The final volume of the Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, comes out today, wrapping up a charming coming-of-age saga that featured flaming swords, save points, and love structured like video game achievements.
In the latter volumes, the books began to shy away from these elements, treating its characters realistically in spite of the goofy accoutrements, and increasing focus was paid to seriously studying Scott’s maturation into adulthood, a time when one is expected (or at least used to be expected) to put away the toys and fantasies of their youth.
I had a lot of things I wanted to see in the final volume of this series:
- Increased viewpoint from Ramona
- Scott and Ramona taking each other seriously, for once
- Scott ditching his fear of adulthood and responsibility
- Gideon’s motives getting explained or, barring that, Gideon getting an ass-whuppin’
- Maybe some explanation of their powers/weapons/etc. Maybe.
- This whole quest given some emotional resonance
All of these points are hit in the story to varying degrees, some in a major sense, and some in a minor. What is beautiful about Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is that much of the story manages to meld these varying goals seamlessly, without sacrificing the action or humor that we associate with the series.
Everyone gets a part to play in this book and their actions and romantic histories greatly enrich the story. Scott himself is put under the magnifying glass, and in some brief but shocking moments, the happy-go-lucky veneer is scrubbed from his actions in previous volumes and re-examined at face value. Scott is not as harmless as he thinks he is, and Bryan Lee O’Malley makes those revelations damning to the character without having us lose faith in him entirely.
Unfortunately for Scott, we become privy to those same developments in Gideon’s life at the same time, and it becomes abundantly clear that Scott’s personality is a lot closer to Gideon’s than any of the other evil exes. This revelation in turn serves to shine the spotlight on Ramona and we finally learn just why she likes Scott so much and how that feeds into the parts of herself that she hates, but can’t live without.
All this in the midst of subspace, mindscapes, head glows, insane boss castles, and Envy Adams as an avenging angel of death. Bryan Lee O’Malley even finds time to give all the secondary characters fitting resolutions. Knives in particular says some things to Scott that I have been waiting six whole books for.
The art on this book is noticeably more refined than in the previous volumes. O’Malley had assistance on this volume from John Kantz and Aaron Ancheta and it shows. The backgrounds are extremely crisp and detailed in comparison to earlier volumes of the series, the panels are cleaner, and the action more concise. The jump in artistic quality here feels as if O’Malley has been downgrading his drawing talent to preserve the look of the series, but couldn’t resist letting loose in the final volume.
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour marks a step up for O’Malley in writing style, as well. For much of the series we’ve been following characters that are entering adulthood mostly concerned with themselves and with their status. O’Malley deftly brings this theme to the forefront through Gideon and Envy’s stories and we get just a touch of commentary on how media is shaping the lives of those who will then shape media, and how those machinations can ultimately leave one without much of a center to their personality. A large part of Scott’s maturation involves him breaking free of this cycle, one he has been in (with pretty hilarious results) throughout all six volumes. This is key to the relationship between him and Ramona, as it has become clear throughout the series that they will have no future, despite all of the fighting, if Scott can’t find the courage to be genuine towards Ramona and vice versa.
There’s a lot that I’m omitting from this review for fear of spoiling the book too much, but everything I’ve said above (right down to the art) plays into how the series ultimately ends. And thankfully, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour absolutely earns that ending.
I still could have used more focus on Ramona, Knives, and Kim Pine, and the humor felt a little sparse, but these are very minor quibbles in what I found to be a very satisfying conclusion. The series as a whole doesn’t go as deep into its character’s motivations as it could, but it doesn’t preach, and thus it serves as a great starting point for that teen, or 20-something, who is starting to suspect that there is more to life than the pop culture they define themselves with. (And how, sometimes, there isn’t.)
Chris Greenland has just reviewed a comic book for a science fiction/fantasy website and will get back to you on how that growing up thing is going.