Warning: This review ABSOLUTELY contains spoilers for both the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the entire Scott Pilgrim comic book saga.
Tension is mounting in Scott Pilgrim’s world! At the end of Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, Scott and Ramona have finally gotten some peace in the wake of Roxie Richter’s defeat. But the next evil exes are approaching – the Katayanagi twins – and they’re a force to be reckoned with. Will Scott be able to defeat them and, at the same time, keep things stable with Ramona? It’s not going to be easy, but then, love never is
Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe has a sort of episodic feel to its structure, as much of the action takes place at various theme parties held by Stephen Stills’ ex-girlfriend Julie Powers. The book opens with Scott’s birthday and then immediately shifts the story to the first of Julie’s costume parties, this one in celebration of Halloween. As Scott, Ramona and Kim all snark about Julie having a theme party every weekend, Kyle and Ken Katayanagi enter…with their attack robot! They immediately send the robot after Scott and harass Ramona as he gets pummelled. Scott manages to finish off the bot, but he knows that things aren’t finished with the evil exes yet. Sex Bob-omb is still recording and therefore not practicing, and everyone except Stephen is starting to grow impatient. Stephen grudgingly accepts a gig offer at Sneaky Dee’s, but the band is out of practice and not looking forward to it. When the night of the gig arrives, it is revealed that the whole gig was a set up by the twins to lure Scott Pilgrim out of hiding so that another robot can kick his ass! As Knives confronts Ramona in the bathroom to tell her that Scott cheated on them both, Scott easily dispatches the robot…but breaks his bass guitar in the process. Ramona kicks Scott out for the night, angry at him because of what Knives told her (but she’s not going to let him know that), and Scott is forced to spend the night with Wallace. Scott keeps deluding himself into thinking everything is alright and Ramona just needs a bit of space, even after he is forced to crash on Kim’s couch the following night. Scott managed to convince Kim to trick Ramona into meeting with him, which works, and Kim comments on how Ramona’s head glows when she’s distressed. Turns out the glow can be seen by everyone, not just Scott, and Scott and Kim wonder about what it means. Scott, Ramona and Kim attend another Julie Powers party, and once again the twins show up, this time with the biggest robot yet! Scott defeats the robot as Kim and Ramona talk about him, then the three of them get raging drunk together and stagger off home. On the way home, however, Kim is kidnapped by the twins! Meanwhile, Ramona confronts Scott about what Knives said, and they go to bed angry at eachother. Scott awakens to an empty bed and a text message saying that Kim has been kidnapped, and rushes off to find her. At a construction site, future home of the Chaos Theatre, Scott battles the twins and frees Kim. But when he returns home, he finds that Ramona has disappeared entirely. The phone rings, Scott answers…and Gideon asks him when he’d like to die.
This volume in the Scott Pilgrim saga has a really good balance between relationship drama and action. The gimmick of having the twins fight using robots is a good one, because it allows for more fights without introducing more exes. These fights are also a lot of fun because Scott and whichever robot he’s fighting aren’t actually the focal point of the scenes. Instead, the comic focusses on what Ramona, Kim, Knives and other side characters are doing during the fight. It’s almost as though Bryan Lee O’Malley was looking for a way to keep Scott busy so that they other characters could talk about him more freely, and it works really well. The twins make excellent adversaries for Scott, for they employ just as much psychological warfare as they do physical. As Scott begins to doubt himself, his fighting abilities weaken, and it’s only through encouragement from Kim that he’s able to win the day and free her. It’s a really interesting dynamic, and it sets the twins apart from the other exes most effectively.
The fight between Scott and the twins for Kim’s release is particularly noteworthy because Scott is fighting to save his friend (and ex-girlfriend) instead of Ramona. Scott still cares for Kim, but even more remarkable is that Kim cares for Scott so much that she fakes an encouraging text message from Ramona in order to bolster his confidence. When Kim says the text message reads “She can’t wait for you to come home. She believes in you,” she is actually confessing her own feelings towards Scott. This text not only gives Scott the power to defeat the twins, but it convinces the twins that Ramona has changed. But has she? We’ll get to that in the final volume.
The Glow is another neat plot element that gets reintroduced in this volume. In previous volumes it was commented on as sort of a meta-joke about how the story all takes place in a comic book and is aware of itself, but here the Glow actually begins to have significance. It’s a nice touch to give something so specific to the medium of comics meaning where none is found in most cases, and it illustrates how nothing is wasted in the Scott Pilgrim books. Every little comic book device, movie cliche, music trope and character moment that occurs serves a purpose, and will often be referenced again as the story progresses.
This book sees Scott and Ramona’s relationship finally reach a breaking point. Scott has been fighting non-stop to keep the relationship alive, but when Ramona suddenly pulls away from him it forces him to stop the action to really consider how he’s been treating the people in his life. Scott has been denying his own bad behaviour for so long now that he’s forgotten all about it, and when a jarring event like the disappearence of his girlfriend occurs, it brings him back to earth in a big way. The fact that this volume begins with Scott’s birthday is no coincidence – Scott is becoming a man, and beginning to take responsibility for himself. He’s starting to understand just how dire the consequences to his actions are, and as a result, he’s growing. But he hasn’t fully grown yet.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe is another terrific book in the Scott Pilgrim series. Things are ramping up to a big finale in volume 6, and with Ramona gone, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Will Sex Bob-omb pull it together and find success? Can Sex Bob-omb even exist without Scott and his bass? Where is Ramona? Will Scott defeat Gideon? This volume is basically The Empire Strikes Back of the Scott Pilgrim saga, and is definitely one of the best. As I have with all the Scott Pilgrim books, I highly recommend checking this one out!
5 out of 5
Coming soon: Gill’s review of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour