When I first saw that the latest “Scott Pilgrim” volume would be subtitled “Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe,” my initial thought was that Bryan Lee O’Malley was just recycling Volume 3’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” name. As I neared the end of this new “Scott Pilgrim” book, I thought to myself that if I’d had to name this book it probably would have been, “Scott Pilgrim Grows Up.” And, more importantly, it was a darn good thing that O’Malley was better at naming his books than I would ever be, because he really hit the nail right on the head.
For those who haven’t read “Scott Pilgrim” (and why not?), you might not know about how slacker, musician, and general goof-off Scott Pilgrim has started dating the beautiful Ramona Flowers… but in order to stay with her, she has to defeat all seven of Ramona’s evil exes. With four already vanquished, Scott’s starting to feel a little confident that he’ll make it to the end and have Ramona’s hand. But of course, things are never that easy.
What really struck me about “Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe” was how much Scott really does grow up in this book. Up until now, he’s had a pretty simple life; sharing an apartment with his roommate Wallace Wells, playing in his band, scrounging for spare change wherever he can. But the universe seems out to get him, and with his 24th birthday has come the horrible realization that everything might have to change. Does Scott need to actually get a job? His own place? A real life?
As all of these potential disasters are looming on Scott’s doorstep, though, they seem in many ways to just parallel the bigger issue: his relationship with Ramona. In many ways, this is the book where it stops being a fairytale relationship and starts becoming much more real. Scott’s and Ramona’s pasts are both very much coming back to the forefront, and not just in a “having to fight the exes” sort of way. It’s a big shift for “Scott Pilgrim” but I think that O’Malley really nails this change in a way that makes it work. He doesn’t throw away everything in the past that worked so well, but many of them are being supplanted by all of these new things in his life. So we still get the fights with the evil exes here, but I never felt like they were the center of the book the way that the first couple of volumes handled them. Here, it’s almost a nuisance that Scott has to face as he tries to figure out everything else that’s going on with Ramona’s past and future.
I also have to say that while I’ve always liked the supporting cast in the past, O’Malley really fleshes some of them out here in a way that we haven’t had before. Sure, we’ve always gotten a feel for characters like Wallace Wells, Kim Pine, and Stephen Stills in the previous volumes. Here, though, we’re starting to see a lot more of them, especially Kim. Kim almost feels like a third main character here, but in a good way; I really think O’Malley is to bring her to the forefront in a way that makes her feel like more than just Scott’s friend and band mate.
It’s hard to believe that there’s only one more “Scott Pilgrim” volume to go, but in many ways it makes sense that we’re nearing the end. Everything’s falling into place, and Scott’s becoming who he needs to be to not only go up against the 7th (and most-powerful) ex, but how he can succeed against the universe. “Scott Pilgrim” as a series has always been about the videogame callouts, and in many ways this is the level where you pick up all the weapons and health boosts before entering the boss battle.
I, for one, feel more prepared than ever for that big boss. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe” is easily my favorite installment of “Scott Pilgrim” to date; O’Malley has outdone himself again. All the fans out there who have been eagerly awaiting the new book? You won’t be disappointed. It’s fantastic.