Saturday, August 15, 2009

Scott Pilgrim, Volumes 4 and 5

The fourth volume of the offbeat, humorous Scott Pilgrim series opens with a short, full-color introduction that made me wish that all the books could be in color. It is summertime, and Scott is at the beach with his friends to celebrate Julie's birthday.

Back in the city, there are many interesting changes in store for Scott: he gets a job, realizes he's really and truly in love with Ramona, is chased by a mysterious ninja with a samurai sword, gets in touch with an old high school friend, records an album with his band, moves out of his apartment and into a new living situation, and finally understands why Ramona always refers to her past lovers as her "evil exes" - not her "evil ex-boyfriends." Pandemonium, spiritual growth, and action-packed fight scenes ensue.

The latest and 5th volume in the series, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, opens on Scott's 24th birthday. The evil exes that Scott must fight in this volume show up at Julie's Day of the Dead party (one in an apparently long line of parties she's been throwing at her new studio apartment). The exes are twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi - but when Scott tries to fight them, they attack him with a robot they've made.

Some issues crop up that threaten Scott and Ramona's relationship - his prior relationship with 17-year-old Knives, for one thing - and the book ends on an unfinished note that will leave the reader impatient to get to volume 6. Unfortunately that one hasn't been published yet, so it's going to be at tough wait. It will, however, be the final installment of the series, and I am confident it will end with a satisfying conclusion.

This is such a fun and quirky series. I like that the characters develop from one volume to the next, and that each book never fails to surprise me. I never know where things are going, and I love that. It tickles me the way the series is firmly based in modern-day Toronto, complete with pop culture and geographical landmarks - but there is also this offbeat fantasy element to it, with Ramona taking shortcuts through Scott's head, and the way she goes into his Legend of Zelda-inspired dream talk to him (and poke fun of his juvenile dreams). The video-game imagery is also appealing - as in the image below when Scott is dying of thirst but has no money at all for something to drink.

I do find the characters to be difficult to differentiate at times, particularly as their hairstyles and clothing tend to change quite a bit from book to book. Luckily, there's a handy diagram on the inside cover that lists characters with their pictures and relevant characteristics, and I found it very useful. I think this series would appeal to many different kinds of readers - those who like manga stories about friends, relationships, pop culture, romance and music; those who like offbeat, quirky tales; and those who appreciate a dash of the fantastical - not to mention a bit of twisted, intelligent humor.

The Scott Pilgrim movie is scheduled to be released in 2010, and I am very much looking forward to seeing this engaging story depicted on the big screen.

Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (#4 in the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series) by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press, 2007)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (#5 in the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series) by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press, 2009)
Also reviewed at:
Girl Detective: "I also think it’s the best-done to date–the plot is tight, as is the art. Nothing feels rushed or sloppy."
Stacked: "I think part of what is so great about the story is that, despite the alterna-reality the characters live in, there is always something relatable in each of them for the reader."


  1. I really liked the first book. Too bad the library doesn't have the rest. I will have to buy them sometime down the road. :)

  2. Kailana - If you liked the first one, I'm confident you won't be disappointed by the rest. I hope you'll be able to find them at a good price. :-)

  3. Yes, how about that ending of book 5, huh? I am all full of worry for Scott. But he'll be fine, because... he's Scott Pilgrim!

    I do enjoy how messy the relationships are. Knives and Young Neil, Knives and Scott, Knives and Stillman, Stillman and Julie, Scott and Kim, and all the secondary characters - it's all a bit soap opera-ish, but at the same time I think it does depict how convoluted and confusing relationships can be for older teens and young twentysomethings.

  4. Kiirstin - I completely agree! And I love how you can tell that O'Malley's having a ton of fun with the whole thing, never taking it (or himself) too seriously. :-)


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