Your eyes do not deceive you, folks: The fifth volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series doesn’t hit shelves for a couple of weeks yet, but thanks to the good people in Oni’s marketing department, I’ve gotten an advance copy to review!
And short version?
As for the long version, well, let’s start with the negatives: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe is not as purely enjoyable as Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, which marks the first time in the series that the latest book doesn’t just blow away its predecessor. But to be fair, Gets It Together isn’t just the best of the series thus far, but one of my favorite comics of all time, so it makes a pretty tough act to follow.
At the same time, SP v.5 really couldn’t be any other way. Volume 4 was exactly what it said on the cover–the story of Scott finally getting his life together and learning The Power Of Love–and as such, it marks a big emotional turning point for the story for Scott himself, and it leads naturally into a story that raises the stakes. He’s the one that gets it together, he’s the one that learns to accept Ramona and his feelings for her, he’s the one that steps up and has a talk with Knives Chau’s dad, and in this one, he’s the one who has to deal with everything around him falling apart.
If you’ve been following the series so far–and really, you oughtta be–then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this one. The basic beats that make the series so fun (menacing exes, people being hit so hard that they turn into change, sub-space highways) are all here, but with a shift in tone that sees the past catching up with Scott and Ramona in some pretty significant ways that can’t always be dealt with by a handy video game reference.
It’s fitting then that while Scott spends more time fighting in this volume than ever before, very little of it’s actually shown on-panel. Instead, O’Malley shifts the focus to the supporting cast while the big fights rage in the background, and while this can be a little disappointing at first if you–like me–have been hoping to see Scott throw down on a bunch of robots for the past fourteen months, the tradeoff is a deeper emotional undercurrent. At this point, we already know that Scott’s going to win any fight he gets into, and by taking that as a foregone conclusion and using the time to set up the other aspects of the story, O’Malley’s asking a different question: Sure, the hero fights hard and gets the girl, but what happens after? What if they go through all that and it doesn’t work out?
It’s an interesting change from the more lighthearted tone that the book started with, but that’s what made it such a good read to begin with, and what continues to keep me hooked, to the point where I’m honestly regretting that we’re this close to the end.
So while this one might not have the pop of the last volume, it’s every bit as awesome.
Like I said, a review copy of Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe was provided by the publisher, but it’s scheduled to hit shelves at your friendly local comic book store starting February 4, and probably reputable online retailers shortly thereafter. So buy it already!