This one has been on my radar for a while, but it jumped up after someone posted the NPR article/review about Fence Vol. 2 on Facebook. I only read the first portion because I didn’t want to ruin anything in this volume or the next, so be warned!
Fence, Vol. 1 is the first four chapters of Pacat’s comic and it’s hard to say how much I liked it. I really enjoyed the illustration style of this and the story kept me engaged, but I’m realizing that I may be more of a graphic novel fan than a comic fan. That this was four issues and felt like it didn’t really get anywhere (even though it totally did) was problematic for my reading.
Similar to Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please!, this book had a diverse group of characters that was very LGBT friendly. There are multiple gay characters and there may be one trans or gender fluid character – it wasn’t made explicitly clear (not that it needs to be). With this in mind I know what I want to see happen—hello swoon worthy come together to achieve greatness and be lovers moment—but I’m not sure if it will happen. I do think, based on the cover of Vol. 2, that I have a good idea of what happens at least team wise, I’m just not sure of how the story gets there.
The characters were pretty strongly developed considering how quick the comics take place. I particularly enjoyed the coaches. The combination of the beyond-his-prime-never-really-that-good starter coach for Nicholas and the no-nonsense-saber-loving boarding school coach really put the comic into a great place.
There a few moments in the story that made me laugh and think back to fencing trips in undergrad (I was the team’s armor). The complaints about weapons check are legit and so are the hilarious calculations that happen during a tournament. I honestly felt Pacat could’ve dedicated more time to that without detracting from the story – fencers would totally identify with it. She also could’ve spent a bit more time on the fencing explanations – but really in the little time she dedicated to them she did a great job of explaining the basics.
Recommendation: Not quite as good as Check, Please!, but still very enjoyable. I read it in a little under half an hour. I’m already excited for Vol. 2 that I have on hold at the library and anxious that I have to wait for an as-yet unreleased Vol. 3.
Opening Line: “They say the tip of a fencer’s blade is the fastest thing at the Olympics other than the marksman’s bullet.”
Closing Line: “You’re better than me, and I’m still going to beat you.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers; highlight to read.