Comic review: Fence #1 by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad

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Original cover by Johanna the Mad and variant cover by Kevin Wada (the photo doesn’t show my SIGNED COPY* because it’s not here yet but thank you Laura for getting me one ♥         *you have to read “signed copy” in a very high pitched voice

★★★★

You might or might not remember this post I wrote when this comic was first announced, and now months later I can’t believe I’m already reviewing the first issue. Most importantly for my ego, I was right on all points.

If you’ve ever read or watched any sports manga or anime, this is a comic for you. If you’re lgbt+, this is for you.

Plot:
Fence follows Nicholas Cox in his dream of making it into the fencing world. His passion is driven by more than just the love for the sport, and this is what helps the reader sympathize with him even if fencing is something completely new to them (like it is for me).

Nicholas is only sixteen but he worked hard for the chance to be taught to fence, and when he finally enters his first tournament he’s introduced to other fencers apparently for the first time. Among them is Seiji Katayama, whom everyone else seems to fear, and for a reason.

Their first encounter leaves Nicholas even more determined to finally enter a fencing school where he can be properly taught, because raw talent won’t get him anywhere. Six months later, he’s shown on his first day at Kings Row, a boys school he’s only able to attend thanks to a scholarship that depends on his making the fencing team, and a surprise is waiting for him there.

Characters:
Nicholas is a very determined character, who will do whatever it takes to achieve his dream. His struggles are relatable and real and they stick with the reader. Even in just around twenty pages it’s impossible not to care about him, also thanks to a couple of flashbacks.

Seiji is quite frankly an asshole so far and I can only love him for it. This is C.S. Pacat we’re talking about, so I’m expecting a hell of a backstory regarding the hard work that got Seiji to be where he is now.

In general:
This a very Japanese-like first issue of a comic that will (hopefully!!!) lead us on a long journey into the fencing world and the main characters’ relationships. It sets the tone for the rest of the series: tension, humor, diversity and queerness.

When it comes to diversity, it’s already very promising even just by looking at the background characters, and even though we still haven’t met them all on the page, we already know from the previews of all the main characters that they’re all diverse and unique.

The queerness isn’t strong in this one yet, but that’s perfect. Think of all your favorite sports comics/anime. I’m thinking Check, Please! and Yuri!!! On Ice. The queerness is just there and it’s just another part of the characters’ lives, just like the sport they love is. These are the kind of queer stories I love to read, and that’s why Fence will appeal to all LGBT+ readers. It promises a broad spectrum of sexualities and gender identities, paired with diversity and a story about passion that we can all identify ourselves with. Its very existence challenges a world of male white allocishetism, as a comic written by a queer and genderqueer person and drawn by a Mexican artist, who have put pieces of themselves into it.

I definitely cannot wait for the next issue to come out and I’m loving how big of a reach this already seems to have. Definitely get on it if you were hesitant because of its hype: the hype was real and it was 100% justified.

Also, make sure to check out Laura’s Q&A with CS Pacat at the launch party for a few extra infos on characters and plot!

 

Talk to me!

Have you read Fence? Will you? Are you excited for it?

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FENCE by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad – Why You Should Be Excited For It

Hello there! Let’s postpone The Talk about me technically still being on blog hiatus (it’ll end soon though, I promise!) for another time, because today I am so excited to talk about a new upcoming comic by quite literally my favorite author ever, C.S. Pacat, and Johanna the Mad, an amazing artist whose fanworks have always left me speechless.

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The cast of Fence. From left to right: Nicholas, Seiji, Harvard, Aiden, Jesse, Dante, Bobby

Particularly I want to talk about the importance it will have in the queer community. I fully believe that the comparison with Yuri!!! On Ice and other queer-positive works like Check, Please! is 100% accurate.

Why am I saying this with such confidence when I obviously haven’t read it yet, since it comes out in November? Two reasons:

⚔ I fully trust C.S. Pacat to stay true to her words and deliver

“something that’s very joyously and unabashedly queer. That’s very important to me.”
(source)


Knowing her and knowing her previous work and the other fictional works (like Y!!!OI) that she enjoys, I know that she isn’t just saying that in order to appeal to a certain audience. This is something that might have been scary to publish one year ago, when the queer world hadn’t been quite literally shaken by Yuri!!! On Ice yet. But now we know that the (queer and not queer) world is ready for something that doesn’t have to justify itself in order to exist. Not only won’t there be any queerbaiting, there won’t be “sad gays” either.

