About a year ago, I first started my six-part nostalgia-laden review of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novels (read Part One here!) and had an absolute blast revisiting each of these amazing books with the gorgeous Color Editions from Oni Press. At the time, I had no idea that a year later Netflix would be announcing an upcoming anime series based on the original comics, which is really fitting, especially considering the heavy Japanese manga influence throughout each of the volumes!
I really enjoyed revisiting this series and it held up surprisingly well for me. I have to admit, I was hesitant to read Volume 6, because I didn’t want it to be over. I’m glad I finally did though, because “Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour” might really be the best one in the series!
It’s All Lead To This!
As I’ve already covered extensively in the first five parts, this series is really about how we’re all the hero of our own stories, but that doesn’t always make us right. The Scott Pilgrim saga has been a wild ride of frenetic randomness, nostalgic references to retro gaming, and a hilarious, but thoughtful examination of overcoming the trauma of past relationships. This one brilliantly builds on everything set up in the first five books, weaving the entire story together in one massive conclusion.
The final volume picks up after Ramona Flowers has vanished, leaving Scott to look after her cat named ‘Gideon’, named after her Seventh (and final) Evil-Ex-Boyfriend who taunted Scott with an ominous phone call, asking when he would like to die. Instead of rushing off to confront Gideon however, Scott decides to play some video games. Wallace tries to convince him to get off his butt and date someone, “You need to move on, Scott. Some hot douchey guy stole your girlfriend. Forget her. Get over it. I’m over it.”
Scott Pilgrim and the Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past!
Scott has a symbolic nightmare of being stabbed through the heart by an angelic Ramona before being attacked by demonic versions of his previous girlfriends: Kim Pine, Envy Adams, and Knives Chau!
Shortly after, Scott runs into Knives at a bar, where she reveals that she’s now 18. In one of the most awkward exchanges of all time, Scott tries to hook up with her, and she gently reminds him that he was kind of a crummy boyfriend who cheated on her before dumping her, and that she’s moved on. For the first time, Scott starts to reexamine his somewhat biased POV.
Next, Scott has an even more awkward encounter with Envy Adams at a party and they decide to go out for coffee. Envy asks him about Ramona and he flips out. She tells him “You make me out to be some kind of villainess. We were practically kids when we dated, Scott, and it’s not like you were some paragon of virtue.” Later, she reminds him of the fight they had on New Year’s Eve, the fight that *he* started. Scott tells her, “I remember you breaking my heart” and she responds, “The feeling is somewhat mutual.”
Scott then heads up to his parents place, where he meets up with Kim. The two have a heartfelt talk in the woods, but Scott ruins the moment by kissing her. Kim says “Don’t you remember high school? It wasn’t all cute movie-romance junk, Scott.” She goes on to explain that he never even told her he was moving, that she heard it from Lisa, and when he brings up that he ‘saved her’ from Simon, we find out that Simon was her boyfriend at the time, and that Scott actually bullied him!
The Final Evil Ex?
Before Scott can face off against his arch-nemesis, Gideon, he must first face… himself?!
It turns out that Scott might not be the hero that he always thought he was. After reexamining his past relationships, Scott is confronted with the manifestation of his shadow self: “NEGA-SCOTT”!
As Scott faces off against Nega-Scott, Kim Pine shouts from the sidelines “If you keep forgetting your mistakes, you’ll just keep making them again!” To which Scott retorts, “I don’t care! It’s better than having to live with myself!” Scott suddenly snaps out of it, and starts to come to terms with his past. He finally realizes that he’s just an evil ex-boyfriend waiting to happen!
To me, this is the thing that really makes Scott Pilgrim so brilliant. It plays off the notion that we are all the hero of our own stories, and that also goes for those who we perceive as the ‘villains’. It’s not a transcendent concept by any means, but the fact that Scott turns out to be an unreliable narrator in the last chapter, really gives the whole story an extra layer of meaning, and causes us to pause and reflect on our own choices, our own narratives.
After coming to terms with ‘Nega-Scott’, Kim tells him to fight for Ramona, wishing him good luck, so he returns to Toronto to face off against his nemesis…
Enter: The Chaos Theater!
Now, after facing off against the likes of Matthew Patel (Vol 1), Lucas Lee (Vol 2), Todd Ingram (Vol 3), Roxie Richter (Vol 4), and the Katayanagi Twins (Vol 5) – in a series of epic, over-the-top battles, Scott Pilgrim must now contend with the leader of “The League of the Seven Deadly Exes” – Gideon Graves himself!
