Graphic Novel Review – Fence Volume 1

When I looked back at my books from 2020, I realized that I didn’t read ANY graphic novels. So I’m trying to catch up on some that I had really wanted to get to. Also – they’re always quick reads. So of course when I saw this series about fencing, I had to pick up the first collection (paid links support this blog).

Fence is a series of graphic novels by C.S. Pacat (writer), Johanna the Mad (illustrator), Joana LaFuente (colorist), and Jim Campbell (letterer). Here is the blurb:

Nicholas, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion, is a scrappy fencing wunderkind, and dreams of getting the chance and the training to actually compete. After getting accepted to the prodigious Kings Row private school, Nicholas is thrust into a cut-throat world, and finds himself facing not only his golden-boy half-brother, but the unbeatable, mysterious Seiji Katayama…

Through clashes, rivalries, and romance between teammates, Nicholas and the boys of Kings Row will discover there’s much more to fencing than just foils and lunges. From acclaimed writer C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad.

I read this very quickly and I found myself wishing that I had the next volume! The story follows Nicholas, a persistent underdog fencer, as he tries to make the varsity team at a boarding school. If he fails, he won’t be able to keep the scholarship that lets him stay there. Who doesn’t want to cheer for the underdog?

Even through the fencing in this story focuses on epee, there are a couple of references about how sabre is the better weapon. And it is clear that the author is familiar with the fencing world.

In this early volume, I was a little confused to see the author’s approach to gender, but it seems like the fencing world in this story is genderless or maybe gender-equitable. The events aren’t split by men/women, and neither is the team at the school. One character who is pictured in a skirt and with more feminine features is referred to with male pronouns, and some characters are definitely queer and/or have same-sex relationships. Once I realized this was the approach being taken, it was fine and I had no further trouble following who was who.

I definitely enjoyed this book and already ordered the next two volumes because I need to find out who wins the tournament! Have you read Fence? Let me know in the comments.

Read more of my book reviews here.

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