⚔ This premise brings me to my second point. A comic is something that will appeal to readers and non-readers alike. We in the bookish community sometimes tend to forget that there are many people who don’t read as much as we do, and that’s fine. Many of those people are teens that maybe are more into anime and manga, and they’ll be given access to something that might -might!- eventually draw them into the bookish world. Even more importantly, these are young people who more often than not are just coming to terms with their sexuality. These are teens and young adults who have been at best queerbaited by shows like Free! and Haikyuu!!, and at worse they’ve been shown that if you’re queer you are someone expendable, someone who will die before the straights can find a solution to a zombie-riddled world or you’re simply there to allow a straight narrative to reach its positive outcome, or you’re there to be the gay stereotype that the audience will laugh at.
This won’t happen with Fence. (Young) people will have a positive queer representation like they’ve had in Yuri!!! On Ice, and being queer won’t be the main subject of the work. They’ll be shown that you don’t have to only be your sexuality, you can be an athlete, you can be anything and be queer and be valid and if you don’t understand the importance of that then maybe it’s really time for you to think about your straight privilege.

Now, focusing on the rest of what we know so far, this story will have amazing characterization. Again, you ask, how do you know this? Because that’s what Pacat does. And if you haven’t read Captive Prince and you don’t trust me on my word, read this:

I’m working with a really great épée coach in Australia to choreograph all the fight scenes. And I’ve been working with him on the fencing characterization of each boy, so they’ll all have different strengths and weaknesses that will evolve throughout the narrative.


…in “Fence,” especially because I was so invested in the accuracy of the fencing, there’s no smudging allowed.
(source)


These are NOT the words of someone who doesn’t think their characters through. The characters’ personalities will reflect in the way they fence and act outside of fencing, like in all the best sports anime/manga/fiction.

This is already so clear from just a raw of one page alone:

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“But will it be diverse?” you ask. Yeah!

…having a diverse cast was very important to me. When you’re writing heroic narratives it’s very important to make sure that you have a story where everyone can feel as though they can be a hero.
(source)

 

Because this is a comic, obviously another really important thing to look forward to is the art. Johanna the Mad is an amazing artist (see pictures above) who has more than once impressed me (and many others, including C.S. Pacat) with her art.

Something else I find amazing is that both writer and artist come from the online world. They not only know the community they’re addressing, they’re fully part of it and that is one more reason to trust them.

So really the question is, what’s there NOT to look forward to? (the answer is: everything about this comic should make you as excited as I am)

And more importantly, is it November yet?

Webcomic review: Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

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★★★★

Some of my favorite stories feature a good amount of angst, moral greyness and Bad Things, and I honestly don’t think I could ever give that up.
But sometimes you need to immerse yourself in a world that’s positive and that shows you that good things can exist, and not everything has to be complicated (irl and in literature) to be good.

Check, Please! is the book comic that has reminded me of this.

There is only one key word here: healthy.
This is by no means set in a fictional world where Bad Things don’t happen, but they (have) happen(ed) off-screen and the relationships portrayed are actual goals.

The story follows Bittle, ex figure skater (can you hear my heartbeat?) turned hockey player, as he joins his new university team. Everyone on the team is all kinds of ‘swawsome (that’s a word) and they make him feel welcome.
Later on, love blooms between the protagonist and one of his teammates and the way their relationship is shown could be renamed “Healthy relationship 101”. It shows all kinds of different situation that normally (in most media) would be the origin of some drama, and instead turns them into a teaching moment (without being patronizing). Because, guess what, most situations are easily dealt with through communication!

That’s basically what this whole story is, it’s obviously very character driven (I live for those) and it can fill your whole day with positivity, which is only a good thing until you’re forced to face reality again.

Other things I loved were both the art (it’s just so adorable and colorful and every drawing has a ton of tiny details – I’m sure it takes a lot of time to draw each one!) and the humor (even though sometimes it references something of American culture -I suppose?- that I’m not familiar with, so I don’t get every single joke, but it didn’t bother me).

Oh, have I mentioned the story is completely free on Tumblr?? It’s also not over yet (this review is written after the episode “Dinner at Marty’s?”) and I absolutely can’t wait to read the next update!
If this ever goes into printing I’m also definitely buying it because this artist deserves to be supported.

(Also I first found out about this comic thanks to Jess @ beaucoupbooks so I want to publicly thank her for bringing it to my attention ♥)