J.G. Keely's Reviews > Scott Pilgrim, Volume 5: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe

Scott Pilgrim, Volume 5 by Bryan Lee O'Malley
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's review
Aug 03, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: comics, reviewed
Read on August 03, 2010

I think what annoys me about the sort of music fandom depicted by the Scott Pilgrim characters is not simply that they value music solely because of their emotional reactions to it, but they act as if this somehow makes them special, as if their emotional connection to the music were somehow more valid than the average jugglette's.

Then there's the obsession with the rarity of music: collecting unknown bands and staking claim, which is a symptom of the fact that most trendy people don't recognize the difference between a cause and its effect. It's true that a knowledgeable musicologist or musical historian will be familiar with a number of 'undiscovered' bands, but deliberately seeking out unknowns will not make you more musically knowledgeable.

I like to listen to music while reading comics, and finding appropriate music can really change the whole experience. Blueberry, for example, is even more enjoyable with an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, and many comics suggest their own music: Conan, The Crow, Heavy Metal.

For Scott Pilgrim, however, the most obvious soundtrack just wasn't working for me. Listening to The Smiths, The Ramones, and The Stones just made me feel like a music snob. I looked for something else, but realized I also couldn't rely on bad music without invoking the annoyance of quirkily deliberate irony.

Eventually I found the perfect match in mid-nineties heavy alternative rock, which was neither critically acclaimed enough to feel pretentious, nor the right sort of cheesy to be considered ironic. While the very fact that I bothered to do this made me feel pretentious and overly-complex, the effect achieved was unnatural enough to make it worthwhile.

Each issue has been incrementally better than the last, and this one is no different. The story is more streamlined, and he takes a lot more artistic chances, usually to the general benefit of the comic.

The comic has begun to get some story creep, growing more self-referential and melodramatic, which is rather funny, since it starts rather high on the melodrama scale in the first place. In this comic, the most noticeable effect is that all of the fights occur perfunctorily, off-screen, while the characters give exposition over them.

Which is odd, since the manga fight elements are really what set the series apart, and they have been more and more minimized, while in genre-rejecting works like FLCL, the surreal aspect eventually takes over, as a natural outgrowth of heightened conflict and climax.

There's still time for this in the final volume, but it would be amusingly anticlimactic for the artificial conflict of the power fantasy to take a backseat to the melodrama, especially when it is the source of all the arbitrary resolutions to the interpersonal problems in the series.

I guess there's just something funny about a story centered on character interaction that eschews psychological progressions or conflict resolution in favor of videogame powerups and ninja battles. But then, how many self-absorbed videogame-loving assholes wish that sex and relationships were acquired and maintained by minigames and xp grinding? I'm afraid it all seems a bit sad and delusional to me.

My Suggested Reading In Comics
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