Saturday, August 28, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe

In the previous volume, our slacker hero, Scott Pilgrim got his shit together. He got a job, he moved in with his girl, and he defeated the fourth, (of seven), evil ex. Now he just has to hold it together for the final stretch. In his way are the evil-ex duo of twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, and their evil robot minions. Though those chumps are a pain in the ass, Scott also has to handle the bigger challenge of cohabiting with Ramona, and all the ins and outs that are associated with that. Who would have thought turning twenty four would be so tough?

Now that he is marginally more mature, Scott's relationship with Ramona is finding a routine, which may or may not be good. Things take a definite turn for the worse when Ramona learns from Knives Chau, Scott's ex high school-aged girlfriend, that he was two-timing them way back in volume one. In the wee hours of the night Ramona confronts Scott about the whole cheating thing, which gets Scott thinking she may break up with him, but before the two can resolve anything the next morning, Scott is forced to attempt a daring rescue of Kim Pine, who has been abducted by the Kyle and Ken, the 5th, and 6th evil exes.

Scott has proven time and again that juggling multiple dilemmas is not his strong suit, and there's a fair bit of juggling to do here, which scales the drama up a few notches. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe is by far the most serious installment yet. O'Malley masterfully plays off the reader's attachment to the characters, adding plenty of disruption and turmoil into the mix which evokes strong reactions. I was impressed with his deft touch, and was pleased that the dramatic qualities never crossed over into the zone of cheesiness.

Don't be mistaken, even though there's a lot of drama in Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe there are still plenty of laugh out loud moments in this graphic novel. Some of Scott's battles with the robots are pretty damn funny, and the scene where Sex Bob-Omb makes its return to live music is great. I'll never get tired of how they always find new ways to suck.

This fifth volume not only features O'Malley's best writing but also his best art. If you flip to a random page from volume one, and compare that to a random page from volume five, the improvement is obvious. Cleaner lines, better definition, and greater detail are a few of the noticeable improvements obvious to my highly untrained, and artistically near-sighted eye. One thing is obvious: this is a damn fine looking book.

If I were to make one complaint, and it is totally out of personal taste, I am somewhat saddened by the fact that in this volume the evil ex fight totally took a back seat to the other surrounding dramas. True, the emotional aspect of this book is a big part of what makes it strong and makes it stand out as something truly special, but at the same time, c'mon, the whole premise of these books is that some regular-ass dude has to fight his lady's seven evil exes...the fights should take center stage! Well, that's not really the case here, and arguably not the case in the previous volume either. Still, I think overall, the volume suffers slightly from a further tipping of the balance towards more drama.

Putting my personal tastes aside, this is another great graphic novel. I think I've grown so accustomed to the long fantasy series that seem to inevitably experience a dip in quality, that I am surprised to see O'Malley maintain such awesomeness. Guess I should just get used to it. These graphic novels are flippin' great.

Grade: A-

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