Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe!

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?



It’s awesome.

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!

32 thoughts on “Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe!

  1. Any chance a future volume will be titled Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Multiverse? I know I’m probably not the only one who thought of that, but it’s the only logical next step.

  2. Word on the street is that it’s Scott Pilgrim vs. RoboCop vs. Terminator vs. Aliens vs. Predator vs. Zombies vs. Gorillas vs. Battletoads vs. The Wild Samoans Volume Six: The Metal Years.

    But I may have dreamt that.

  3. Apologies, Chris — I’ve averted my eyes from your review. I love the Scott Pilgrim series so much that I want to go into it completely ignorant.


  4. “Word on the street is that it’s Scott Pilgrim vs. RoboCop vs. Terminator vs. Aliens vs. Predator vs. Zombies vs. Gorillas vs. Battletoads vs. The Wild Samoans Volume Six: The Metal Years.

    But I may have dreamt that.”

    Get out of Chris’s dreams and get in to my car, theoretical comic!

  5. Words cannot adequately express my excitement that this comic will be reaching stores soon. I have multiple friends who feel the same way, despite initial conversations about the book that went something like this:

    Me: “Dude, this book is awesome. Scott meets a girl who uses his head as a subspace highway and he has to fight a league of evil ex-boyfriends and he plays in a band called Sex Bob-omb and seriously READ THIS COMIC”
    Friends: “Uh, what?”

    Also, purely out of academic interest: Chris, what bribes might you accept for your early copy?

  6. I’m green with envy and red with hatred, so really it’s more a brownish yellow, but still!

  7. Am I the only person who is troubled by the fact that the 23 year old protagonist was dating a 16 or 17 year old girl? At best it’s creepy, at worst Our Hero is a statutory rapist…

  8. They only dated for a couple of weeks, and in that time, they only kissed, I think once.

    Also, every secondary character already beat you to the “creepy” point.

    What also really strikes me about Scott Pilgrim is just how much better Bryan Lee O’Malley is every time. I know that the art is relatively simplistic, but look at the fourth book, then look at the first one. Dude just gets better.

  9. I’ve mentioned this before, but…I just didn’t like this series. I picked up the first book a few months back, read it and brought it back to the store for a refund.

    My beef with it is that for most of the book, it’s kind of a cool, slice of life book with your typical off-beat character. Most of the dialogue was pretty good, but the segues between scenes was terrible. For example, he’s in the middle of a date and then suddenly, he’s in a desert. Winds up being a dream, but there was no segue when I turned the page.

    But my biggest problem with it is toward the end. All of a sudden, Scott is the greatest fighter in the world, battling it out against one of the evil ex-boyfriends in a Dragonball Z-like fight? There were hints of something more before, but I took it more to think “Okay, so Pilgram’s just a weird kid with an abundant imagination”. The characters suddenly stop speaking as they had before and it just made no sense.

    People have told me that the second volume is a lot better, but the first volume left such a bad taste in my mouth that I have no interest in checking it out further. I’ll just be one of those people who doesn’t understand the appeal of the series.

  10. NickGuy, while I understand your opinion and disagree, you’re posting in the comments section of the ISB talking about how you don’t like something Chris (and a lot of people here, me included) love.

    Can you see where this is going? Would you like to bring up Batman RIP and Terry Moore while you’re at it?

    (Interestingly I almost typed Terry Pratchett there.)

  11. Ah, that explains a lot. I could have sworn I saw something saying this had been published in December, so I’ve been scouring the shelves for it every time I hit the comic shop without any success. Now I know better.

  12. I had the same reaction to NickGuy to Volume 1 – the dance fight at the end threw me for a loop. The friends of mine who encouraged me to read the first one suggested that reading Volume 2 would help, so I did. I’m very much looking forward to volume 5, so they were right.

    I’m surprised that someone could be so put off by the end of volume 1 that they forget the pretty good story leading up to it, honestly.

  13. I’m surprised that someone could be so put off by the end of volume 1 that they took the time and gas money to drive back to the store and return it for a full refund. I mean, okay, not your bag, but yow. Are comics THAT expensive?

    The fight threw me, too. But, I already had the other volumes (I grabbed the first three on recommendation) and stuck with it, and once I got used to the twisted reality it was pretty fun. I think the issue was balance; in the following books the zaniness is mixed in evenly with the slice of life. In Book 1, it’s heavily tipped one way then heavily tipped the other. But even my favorite TV shows had uneven pilot episodes while they tried to find their footing, so hey.

  14. The fight didnt throw me, I kind of expected it (there were so many little roleplaying/computergaming references in the text that I had a feeling there’d be a level boss somewhere). But to be fair, a friend lent me volumns 1-3 all at once when I had a long train journey ahead of me, and I read them back-to-back in that single sitting, so I guess I didnt have anytime to be let down by it before starting on 2. (it deffinately is the weakest volumn in hindsite.) Anyways, 4 was the best so far (even my Dad read and liked it, and he normally cant get into sequential art storytelling. Doesn’t even watch TV or many movies), but if 5 aint quite as good I’ll still be happy.

  15. I had the exact opposite reaction: I went into it thinking it was a quirky slice-of-life book about romance (and while I generally hate those, I thought it was pretty well done and had some great jokes), and then the shift to Space Channel 5 dancefighting against Demon Hipster Chicks just made me fall in love with it.

  16. Yeah, the fight pretty much sealed my unconditional love of the series, too. It didn’t strike me as such a jarring tonal shift, but it’s been so long since I’ve read it that I can’t remember whether I knew it was coming before I bought it or not.

  17. See, I don’t even know what Space Channel 5 is, so that probably doesn’t help.

    Twoflower: I use transit, so no extra travelling cost for me. I had to go downtown in the same area that day, anyway.

    I was digging it and the geeky references (though I didn’t get all of them, maybe 90%) but I just found the fight came out of nowhere.

    One of these days, I might give it a second chance. If I can get it from the library or have a friend lend it to me, I’ll give Vol.2 a chance, but I won’t risk spending money on it again.

  18. “at worst Our Hero is a statutory rapist”

    It’s set in Canada. They only just raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 in May 2008.

  19. Though I’m probably still going to pick this one up, I’ve soured a little to this series.

    There’s two things that really annoy me: the first is Scott’s intelligence. I know that most of the time he’s supposed to come off as “clueless but lovable”, but I find that most of the time he just comes off as “punishingly rock-stupid,” which makes him hard to sympathize with.

    The second thing is Ramona’s unflinching reticence when it comes to talking about her past. I could understand her not opening up about it through the first and second books, but by the third my patience was already being strained.

    It’s like this: Scott’s risking his life fighting all these badass ex-boyfriends, and Ramona can’t even let him know *why* he has to go through this stupid ritual? Or even give him a heads-up about who he has to fight next? I don’t care how much of an indie hipster you are, that’s just fucking cold.

    “Cold” is actually how Scott and Ramona’s relationship feels to me a lot of the time. She doesn’t really trust him, and as such I have a hard time believing that she feels anything for him. Since this relationship is the focus of the story, you can understand how I’ve cooled to the books in general.

    All that being said, I’m willing to give this one a chance, now that Scott has purportedly “gotten it together.” Hell, I’d still get it even without the gotten-together-edness, because of Wallace. Wallace rules.