A Scott Pilgrim Versus the Universe Relay Review!

Okay, my reviews and rants on the mineshaft here are RARELY timely, but the new Scott Pilgrim comic came out yesterday, and I figured I’d write something on it. You won’t just be hearing my comments though. I’ve decided to let Allegra from the allegrahates blog (see the sidebar) and my friend James, who wrote the ever so popular Street Fighter Continuity post way back, to weigh in on what they thought of the new issue.

I always need to do this… but quickly, for those of you who don’t know, Scott Pilgrim is a Canadian manga inspired graphic novel series about a boy who lives in Toronto and needs to defeat his girlfriend’s seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to prove his love. There’s slightly more to it than that, but that’s the basic premise… it’s filled with an equal amount of classic video game references and indie band references. Have YOU actually played Clash at Demonhead? Heard of Plumtree? If either of those got a yes, you might be cool and indie enough to read on. Still, instruments are too mainstream.

I thought about editing and just taking key parts, but you’ll see each reaction in its entirety.
First, Allegra’s reaction:
For a manga-inspired fantastic graphic novel, it’s amazing how true to life the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley manages to be. We all know people who remind us of Scott or Knives or Kim, and for every battle with a giant robot and chase through sub-space there are a dozen instances of uncomfortably familiar emotion and dialogue so real that you swear BLOM must have overheard it before writing it.

Though none of us are literally fighting an organized league of our significant other’s exes, there is often a struggle to measure up to the past. The series literalizes this, and throws in all the problems of a typical relationship as well. We see this mostly with Scott, but Ramona isn’t without her struggles either. She fought Knives in the Reference Library (the chapter that REALLY made me an SP fan) and dealt with Envy Adams’ snark. Ramona’s connection to Gideon is still powerful, just as it would be when any strong relationship dissolves.

The fifth novel in the series, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe,” maintains its whip-smart humour (most of which is subtle so re-reading is just as much fun as the first time) while also developing the characters we’ve come to love to the next logical progression.

It is the penultimate novel in the series, and a lot of the events that take place set up for Scott’s final conflict: Gideon. As annoying as it is when parts of a series are mostly used as conduits for the finale (Pirates of the Caribbean II, anyone?), SPV is more than that.

First of all, the relationship between Scott and Ramona (which is the foundation of the whole plot) grows a lot more complicated. While SPIV showed our hero maturing (moving in with Ramona, getting a job, thinking about the future), SPV brings conflict by the star-emblazoned bagful… conflict in the band, conflict with his friends and especially conflict with Ramona. There are certain events that made me bite my nails in concern for the couple, though I never doubted Scott’s commitment to her and to the fulfilment of his quest.

Then final chapter gives Scott Pilgrim fans what they want, though – an EPIC cliff-hanger, a little bit of confusion, more hints about the elusive and mysterious Gideon (and about Ramona herself) and proof of Scott Pilgrim’s naïve goodness. Add to that the traditional indie music references (Sloan!), familiar Toronto landmarks (Sneaky Dees!), self-deprecation, callbacks to previous events in the Scott Pilgrim cannon and even one or two references to Lost At Sea, O’Malley’s debut graphic novel (I cry every time I read it without exception).

Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe doesn’t tug at all the same heartstrings as Lost at Sea, but it succeeded in its endeavour to make the reader laugh, reflect, wonder and anticipate. Bryan Lee O’Malley has us hooked and dying for a resolution… it’s going to be a long year, but Scott Pilgrim fans know it’s going to be worth the wait.

And next, James’ reaction :

I may as well start off by saying I am a huge fan of the series. In fact there was a brief stint where I was a member of the ‘scott.ning’ thing (then I lost my email address and password… very confusing). This is significant because I am letting it be known that I take these comics WAY too seriously when they are meant to be a fun read. So if I hear any bitching of ‘oh my gawwwwwd… its just a comic!’ piss off, alright?

Overall I’d say it is a step up from the fourth volume. It flowed nicely, but it all seemed so much faster than the earlier ones. I mean to say that all the things I were expecting to see in this comic were much lighter than the other issues. For instance, my biggest criticism of this volume; the evil ex-boyfriends were extras in the background. It is as if they had less development than Michael Patel from the first comic. At least he was given a back-story, the only info we have on the twins is that they are hot and Japanese. Oh, and Ramona cheated on them (which I will get too but that’s more of a criticism of the entire series). There was no build up to the ending fight scene and thereby much less dramatic (although I do love the fact that it was to save Kim. Hopefully this will come up again in the final volume). And the robots sent by the twins really didn’t do anything for me, except for the ‘joined the party’ gag, which leads me to my second criticism…

This is probably the least funny installment of the series. Unlike the others that made me actually laugh audibly, this rarely left a smile on my face. It was an enjoyable read, but there were less gags overall. Since I do appreciate that this volume was probably more designed to be a set-up for the final, I cut it some slack and I am not holding against O’Malley. I wouldn’t say it was ‘dramatic’ per se, but there was definitely some foundation layers put down to make it dramatic next time.

A concern that has been bothering me throughout the series is ‘what the fuck is so great about Ramona?’ There is a lot of talk about cheating in this one, and Ramona gets pissed at Scott for how he treated Knives. So much so that she kicks him out of her apartment. Ok, I am probably the least tolerant when it comes to rules on fidelity and in my self-righteousness I am quick to condemn anything I consider a transgression (back me up here Kev) but Ramona being bitchy about that? Gimme a break. She fully admits herself that she’s a bad person for cheating and the like but she feels she has the grounds to throw Scott around like she is morally superior? It kinda pisses me off, but that’s how most women are AMIRITE?! She must be amazingly hot or something, cause I don’t really see any redeeming qualities to her… except for the fact that she paid attention to Scott in the beginning.


… enough said
Now for the parts that I thought were wonderful! Lawrence made an appearance! The stage is set for the last comic! Something that I have been eying every time I read through the comics is the appearance of who I call ‘Evil-Scott.’ You see him in volume four and near the end of this volume in the mirror. I can’t wait to see how that pans out.
I dunno, that’s all I have to say really. Still a huge fan!

And now, my (quick) reaction:
Okay this post is already too long, but I’ll quickly give my reaction. I thought Scott Pilgrim 4 was the weakest of the series, so this one was a nice step up for me. I don’t know if it’s my absolute favorite, it probably falls somewhere in the middle. It does feel like a bit of a “build up” episode in the story.

It really does make you shriek when you realize there are only a few pages left in the book and you know there’s a cliffhanger coming. I found there to still be a good amount of laughs and good moments though. I absolutely look forward to the next installment.


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