Fence was created for you and me to collectively swoon over, let's be clear on this. Written by novelist C.S. Pacat and illustrated by web-famous Johanna the Mad, the first issue advanced its way into comic shops today, and I'm impressed.
If you're a fan of those fantastic anime sport series, like the scantily clad, wet bodies in Free! or the enigmatic, competitive skater series that stole the heart of all… Yuri !!! on Ice, then Fence is vying for that very same space. Cute boys, competitive fencing. I need not hear more. But maybe you do?
Like Yuri !!! on Ice, Fence introduces you into an already established world filled with literal and metaphorical swordplay. However, Fence follows a different narrative, and our eyes into this new world are those of a determined newcomer, Nicholas Cox. Judging from his haircut, he’s supposed to be the hot, rough around the edges, classic semi-bad boy. But Cox has more to offer us as a character, as he has quite literally given up everything to live his dream.
And then we meet who looks to be one of my newfound favorites, Seiji Katayama, the unbeatable tour de force with eyebrows a MAC beauty bar specialist would die for, and armed with brevity and wit as sharp as pointed as his épée. In terms of personality, he gives Yuuri Katsuki from Yuri !!! on Ice a nice sprint for HBIC.
These two are the yin and yang of this book, so it’s no surprise we see Seiji and Nicholas spar. What I was delighted by was the locker room banter and the presence of contestants of color. This was important to me, as I took a passive interest in fencing years ago, and one of the most remarkable findings I stumbled across was Daryl Homer, a Black Olympic fencer who hails from the Bronx. Hopefully we'll see an homage to him in future pages of Fence.
The locker room reads like 90s/early 00s teen flicks, and I mean that in the most flattering possible way. Imagine if Slytherins were the default house for fencers...well, yeah. The shade, the reads, the "I will cut you" side eyes are great here, and admittedly my inner (and outer) bitch was all about that life. You’ll yaaas when Seiji takes the floor, but you'll also feel for Nicholas, because this ain't easy for him. In what feels like an issue that was almost finished before it started, the characters are all loveable—an assortment of multi-scaled bitches who can back up their talk with some serious bite, or some good ol' fashion shade. Sidebar: There's a boarding school that Nicholas and company will be attending, and if that ain't 90s yaaas factor, I don't know what is.
At the moment, there isn't much queer subtext, though. Every character in this book is worthy of fan devotion and swooning, and my hope is that this series doesn't queerbait fans like Yuri !!! on Ice did, and that we'll see an actual queer character soon.
I'll be waiting with baited breath for issue #2 (available December 20, 2017).