this week, having already suffered from a commercial mauling in the US despite considerable hype and critical buzz. I haven’t seen the film yet, and I haven’t read any of the other Scott Pilgrim graphic novel volumes which provides the source material for the script… heck I hardly knew such a thing as Mr. Pilgrim existed until a few weeks ago. Thus, I am either highly qualified as an independent reviewer of ther latet volume of the Pilgrim saga, or I have even less idea than usual of what I’m talking about. (I’ll leave that up to you to decide.)
Based on a few of the articles I had read in the press about the cinematic release, I was expecting a hip, heavily pop-culture referenced, pseudo-superhero comedy. And on one level, this is exactly what Volume 6 delivers, except it does so in such a charming, natural and essentially grounded manner that it doesn’t come across nearly as confused or as outrageous as it sounds – in fact, this is essentially a very endearing, human story about relationships and the struggle with growing up (or not), without ever appearing as if it is trying too hard to be as clever as the some of the hype surrounding the movie might have you believe. Yes, there is a real retro feel to the whole book, with constant references to music and gaming culture (including some fantastic flashback / memory scenes done in original Nintendo style) along with a few contemporary signposts which gives the whole book an additional point of delight for us 30+ readers. But this all adds extra layers to the characterisation and depth to the developing story, rather than a conduit for O’Malley to show how cutting-edge he is.
If you leave the superhero / fantasy elements aside for one moment, then the plot is hardly original, but it is organic – Scott is basically dealing with the fall-out of a host of relationship failures over the years as he finds himself contemplative, alone and searching for the answer to his problems, very much in the vain of High Fidelity for the mid-20s.Only two things seem to stand in his way – the Leafgue of Evil Ex-Boyfiriends; and Scott himself. When the story explodes into crazy videogame style fantasy, the emotional core of the characters glues the whole thing together, creating a wacky but ultimately satisfying fusion.
The dialogue is snappy and rings true, and I was pleasantly surprised at how minimal it was in many places, especially for a comic book of this genre(s). O’Malley is not afraid to let his artwork, and more specifically his sense of sequential page design, tell as much of the story as possible – which of course is aided by the extended graphic novel format of these volumes. He has a fantastic sense of cartoon-making, with a really expressive artistic style that is a real pleasure to engage with, and beyond the excellent design work O’Malley is a superb expressionist that really manages to mesh the outlandishness of the super-hero elements with the emotional heart of the story.
I am sure that it was never the intention for these volumes to be read out of sequence, but it is surprisingly easy to follow the trajectory of thre story, despite only a brief one-page recap. Clearly I have missed a lot of history in the life of Scott Pilgrim that I will never truly understand without going back to read the previous volumes, but this installement is a bit like watching a soap opera, – easy to slip into the characters and their motivations, even if you know you are missing a great deal of backstory.
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is a truly outstanding tale of a 24-year old fighting his own demons, his past, his immaturity and a fear of growing up – something we can all relate to, except that Scott’s battles are on rather more dramatic levels than most experience!. I can’t really think of what’s not to love about this. Yes, I’ll be reading the other volumes, and yes, I’ll be going to see the movie. If you have been put off doing any of those things by the recent negative press, I hope this review will urge you to reconsider.
Tags: Oni Press, scott pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim vs The World