By Chris Kromphardt
Staff Writer, Justice Administrator
Over the span of its publication Scott Pilgrim—the six-volume graphic novel series published by Oni Press, which characterizes the book as Comedy, Action, and Romance—has maintained an upward trajectory of quality. With each volume published, creator Bryan Lee O’Malley has surpassed the lofty expectations of the fans his series has accumulated; the wit and the honesty of the series are its trademarks, and all of this is on display in the series’ sublime conclusion.
Before I go any further, a few words of disclosure: I read Finest Hour twice before sitting down to review it. One could not possibly hope to be objective in the first impressions of such a personal book. Long-time fans of Scott Pilgrim—myself included—see a lot of themselves in the book and its characters. I read it once to see what happens; I read it again to see how it all happens.
The basic plot of Finest Hour involves Scott’s inevitable clash with Gideon Gordon Graves, the love-of-his-life Ramona Flowers’ seventh and final evil-ex. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling anything for fellow loyal fans—and really, who other than loyal fans are reading the final volume of the series?—but I will say that O’Malley leaves no major stones unturned. Scott Pilgrim does a better job of wrapping up plot threads than that other series’ finale this summer; you know, the one with the island.
Following in the review schema of how the story is told are a number of aspects of Finest Hour. One’s the “thud factor”. The final volume has some heft to it, which is welcome after the slim Volume 5. O’Malley indulges himself a bit with the final battle, but you know what, he’s entitled to it. Readers will be glad to take the wild ride with him—I personally enjoyed the indulgences a lot more on the second reading, when I wasn’t flying through the pages.
Less welcome indulgences come in the art. I believe an editorial mistake was made with the decision to have two artists “help” O’Malley in Finest Hour. It’s not like they’re drawing any of the main characters—strictly backgrounds, toning, and crowd characters. But you know what? These additions don’t bring anything to the story. In fact, I found them distracting on the first reading, because I was looking for the kinds of visual cues and flourishes O’Malley added in earlier volumes. The second time around I just ignored the unnecessary extra artwork by these two artists. I hope Oni enlisted them solely to make sure the book came out on time, because the differences in their styles from O’Malley’s are pretty glaring.
O’Malley’s own art, though, is gorgeous. These are his characters, plain and simple, and he doesn’t miss an emotion in the entire book. And Final Fantasy fans should recognize some action sequences. O’Malley’s the rare artist who does both the slow and the fast moments exceptionally well. It should be interesting to see what project he tackles next.
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is a fitting name for this graphic novel, on a number of levels. O’Malley and readers of his generation have grown along with the characters, and everything that made the series so idiosyncratically wonderful is here, at the end. How next month’s film adaptation will fit into the experience that began with a Plumtree song title remains to be seen. But the books will always be my Clash at the Demonhead.