*Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe — Recommended

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.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe cover
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
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As the book 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.

7 Responses to “*Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe — Recommended”

  1. Bill D. Says:

    What stuck with me the most about this was when Wallace asked the question that’s probably been in the back of everyone’s mind, though no one within the books (or otuside of them) had asked before… what actually happens when Scott defeats all 7 exes? S & R get to “be together,” sure, but what does that entail, and what exactly are they now if not already together?

    Also found it super-interesting that we see Ramona smoking in this book, and that no one bats an eyelash. As established in the previous books, only evil characters smoke. Does this represent a change in Ramona’s manner, or are we finally starting to see the real her? Or is it maybe that the audience is only just now seeing this side of her, but everyone else has seen this off-panel from the beginning? Lots to think about there.

    My favorite part of this book, though? Lots more Kim Pine.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Wow, those are some great observations. I hadn’t twigged to the smoking connection. It might not be either of your suggestions, but an indication that she’s thinking more about her past, when she used to be a smoker… kind of backsliding, if you will. So many possibilities.

  3. Stephen Geigen-Miller Says:

    Well, Lisa Miller smoked in ‘Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together’, and she wasn’t evil.

    And Julie has never smoked that we know of — and she went from merely being a mean social climber to full-bore evil in ‘Vs. The Universe’

    If smoking symbolizes anything in ‘Scott Pilgrim’ (rather than what it symbolizes TO Scott Pilgrim the character) I think it may be a dangerous lack of self-control, or perhaps lack of reflection and self-knowledge.

  4. ~chris Says:

    There’s never enough of Kim Pine. :)

  5. vid Says:

    It’s a testament to the book that Scott Pilgrim is as likeable as he is considering his self centered-ness and cluelessness. I admit I almost wouldn’t mind it if he went down in flames in the last book.

    There are a lot of dangling questions that I kind of wonder how it will all fit in one book. Scott’s “I’m so alone” dreams. Subspace. Purpose of the ex-league & Gideon. Ramona’s glowing head and past. The Evil Scott visions.

    Kim Pine rocks, she deserves to find someone way better than Scott. I don’t think that will happen with one book left.

  6. Best Graphic Novels of 2009 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe — A terrific installment, but it didn’t strike me as wonderful as the earlier books. In part, that’s human nature, where “just as good” feels like “not as good” because we expect more and better every time. I’m also looking forward to the coming conclusion. Setting up for that just isn’t quite as satisfying. […]

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