Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
In this penultimate volume of the indy favorite series, Scott Pilgrim continues the path he began in the previous book: becoming an adult and growing up. Along with that comes relationship struggles and the need to make decisions instead of coasting through life.
As Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe opens, Scott turns 24. He and his friends are getting bored with their perfect little lives — the parties are trying too hard, the band is “recording” instead of playing gigs, and even the evil ex-boyfriends Scott fights are farming out the dirty work.
Japanese twins Ken and Kyle K. (beautifully styled, and convenient to moving the plot along more quickly, since they make #5 and #6 in the list of Ramona’s seven evil exes) have brought a robot to battle Scott. That’s trendy, a good choice for the audience, and funny, since everyone — characters, readers, and even the author — seems to be over the battles. Early on, this fight serves merely as background for various conversations among the cast members revealing what’s going on lately. That’s an excellent choice, because the appeal of this series is its honest portrayal of young adults, told through a video game-like filter to make it amusing and vibrant, not more punching and kicking.
Scott’s happy living with Ramona, but she seems unsure. He’s a slacker, and she’s got a job. He’s easily distractable; she wonders if him moving to new girlfriends without much regret is something to be concerned about. He’s happy in the moment, and she wonders if she’s being taken for granted. (OK, maybe I’m reading a bit into that, but that’s why I like this series; these kids seem like people I know, to the point of interpreting their looks and gestures.) She runs errands while he slacks off, and he’s crushed that she only watches the band play because of him. (That’s a compliment, dude, but instead of realizing it, he’s upset that she doesn’t like the band for its own sake.)
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s art is better than ever. The style is simple, but the expressions and actions are so skilled you don’t notice how accomplished they are unless you’re looking for it. One sequence, where Ramona’s trying on outfits while Scott prattles on about old X-Men comics, I found myself lingering over. Not only did it perfectly capture how women look at themselves in fitting room mirrors, but the clothes themselves were really cute. (Few artists bother to think so much about costume design if it doesn’t involve spandex, even though it reveals a lot about a character.)
I like laughing at Scott being clueless, whether it’s not recognizing a setup or thinking his friends will put up with his complete self-centeredness forever. (He’s not egotistical, he just never thinks about anyone but himself, the way a baby is only concerned about its own needs.) When Ramona temporarily kicks him out for a good but unexpected reason, it brings home just how much growing up he still has to do.
There’s a lot Scott and Ramona both don’t know about each other, and enemies are happy to reveal uncomfortable secrets at the worst possible times. However, it’s not a real relationship until they accept who they were and choose to get past their differences and histories. Unfortunately, we won’t know if that happens until the next book, where Scott faces Gideon, the final evil ex-boyfriend. I can’t wait to see how it all ends.