DOUGLAS: Graeme, I think I was less interested in “how this is going to turn out for the characters I love” than in OMIGOSH IT’S A NEW BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY BOOK SQUEEEE. (With The Invisibles, I was much more invested in how it was going to come out, and if the secret of the universe was actually going to be explained, etc.) I kind of can’t imagine O’Malley doing a book I don’t like at this point.
CHRISTINE: Which is your favorite Ramona? Mine is goggles-on-top-of-head Ramona.
EVAN: Man. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t find the book for like ten days, or because I’ve had a crappy week-and-a-half, but Finest Hour made my heart swell in my chest x 3. I want to start with the ending. O’Malley doesn’t give us a happy ending. He gives us a hopeful ending. An ending where two people who aren’t one-dimensional manifestations of all good or all bad have a chance to forge a future together.
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I was honestly surprised at the way the themes of personal responsibility and self-awareness get rooted in the characters of Scott and Ramona in this volume. At some point in your life, you’ve gotta grow your own maturity, and I never thought those crazy kids would pull it off. Every character in this book feels like they wind up where there supposed to be. Even Stephen Stills, who gets the most head-spinning turnaround, reads like he’s just so much more comfortable in his own skin.
DOUGLAS: And it’s not even really a turnaround: it’s foreshadowed almost from the get-go. Look at all his scenes earlier in the series with Joseph and Julie, and at Young Neil’s nasty snap in volume 5, and at Knives cracking up in this volume when Scott suggests that she’s got a thing for Stephen… Scott’s just been being oblivious, and since we’ve gotten to see most of the series from his perspective, so have we! [This is pretty similar to my own therapy--ed.]
EVAN: I’m not quite sure what kind of endgame I was expecting for Scott and Ramona romantically. I kinda figured Scott’s grown-up-ness would come at the cost of a poignant break-up with Ramona as they both realized that who they’ve been prohibits them from being together. I’m glad we didn’t get that, though, as it would’ve made all the fighting pointless.
Stylistically, I really enjoyed how the manga influence that kind of burned off as the series went on makes a triumphant return here. The cute chibi flashbacks and the overwrought anime fight sequence in brainspace aren’t just great on their own. They rock because of how O’Malley uses them. Isn’t memory just a shrunken, good-times-only gloss on stuff that actually happened? At least sometimes?
And how about that action, huh? The impaling, the dying, the slicing-Scott-in-half-Voltron-style… it all made the stuff in the past five volumes look like exhibition matches. To put it in *ahem* video game terms, the fight in Finest Hour took things from Street Fighter II to Mortal Kombat (the new one!). But, again, it works because it’s the fight of everyone’s life, for Gideon, Scott and Ramona. And I love that the lovebirds are bickering in the final showdown. That was such a real moment for me, because you can’t always agree with your main squeeze. You can’t assume everything’s always going to be in sync, even at the most important moments. [This is what happens in my therapy sessions, btw. --ed.] But, despite all that, you can hold hands and find someone to make that subspace jump with.
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MIKE: I did appreciate the return to the giant fight set piece after the rather subdued vol. 5. (And, honestly, maybe we needed that break in vol. 5). As someone who hasn’t seen the movie yet, I’m really looking forward to how the cryogenic crystal ex-girlfriend machine will be done. I really loved the design of that contraption in the book. I loved it even more when it powered down and lowered the chambers to the floor on those thick cables. If I read the afterword correctly, one of the backup artists designed that thing?
On a related note the pattern filling on Envy, especially near the beginning of the volume, was gorgeous. The style has come such a long way from vol. 1.
DOUGLAS: No kidding. It’s pretty obvious that O’Malley had art assistants working on this volume, but that’s fine with me: “change is what we get” in the look of Scott Pilgrim too, and it’s not like the virtues I associate with O’Malley’s artwork have gone away. Comics could use a few more Gerhards. I imagine that O’Malley’s going to have a lot of pressure to revisit the Scott Pilgrim cast and style over the next few decades; as much as I would also like to see The Further Adventures of Kim Pine, I hope he doesn’t unless he feels like it. I really want to see what he does next.