Scott shows up to Gideon’s new club in Toronto: ‘The Chaos Theater’! Envy is putting on a performance and uses the lyrics to warn Scott that Gideon is behind him! Scott and Gideon finally square off mono y mono. We get a great call back to “The Empire Strikes Back” when Gideon offers him a chance to join the League of Evil Exes – “Join me, Scott, and I will complete your training! Together we can rule Ramona’s future love life!” to which he retorts, “I’ll never join you!!!”
And then, Gideon stabs him… and he dies?!
Scott then wakes up in Ramona’s dreamscape where she tells him “You’re not dead, you’re just having some idiotic dream.” The two have a really sweet heart to heart. She apologizes to him for running off, and explains that she had to find herself. Then Scott realizes that he got an Extra Life back in Vol 3, and springs back into action, this time with Ramona at his side!
2 Player Mode
Gideon reveals his evil (creepy) master plan to cryogenically freeze all of his ex-girlfriends, and that Ramona is next. Ramona and Gideon go at it, and she tells him “Why do you even want me back? You spent our whole relationship pushing me away! You didn’t want me until I left!” After Gideon gains the upper hand, Ramona reveals that Gideon *literally* has a way of getting insider her head, so Scott uses the 5th dimensional portal in her purse to confront Gideon’s ‘final form’ inside her mindscape!
Which leads into one of the best moments in the entire series – when Ramona stands up to Gideon: “You know, you’re right. Part of me does still belong to you. But the other parts of me are finished with you!”
An army of Ramona variants stand defiantly against Gideon. Ramona earns the power of love, healing her wounds, while Scott earns the “power of understanding” (which unlocks a cool new t-shirt), and the two team-up to take down Gideon once and for all. Fighting in sync, with their powers combined, Scott and Ramona are finally able to defeat Gideon – who promptly explodes into a torrential downpour of seven million dollars in coins!
Scott Pilgrim Gets Closure
In the aftermath of the final boss battle, Envy Adams steps back into frame, but instead of fighting, Envy gives Scott a hug!
Together, they free Gideon’s Ex-Girlfriends from suspended animation, who are all very confused, then Ramona and Scott have another talk in the elevator, where she confesses her fear of change, and how she always tries to outrun them. Scott reassures her, “Maybe we just need to hold on.” “I’ve never been good at holding on,” she says, to which he responds, “Hey, you’ll get it. It just takes practice.”
We get a random bit with Scott’s new band, “Shatterband” (which is either a reference to Blofeld’s alias, ‘Shatterhand’ in the Bond book, “You Only Live Twice”, or the 1991 NES game ‘Shatterhand’), doing a cover of Smash Mouth’s “I’m a believer”. And the book ends with Scott and Ramona deciding to try again, walking through a sub-space doorway, holding hands.
That Ending: Comic vs Movie (and Game)
As I’ve mentioned before, Edgar Wright’s 2010 film, “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” is an amazing adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic series, but as much as the movie draws from the comic, they’re still very different in a few ways, especially towards the end.
While the ending set piece is still the Chaos Theater, with Scott fighting Gideon in a final boss battle, with lots of nods to both the comic and the video games that inspired it, the climax of the graphic novel is a lot more nuanced and character driven. The entire second half of the last volume takes place at the Chaos Theater, whereas the movie just has the one action sequence for the finale.
In the movie, Scott realizes he has to first gain the power of self respect to defeat Gideon, and at one point Ramona and Knives both tag team in to help. In the book, the story really becomes more about Ramona overcoming her past, and finding her inner strength to stop Gideon from controlling her life. Although the movie does end on a similar scene with Scott and Ramona deciding to start over between walking through the portal together, the original ending actually had Scott ending up with Knives!
The game on the other hand actually has 7 different alternate endings for each playable character! (with Ramona’s being the true, canonical ending)
Ultimately, the Scott Pilgrim saga is about both Scott and Ramona realizing the mistakes in their past relationships, overcoming their trauma, and deciding to do better going forward. Gideon, and all the other evil ex-boyfriends are the personification of the toxic masculinity that Scott has to overcome in himself. Scott is a very relatable and likeable character, he’s nerdy and has a good heart, but he’s also a very flawed character (also relatable). What makes him a hero though, is that he owns up to his baggage and chooses to rise above it, rather than succumb to it. And I think it’s a fantastic allegory that really resonates even more, over a decade later.
As good as Edgar Wright’s movie was, they still had to cut a lot of material from O’Malley’s original story to make it work, but with Netflix’s up and coming anime series, we might finally get the true adaptation that fans have always wanted!
In the meantime though, absolutely give these books a read, whether it’s the original black and white versions, or the fancy hardcover color editions, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim is an amazing comic series. (And the video game is pretty awesome too!)
Review by Erik Slader