Review: ‘Fence Volume 1’
Fence Volume 1
Written by C.S. Pacat, illustrated by Johanna the Mad
BOOM! Studios, $9.99
To attract fans of the boys-love sports series Check, Please! and Yuri!!! on Ice, BOOM! has released a manga-like comic about competitive boys at a fencing academy.
Nicholas is the scrappy, disadvantaged up-and-comer with natural talent and insufficient training. In his first tournament, he faces off against Seiji, a well-accomplished prodigy. Six months later, they’re roommates at the same boarding school, both there to try and make the team.
The other team members make up a gallery of familiar types — the cute youngster with a crush, the wiseacre, the gorgeous prince, the brain, the hothead, the no-nonsense captain. You’ve seen these characters and situations before (particularly if you read manga), but there’s a reason authors keep coming back to them. They’re dramatic, which allows for plenty of high emotion among the attractive young men. And only three of them will make the team, which adds undertones to any friendships that could form.
Even more dramatic are the family connections. Nicholas never knew his father, but the captain of the competing team is Nicholas’ half-brother — only spoken about in this starter book — the legitimate heir to a famous fencer.
The choice of fencing for the sport is a particularly interesting one, as it’s highly visual, very competitive, not particularly subtle in showing who’s winning, and something most readers don’t know much about. The coach character is used well to convey knowledge of how the sport works to the reader, as well as being a strong personality to keep these guys in line.
It takes a while to be able to distinguish the supporting characters, as there are a number of them introduced quickly, but they’re a diverse bunch in terms of appearance, which helps. This volume is all introduction and setup, but readers will likely be eager to see more issues, as a lot of relationship and competition threads are started here. Fence quickly becomes addictive soap opera.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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