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Vroom Socko here. It was several days after the Fourth of July when I recieved a cryptic email regarding the concluding volume of the Scott Pilgrim series, SCOTT PILGRIM'S FINEST HOUR. I was told to show up under the Hawthorne Bridge on MLK if I wanted a chance to read this final installment before anyone else. I was also told to come alone.
Vroom Socko goes behind the scenes at ONI Press
& reviews SCOTT PILGRIM Vol.6!!!
Seeing as how I had just reread the first five volumes in anticipation of the movie, and that I had recently rated SCOTT PILGRIM as one of the best comics of the past decade, I leapt at the chance, although I wasn't sure if I'd be receiving a copy right then and there from a disgruntled shipping clerk, of if I was to be taken to some undisclosed location in a black SUV while wearing a pillowcase over my head. In any case, at the appointed hour I was situated under the bridge alongside a row of old renovated warehouses. And it was there that I met a nondescript man who introduced himself as Cory Casoni, head of Marketing for Oni Press. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked why he had picked this spot to meet.
He blinked, then pointed down the block to a window proudly displaying the ONI logo. "This is where my office is," he said. Sheepishly, I followed him inside.
As I entered, I was confronted by a well oiled machine on full tilt. There was the production department, the EIC's office, the publisher's office... at this point San Diego was twelve days away, and while nobody was scrambling madly, everyone was moving with a purpose. Cory was off getting a copy of SCOTT PILGRIM for me to read, but since they were being stored in an undisclosed location, I was not permitted to accompany him. I thought about saying hello to James Lucas Jones, whom I've seen around town many times, and know to be a friendly family man, but based on the sounds coming from his office I decided that would be a bad idea. I will say no more on this part of my visit, but to mention that James Lucas Jones is a man I want on my side at all times.
I was however able to chat amiably with others, including publisher Joe Nozemack. After a discussion that included a comparison of the impact Greg Oden's injured leg had on the Blazers versus the impact Cameron Knowles’ injured leg had on the Timbers, I was given a few minutes to take a look at some of the books ONI will be promoting this week at San Diego. First up was a book that's not going to be out until later in the year -- GUERILLAS from Brahm Revel. Collecting and completing the series formerly from Image, this series is a mad cross between Matthew Broderick's PROJECT X and Oliver Stone's PLATOON: a squad of highly intelligent chimps on patrol in the jungles of Vietnam. It's preposterous, violent, and insane. And yet, based on what I read, the damn thing works.
Of more immediate concern is SUPER PRO K.O. by Jarrett Williams. Essentially, this book is what a backstage look at the WWE would be like if it was written by Aaron Sorkin and illustrated by Osama Tezuka. This thing is a blast. There's a match early on between a sumo-style heel and native american face that's drawn to perfection, but once the players move behind the curtain, ho boy! This book is fun, people.
But the title everyone in the office was talking about was THE SIXTH GUN, by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt. The first issue was made available for Free Comic Book Day, and if you have a copy hold on to it, because that sucker flew out the door. I was told that this book had the highest preorders for any monthly that ONI has published that didn't have the name Greg Rucka on the cover. After reading the first two issues, with their saloon shootouts, and monks with machine guns, and ghostly figures, and amazing, amazing art, I can see why. These guys are damn good, and if in the next three years they aren't made the creative team on DAREDEVIL, something has gone horribly wrong at Marvel.
But by this point, Cory had returned with a copy of SCOTT PILGRIM, and I was being escorted to a small room. There I was searched for any visual recording devices, had my phone confiscated, and was told that the room was shielded against any wi-fi signals coming in or out. It was also mentioned that the book had an RFID strip embedded in the spine, and that if it left the building my movements could be tracked. And then, I was left alone with a set of index cards, a pen, and a copy of...
