Scott Pilgrim Volume 5
The usually silly and video-game-nostalgia filled comic Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley takes a sharp turn in the penultimate fifth volume, "Vs. The Universe," putting away most of the series' fun and games for heart breakingly real moments. Before even opening the book, although not clear from the picture above, Volume 5 has a shiny cover, heralding the coming changes and surprises Scott and the gang will have to face.
Each manga style (but not format, it's still read left to right) volume has had Scott Pilgrim fighting for Ramona Flowers's (she's American) love, by having to fight one of her seven evil exboyfriends, who haven't all been "boy" friends. Volume after volume, we've seen Scott literally fight for Ramona's love--while avoiding the fact that he cheated on his previous girlfriend to get with her--in huge fight scenes at parties, on the streets, and at his band, The Sex Bob-ombs', shows. What none of these exboyfriends realizes though is that Scott is "the best fighter in the province," flying through the air DragonBall Z style to take down one more dude, in hopes of keeping Ramona around.
It's hard to talk about one volume without talking about the series as a whole. I first saw this comic and shrugged it off, the drawings were cute and it seemed like ironic video game bullshit, like a kid wearing a shirt with an NES controller that says "OLD SCHOOL" on it. My initial reaction was wrong, Scott Pilgrim is much more than an immature comic about love and video games. Through the five volumes Scott grows, not into a functioning adult per se, but into someone that understands there are consequences to things, especially in this last volume where Ramona ends up leaving him, unceremoniously.
Scott Pilgrim's characters live in our world, specifically Toronto, but the laws of physics and reality don't apply. They all have a sense of "comic awareness" about them, acknowledging things like the glow around surprised characters, guffawing at Scott fighting robots, and the exboyfriends have "finishing moves".
Hidden behind all the nerdity, Scott Pilgrim is a complicated but familiar story about dealing with everyone else your girlfriend's ever gotten with. Fighting the different exes is something that we deal with when with someone who's intimidatingly beautiful, interesting, or has just plain done more with their life than we have. Scott is a slacker in an okay band who sorta has a job and shares his best friend's bed, which is only really weird because he's gay. Couch hopping just isn't a good look.
All of Ramona's previous relationships have been with accomplished people, but have ultimately been awful. In Scott's brain it's hard to measure up to all of these attractive, successful people, but if he'd just be confident, he could be the best boyfriend she's ever had. Scott doesn't allow himself to see that what he has on all the others is that he doesn't see Ramona as just a prize--he actually loves her. Ramona becomes frustrated when Scott goes to fight these evil exes, almost as if she doesn't want him to and is mad that he'd even acknowledge them. He has her, they don't matter anymore, Scott needs to understand that.
One of the most notable things in the volume is the sex scene between Ramona and Scott shortly after a party. It's perverse in it's simplicity and frankness, blacks and grays hide almost everything, giving you just enough. It really feels like when you're fumbling drunk in the dark, it's honest, but not as honest as the conversation that takes place after where Scott finally fesses up to having cheated on his previous girlfriend with Ramona.
After fighting off more of the evil exes, Scott comes home to find a short-haired Ramona--her new hairstyle obviously coming from her form of self mutilation--and Scott and Ramona have what may be their last conversation, Ramona disappearing in a whiteout. This chapter appropriately named "The Glow, pt. 2", leaves Scott heartbroken and Ramona changing cities, and possibly boyfriends, again. She continues to run from her problems and Scott continues to not deal with his own.
#5 is the stand-out volume so far, O'Malley truly understands his characters at this point and cares for them, his simple drawings feel tighter this time around while still being simple pictures you could draw yourself. The sadness of of "Vs. The Universe" leaves you wondering where the series is going--if Ramona will come back or be gone forever. The major bonus in this one though, is the Brandon Graham pin up in the back!
The volume ends with Scott getting an apartment from his parents, which is a pretty classic move of parents of a slacker, and a call from Gideon, Ramona's last boyfriend, and the only remaining evil ex. The biggest difference between Gideon and the other exes is that he may not be so evil, he may have just been a boy she dated who was actually nice, which for a girl like Ramona is worse than some asshole. Stability is scary for people who like to run from things, it means responsibility and structure. It means adulthood, and we all know that's not what the comic is about.