Welcome to the conclusion of the Scott Pilgrim Book Club. We’ve been reading 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 6, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour. (And read our comments on volume 1 here! And Volume 2 here! And volume 3 here! And volume 4 here! And volume 5 here! Good: now you’re all caught up.) Be warned: spoilers lurk within.
DOUGLAS: I can’t think of a more natural storyteller than O’Malley working in English-language comics right now, or one more willing to break his own rules and make up new ones as he goes along. This volume flows faster than Twista: I think the first time I read it, I raced through it in about half an hour, and I had to force myself to slow down and savor it on rereading.
Thematically, though, I don’t know what to make of Finest Hour as a conclusion. I fear I was one of those people who figured that this was ultimately going to be the story of Scott getting back together with Kim Pine–the “comedy of remarriage” thing I was going on about a few weeks ago. (I’m happy about where their relationship ends up, though; that was satisfying.) Kim still seems to be a substantively rendered personality in a way that Ramona still doesn’t, which is why I don’t quite get why Ramona and Scott get to leap through the magic portal together at the end. And the second half of the book is effectively one big fight scene, which is formally appropriate for this kind of story in some ways, but O’Malley had been doing such an interesting job of getting around the fight scenes in the last couple of volumes that I was really hoping he’d pull some kind of switchup here too. (I honestly don’t understand the whole Nega-Scott business, but then I never understood the Anti-Monitor either. I also had some problems wrapping my brain around the “literally inside my head”/glow/subspace highway routine, although I kind of enjoy the confusion of metaphor and literalism there.)
(More on Techland: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 1)
GRAEME: I’m also one of the people who doesn’t necessarily get the head glow and how it connects to everything else, even on a re-read. The head glows when Gideon is inside? Is that it? But I love that we do get such a fight scene that takes up pretty much half of the book, purely because the last couple of books had avoided the fights. It makes this one seem bigger and more important, somehow, because we’ve been “starved” of them for that time… also, wouldn’t it have felt a bit of a letdown if there really hadn’t been a climactic final battle between Scott and Gideon after all this time? As much as I love the other swerves O’Malley throws into the book, I would’ve felt a little cheated if that hadn’t made its way in somehow.
CHRISTINE: I agree that a showdown with Gideon was necessary, but it just didn’t meet my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I was impressed by the sword play and stabbing, but there was too much talking–explaining, really. I just didn’t want to hear (read) every last detail of Gideon’s master plan (or lack thereof). I missed the one-liners and snark from earlier volumes. I guess this volume had to grow up in order to ask Scott to.
(More on Techland: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 2)
GRAEME: Have you seen the movie? In some ways, the actual fight with Gideon works better in the movie, for me.
CHRISTINE: I have not seen the movie yet!!
MIKE: The Head Glow is when you’re inside your own head. It’s a very visual representation of being extremely self involved. Shortly after Scott glows for the first time, Nega-Scott shows up. I took it as a heavy handed metaphor for inner demons. Self-doubt, self-pity, etc., etc.
DOUGLAS: But wait: I want to note the great stuff that’s specific to this volume–the little victories that are on practically every page. That next-to-last scene, with the wretched punk rock version of “I’m a Believer”? That is the best possible skewering of the closing credits of every comedy made in the last fifteen years.
CHRISTINE: When they started singing “I’m a Believer,” all I could think of was Shrek.
DOUGLAS: Also, the strategically placed power-of-love sword on the cover: love does give you balls! And Scott and Knives’ makeout scene (“BUT IT WAS HORRIBLE/FOR EVERYONE/AND THAT INCLUDES YOU”), and the return of Gideon the cat (whose expression as Scott clutches him is priceless), and the “memory cam,” and the humiliation of wearing Gideon’s shirt, and the huge captions that just say ANYWAY, and “no, I’m pretty sure you’re worse, dude.”
And of course all the relationship-dynamics stuff is dead-on: one of the things that makes O’Malley’s writing special isn’t just the characters but the way particular pairs of them relate to each other. I love the idea that Wallace, as supportive as he is, isn’t actually the best influence: telling Scott to go get laid is genuinely bad advice in this case.