SCOTT PILGRIM'S FINEST HOUR
Bryan Lee O'Malley: Creator Oni Press: Publisher Vroom Socko: Is a bad personIt's my understanding that some of you haven't read any SCOTT PILGRIM yet. Worse, there are others that may have flipped through part of the first volume and dismissed the series as a "hipster comic," whatever the hell that means. Well, I'm here to tell you that yes, Scott Pilgrim starts out as a bit of a hipster slacker. But to call this a "hipster comic" is a crime against storytelling akin to calling HAMLET the tale of how someone called Fortinbras became king of Denmark. It's technically correct, but is also the grossest of oversimplifications. What SCOTT PILGRIM is, particularly in this final volume, is a story about change, how it permeates life, how it effects everything, from friendships to romance to abilities to perceptions to ourselves. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The volume begins right where the previous one left off. Ramona is gone, Gideon is waiting for his fight with Scott regardless, and Scott is slowly becoming an Evil Ex-Boyfriend. Now, there's no question that Scott has done a lot of stupid shit; his treatment of Knives was, to say the least, unpleasant. But so far he's been clueless and unthinking, never malicious. But has Ramona's departure made him malicious? Is he changing into a person he doesn't want to be? Perhaps he is, and that possibility is explored in typical Pilgrim fashion, in a kickass fight scene.
Now, for whatever reason I never owned a Nintendo growing up, so my frame of reference on this fight is different from those who did. People tell me that it's another in a long line of ZELDA references, and I believe them, because I'm far too trusting. But for me, this sequence calls to mind one thing, and one thing only.
SUPERMAN III. The scrapyard scene.
Sure, there are more nuanced ways of illustrating inner turmoil and a character in conflict with himself, but this is comics damnit! There's nothing more fun that someone fighting their evil doppleganger. I'm a sucker for this sort of thing, and would gladly have pushed back the ending to a seventh volume if this fight were to go on for the whole book. Which is not to say I wasn't satisfied with the battle as presented; far from it. It's actually my second favorite moment in the book. I'd have loved to have seen more of it. But then we'd have had to wait on Gideon, and I get the feeling he's the sort of man you don't keep waiting.
Gideon is, to put it bluntly, a colossal prick. I mean stellar. The sort of egomaniac you only find in politics and reality TV. He's a club promoter who's currently hustling Scott's ex Envy Adams. He's also the one who taught Ramona all about Subspace, meaning that he can get inside anyone's head he wants, literally. This leads me to wonder, just how evil were the other Evil Ex-Boyfriends before they met Gideon? Has Gideon been manipulating them, Inception-style in order to get Ramona back for heretofore unknown reasons? Has he been inside Scott's head? Just how much of the entire story has been about him? Because let me tell you, as far as Gideon is concerned it's ALL about him. Even when he was with Ramona, it was all about him.
As for Ramona, the finale is her moment to shine. The line that best sums up what she goes through is, ironically, one not from the book but from the trailer for the movie: "We all have baggage." Ramona is a woman with a metric shit-ton of baggage. She's someone who enjoys dating, but doesn't seem to be good at moving beyond that into the realm of long-term commitment. Now, there's nothing particularly wrong with that in real life, but this is a story, so if there's going to be a happy ending to this, she's going to have to change. Get rid of all that baggage, figuratively and literally. She has to step up, and step up big. She does so in a way that was hinted at in the climax of volume five, and ultimately mirrors one of the events of volume four. I will say no more, except to say that this part is my absolute favorite part of the book, and kicks untold amounts of ass.
The really great thing about the book is that all this change isn't limited to characters like Scott and Ramona. Everyone changes over the course of this book: Knives Chau becomes 18 and gains a level in maturity. Young Neil is no longer young. Envy is more friendly. And Stephen Stills... Jack Bauer armed with a rusty bicycle chain and a #2 pencil couldn't get me to spoil how Stephen Stills changes, but if you've read all the books up until now and are very, very clever you may have guessed already. Rereading the earlier volumes, in any case, should be a prerequisite for sitting down with this book.
I'm going to tell you what I told the people at ONI when I returned their book: upon finishing, I wanted to immediately reread the whole series again. More than that, I want to have a book club read this with me. I want to host roundtable discussions about the book. I want to write a dissertation about Envy Adams and her importance to the story. Depending on how it stands up on a half-dozen or so rereads, this book may knock BONE out of my Top Five Comics of All Time. I can't wait to talk about it in more detail once everyone has a chance to read it, and I'm waiting with baited breath for the next big thing Bryan Lee O'Malley comes up with.
Vroom Socko, aka Aaron Button, roams the streets of Portland, Oregon at night and sleeps during the day. He can be seen most of the time at PGE Park, cheering on the Timbers. He'd also like to thank Joe Nozemack, Cory Casoni, and everyone he met at the ONI office for their time. And damnit, he doesn't care what you punkass TBer's think of Michael Cera, he's looking forward to the movie.