I hate it when a beloved series rushes through its climax. I felt that with Y: The Last Man, and I’m currently feeling that creeping sensation with Ex Machina. Nothing worse than enjoying a series for years, anticipating the unique storytelling opportunities that only a finale can offer, and then discovering that the creators have very, *ahem* different notions of what closure means (*ahem* Lost, Battlestar, Alf, etc…)
But Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s thoroughly personal conclusion to the series (coming soon to a theatre near you), is decidedly all killer with no filler. The book has one thing on its mind, namely “what’s Scott’s problem?” O’Malley wastes little time reminding us of the trainwreck that is Scott’s post-Volume 5-life, before throttling the story ahead and forcing Scott to confront his greatest enemy: Scott. Along the way we encounter new revelations about old events, characters who’ve been MIA for several books, and a balls-out crazy battle all leading up to what is, in fact, Scott’s finest hour.
Umm, you can probably tell by this point that I’m a fan—stood in line to buy it at midnight, got O’Malley to sign my poster, all that good stuff (by the way, if you missed the party at The Beguiling in Toronto, you missed out). That aside, I really loved this book. I have a personal preference for Volume 4, but Finest Hour definitely stands among the strongest of the Pilgrim books. It’s certainly the most eventful, exciting, and introspective of the series. Go read it now. Now!
From this point on in the review, SPOILERS AHOY.
As the book opens, we sense that Scott has not moved off his couch since we left him in vs. The Universe. Ramona is long gone, he’s a shell of his former self, and Wallace wastes no time in telling him so. Stephen Stills has moved on to a new band, and it is at one of their shows* where Scott learns, definitively, that Knives is over him. After another awkward meeting with Envy Adams (from Vol 3!) Scott finally agrees to visit Kim at her parents’ up north. It is here that Scott realizes his true secret—the fact that he, Scott Pilgrim, is often kind of a dick.
While getting his heart broken, it turns out that he was doing just as much breaking (of hearts), and hasn’t really managed to learn much from it. For me, this was certainly the most resonant part of this book, perhaps of the series. Who among us can’t relate to things we’ve done to sabotage past relationships—the things we swear we’ll never do again, but then don’t really think much about until we realize we’ve done them one more time. Scott sees the common thread between his own gallery of exes, and resolves to make things right.
It’s at the one third mark that Scott man’s up, hops a Greyhound (literally, he rides on the roof) and storms into the new Toronto club owned by Gideon, Evil Ex #7 (as my girlfriend pointed out, Gideon’s club is located at Bathurst and Queen, in what used to be a homeless shelter—what a douche!) Gideon and Scott are soon battling it out until they realize that Ramona is with neither of them. From here the rest of the book is a roller coaster of personal revelations, ninja swords, and surprise team-ups.
One of the things I’ve always admired in this series is O’Malley’s unique ability to tell familiar relationship stories through the unusual lens of video game action. In Finest Hour, this talent for dramatizing personal growth through 64-hit combos is on full display. These are the long relationship conversations that everyone has had, only with added urgency, violence, and swordplay. Once Ramona returns, the story really falls into place. This was never just Scott’s story, it was always the story of Scott and Ramona. She has just as many demons to overcome, and she does so in equally powerful style.
As I said up top, I love when a story doesn’t skimp on the climax, and Finest Hour skimps on nothing. We don’t just find out what happens, but what was happening all along—what the story was about. In the end, Scott Pilgrim is about taking a stand against your own flaws, accepting help from your friends, and knowing when you have to do the work yourself. I loved the Scott’s dreams, Knive’s self-awareness, Envy’s terrifying (yet still hot) outfits, the memory cam complete with Tanooki Suit, Scott’s awesome shirt, the unexpected impaling, Gideon’s own exes, the many Ramona’s, and the pitch-perfect closing pages. If you’re still reading this review, you’re gonna read the book. So go do that. Or reread it—it’s worth it.
*Stephen Stills band’s show was at the Cameron House, the bar where my sketch troupe did a poorly-attended monthly show for a year. The attention to detail on this scene, down to the unusually low bike rack outside, made me very happy.