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Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (Vol. 5)

Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press)

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In this, the fifth and penultimate Scott Pilgrim tome, Ontario-born former Mount Uniacke resident Bryan Lee O'Malley gently ushers his hero a step closer to manhood and taking on the Final Boss. What makes O'Malley's scrappy, Manga-inspired comics so compulsive isn't the stylishly disaffected urban tone, nor the primary plot thrust of having the eponymous hero fighting to win the love of his super-powered girlfriend Ramona Flowers by defeating all her evil ex-boyfriends in Street Fighter-esque battle sequences. What makes it work is that underneath the sly wit and pop references are breathing, fun, relatable characters---even the ones that are resolutely bored or unimpressed. Scott's constant misunderstandings of women ring true, as does his begrudging realization of life's disappointments relative to his expectations, even though he has youth, super-powers and plays in a band called Sex Bob-Omb. Another pleasure of Scott Pilgrim are the unabashed Torontonian locales, with the Dundas Bus Terminal added to the roster, though nothing matches the wonder of the Honest Ed's implosion (Vol. 3) or the Lee's Palace battle (Vol. 4). For a city in constant search of its identity, Scott Pilgrim celebrates Toronto's insecurity with sweet and funny stories.

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