Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is the sixth and final installment in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim saga.
It's tough to review the last book in the series. If you’ve read the fifth volume of Scott Pilgrim, then you’ve probably read the preceding four volumes, so you don’t need to be told to pick up the sixth and final book in the series. Then again, if you haven't read the series at all, maybe you should be reading a review of volume one. Perhaps though, a final volume can be judged on how satisfying the conclusion wraps up all the stray threads the story has been laying out for lo these many years.
Despite the abundance of young people bantering about relationships while enjoying burgers and nachos, the Scott Pilgrim comics are not Archie comics. Lives, and jobs, are lost. Hearts, and bands, are broken. And then there's the casual sex. Yeah, that’s right, people get laid. Basically, Scott Pilgrim is a series that mocks hipsters as aptly as it defines them. Wait, are those hipsters, or just Canadians? I’m not even sure anymore.
The book is touted as Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. Book one was Scott's Precious Little Life, and that's exactly what it was about; the book introduced us to Scott's existence, and the people and problems that vied for space within that little life. Book two was Scott VS The World, with Scott bearing down on the challenges the world was raising up against him. Book three, And The Infinite Sadness, was about Scott’s struggle with the bad things that happen and never quite go away; wounds that never heal, heartbreaks that never stop aching. Then, in book four, Scott Got It Together – he stopped screwing around, and really made things happen. He took control of his own destiny and started really acting like a lead character, not just somebody who was swept up in the current of their own precious little life. And then, in book five, VS The Universe, the penultimate chapter, Scott really got beaten down – maybe too hard to ever get back up again.
So now we have the final installment. Is it truly Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour? The art certainly is the best of the series; the illustrations are the most fluid, the most expressive, and the most detailed that they have ever been. The storytelling is also as tight as the series has seen yet, where not a single panel or line of dialogue seems wasted, even with all the little moments (and pages) left blank. In the final volume of Scott Pilgrim’s story, the stakes are significantly higher, and it shows. In this book, unlike the preceding ones, the violence doesn't just result in coins and creature-effects – blood is spilled. Things change, and they can never be the same again. In the world of Scott Pilgrim, as perhaps it is in your own life, that which is said and seen can never be un-said or un-seen.
It's been a long six years from volume one, which came out way back in 2004, to the volume six of 2010, and as a graphic novel storyteller, O'Malley has evolved powerfully. The backgrounds of Finest Hour are often quite intricate and trippy, and involve stylish uses of the visual tropes most manga fans will be quite familiar with. The Jamie Hewlett references now find themselves sharing page-space with Junko Mizuno homages, and the details on location shots aim for greater realism than ever before.
On a personal note, volume four has always been my favorite book of the series. There's the color pages, the Kim/Knives make-out, a level up, the power of love, sword-fighting... Stylistically, each volume of SP is has tended to be superior to the one it follows, but volume five is more serious and somber than four, which is why four winds up being my long-standing fave. How about number six though? Is it really Scott's finest hour? Hard to say. It's a pretty awesome book on its own, and it’s a terrific conclusion to an incredible series. As a sequence of books, Scott Pilgrim turns out a lot like sex; it ends with both a whimper, and a bang.
All that said, Scott Pilgrim’s finest hour is certainly his final one as well. The book is sad, funny, and strong, and the ending leaves a reader satisfied, but wanting more – which hopefully bodes well for O'Malley's next project. Luckily for us readers, I suspect that Bryan Lee O'Malley's finest hour is still at least a couple of decades away, giving us lots of great new work to look forward to.