Bryan Lee O'Malley's Finest Hour


How good is Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour?

This good:

Unlike the last time I used this trick, though, the above picture isn't an easy way out review of a pretty cool but also pretty substance-less Marvel crossover event- no, Finest Hour is, in fact, one of the most well-written, best drawn, most satisfying comics of the year so far. Bryan Lee O'Malley, amazingly, brings his epic twentysomething slacker love story to a clean close: most of the plot threads are tied up (including threads that we didn't even know existed!), Scott drops the modifier from Young Neil's name, fights Gideon, gets the girl, and, in what could have been a horribly clichéd ending that O'Malley turns delightfully on its head, lives happily ever after, etc.

All that's impressive, for sure, but what's really cool is how we get there and the depth and maturity that the slacker epic shows in its conclusion. It would be easy, extremely easy, to write off Scott Pilgrim as just another moody story about moody youngsters being horny, shallow, hip and, well, moody. Instead, the series as a whole deals with its oft-maligned subject in an incredibly clever and always surprising way. Although the titular character often devolves into stormy angst, the supporting cast (Wallace and Stace, in particular) always serve as a foil for Scott's moments, reminding him (and the readers) just how out of touch our hero can be. This restraint is particularly true of Finest Hour- in which the subject matter is more consciously angst and groan-inducing and which could have easily used schmaltz and self-pity as crutches- when O'Malley turns the characters' pain, their damaged views of themselves and their world, into physical manifestations that have consequences, both good and bad, in the real world. The book (in what is actually a natural progression from what has come before, if something of a sudden extrapolation from that previous trajectory) literally lets its characters wrestle with their demons and- more often than not- we get to see them win. We get to see the moments of realization on their faces, the looks of pure joy or sadness or, best of all, understanding. It's really in these scenes where O'Malley's art and his writing work as one and while this synthesis has been clear in the past volumes, in Finest Hour we have a rare example of the form.

In fact, everything about this comic is in rare form- Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour is, in many ways, a perfect piece of sequential literature: I've read it through twice and skimmed through it many more times than that and each time it gets better, each time I catch something I missed before, whether another of the ubiquitous Zelda logos in the book's last act or an Easter-egg call back to other parts of the series. O'Malley's art, steeped as always in manga and video games, cycles through so many different styles, levels of detail, and line weights it's a marvel that he makes it seem so effortless, that his narrative is so coherent. There's always something new to discover in this art, always something that we didn't see the first time.

His writing, too, is full of treats and surprises and, while I'm going to limit what I share, the book's last act is as much about his readers as it is about his characters- everyone's had their heart broken. Everyone's blamed someone else, forgotten their own behavior, and had to come to terms with all of that. Some us get through better than others but- like Scott and Ramona- we all learn to live with it or- like Gideon- we perish.

I truly believe that the best heroes are those heroes we see ourselves in and I'm glad to say that I see myself in Scott Pilgrim, particularly in his Finest Hour. Bryan Lee O'Malley wrote a hell of a series and he ended it in spectacular fashion- this is a book I want to share with my friends and, eventually, my kids. Scott Pilgrim is a classic, and Finest Hour cements its legacy.

If you haven't read these before, I suggest you get to it before the movie comes out in three weeks- I promise it will be worth your while.

A quick note about how excited I was for this book- I went on a LCS run on a TUESDAY just to make sure I got a copy. That's how excited I was. And it was totally worth it.

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