Welcome back to the Scott Pilgrim Book Club. We’re psyching ourselves up for Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (out now!) and the Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World movie (due out August 13) by discussing each volume of the series over the course of six weeks. This week, Douglas Wolk, Graeme McMillan, Mike Williams, Evan Narcisse, Lev Grossman and Christine Lim are talking about volume 5, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe. (And read our comments on volume 1 here! And Volume 2 here! And volume 3 here! And volume 4 here! The hits keep coming!)
DOUGLAS: This is the one where everything falls apart for the characters, while the storytelling itself is tighter than ever–how amazing is that scene where Ramona disappears into her glow? Accepting his Eisner award for “Best Humor Publication” the other night, Bryan Lee O’Malley half-joked that he didn’t think this volume was particularly funny. It’s true that it doesn’t go for the laughs like volume 4 (at least after that big party scene at the beginning: I want to go to a “Canadian politics circa 1972 but you’re secretly Batman party,” too!), but it’s still very funny, just a bleaker kind of funny, sometimes so bleak it hurts. Abhay Khosla’s piece on this volume is particularly on the money, especially on the subject of Young Neil’s descent. O’Malley shuts down pretty much any bit of glory Scott could have; I love that just as most of the fights in this volume start, the focus shifts away to what the rest of the cast is doing. Which is funny on the face of it, but also appropriate. Everybody’s lost in the funhouse.
(More on Techland: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 1)
MIKE: For me, the fights were the low point of the five books so far. What do we get? Scott vs. one crappy robot and then, later on, a slightly less crappy robot. (Although the line “Scott Pilgrim Wins the Party!” was pretty funny.) A half-assed bathroom throwdown between Knives and Ramona. And finally Scott vs. the Twins, which was only OK. I suppose we as readers have known Scott for so long at this point that we are not supposed to be excited when he gets in a fight anymore. Just like the other characters who don’t bat an eyelid when a robot shows up and starts throwing punches at Scott. It’s to be expected.
MIKE: I was just thinking that this is The Empire Strikes Back of Scott Pilgrim. In episode V, Luke loses his hand and Han gets frozen in carbonite. Here we have Scott breaking and then losing his bass, Kim moving to the boonies and then Ramona leaving. It all ends on such a down note. I had real fears that Vol. 6 was going to have Ewoks.
(More on Techland: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 2)
LEV: Empire is a good analogy — it’s a real transitional, and to me slightly disposable, book. Nothing that starts in it gets finished. It peaks early — NOM NOM NOM and “Canadian politics circa 1972” were the two big laugh lines for me. I blew through it on my way to #6.
CHRISTINE: I agree that the fight scenes didn’t do it for me in this volume. I will sing this sad song again for Vol. 6. Nothing matched the intensity and humor of Knives vs. Ramona in the Reference Library (vol. 2).
EVAN: The thing about this volume is that even though we can guess that Scott’s going to have some kind of epiphany, we can’t see how it’s coming. The only sign is when he says to Kim “Sorry about me!” You know that he’s getting a sense of who he is and who the people around him are, but you still don’t know if he’ll be able to do anything with that.
DOUGLAS: There are a lot of recognizable moments here, although they’re mostly painful recognizable moments–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lived through the horrible, rusty band practice, or forgetting the name of someone whose name took me forever to learn (Jason Kim!). And some of the character business is almost too dark to bear: Scott repeating a variation on his “I love you and I don’t care about your secrets” speech that won over Ramona in the previous volume in the fruitless hope of keeping her from leaving him, his parents bailing him out and getting him a new apartment, Knives Chau (17 years old) being ready to hear anything as an insult and following up her “we have to talk” by realizing she doesn’t know what to say, Kim Pine cheering Scott on by lying to him, Ramona trying to act all lighthearted about the fact that she’s kicking Scott out for the night.
MIKE: I’d love to say that getting unbelievably close to a proper threesome was a recognizable moment for me. It is not.
(More on Techland: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 3)