Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
It’s time to say goodbye to Scott Pilgrim, the bemused young fighter and band member we’ve watched grow up over the last six years. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is a satisfying conclusion to his journey from clueless boy coasting through life to young man making his own decisions and fighting for the woman he loves.
The last of Ramona’s evil exes, Gideon, obviously plays a major role, but not as much of one as I expected. That’s a good thing, because this series moved beyond the “life as video game” motif several books ago. In fact, the opening — where a depressed Scott, ditched by Ramona, won’t stop playing a handheld game or get off the couch for months — seems like an indictment of that kind of simplistic “looking for victory” competition as nothing but an escape.
I’m not sure what to think about gay ex-roommate Wallace. All through this series, I thought he was a little skewed, although basically good, but with the advice he gives Scott to push him out of his funk here, I no longer think that’s the case. Isn’t “go have sex with someone” the kind of attitude that got Scott into this situation, with his not owning his bad behavior with Knives when he met Ramona?
(This book is full of those kind of question-sparking moments, and I wish I had a book club to discuss it with. I suppose that’s what the internet is for, but it’s much harder to flip to a page and point to a panel in that case.)
Lots of characters move on, as friends and acquaintances must. The theme underlying this all is how we need our memories, how they form the person we become. Scott doesn’t have many memories, and what he does recall is simplified and childish (in a lovely visual technique), rewritten to make him look better in contrast to the facts. It’s all about him, and learning that others may have different, justified, unpleasant thoughts of him in their past is a key stepping stone on his trip to adulthood.
Envy Adams, shown here, brings this home, as the most transformed character. She’ll put up with him, sometimes, just because he knew her before the celebrity, knew who she was before her image took over.
Similarly adult is the idea that some may choose to be alone, temporarily, because that’s better for them at the time. Scott’s never chosen that before, drifting from one relationship to another or getting dumped, and it surprised me that that was one of the things we realize he and Ramona have in common. Several characters take off by themselves — self-dramatizing it, because that’s what they do, into a “wilderness sabbatical” — as a way of resetting themselves.
Kim’s the symbol of this, the one girl who knew him through it all. Even though she’s found that sabbatical, in practice, can be boring, that’s part of daily life too. It’s not always an adventure, not always something full of challenges. Except here, where coming to terms with the part of yourself you dislike might be symbolized by an alternate version or a strange glow.
I can’t say much about the art, because it’s really good. Characters are distinctive, truly themselves, and as expressive as they need to be. I powered through the book on the first read, just to find out what happened to everyone, and the flow supports that. It also supports savoring each moment, and explores dreams and flashbacks and closeups and group fight scenes. Rebirth here is taken a bit literally.
Not knowing yourself is a kind of protection, where things can’t really hurt you, and what you think is weakness others might see as strength. That’s how we manage to form relationships with others — together, we can overcome our fear and complement each other. Even if we’re weak in dealing with our own issues, we can be strong for the one we love. And our worst enemies can be those the most like us.
I was reminded of how difficult it can be to come to terms with the idea that your best years just might be behind you. (Envy’s song helped.) That’s another part of growing up, realizing that the choices you make give you satisfaction but shut down other avenues, and you can’t be young and full of potential forever. It’s tiring to keep chasing new partners and new trends. That’s one of the reasons it tickled me so that the last song we see Scott playing is by one of my all-time favorites, The Monkees. (That and they’re personally important to me, since they’re one of the reasons KC and I are together.)
We have to say goodbye to Scott, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing much more from his creator, Bryan Lee O’Malley, in future.