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.

Graphic Novel Review – Monstress Vol. 3 (Haven)

I’ve been gradually working my way through Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda and while I’m enjoying this series, the third volume was not my favorite. You can find my reviews of Volume 1 here, and Volume 2 here.

Monstress Volume 3 (Haven) follows our anti-hero protagonist, Maika, as she begins to come to terms with her demon and their shared powers. The plot resumes in the city of Pontus where a magical shield protects the inhabitants from outside dangers.


However, the Pontus shield is inoperable and Maika is enlisted to help repair it. At the same time, her companions explore the city. The fox-child Kippa discovers other fox refugees, and while she searches for her family Master Ren meets with his nekomancer bosses who have their own ideas about what he needs to do.

Pontus is attacked while Maika struggles to help protect the city. She delves further into her past and her heritage and I think she has grown more accepting of the demon inside of her.

Brief episodes of back story are interspersed with the main plot, as well as glimpses of conversations and events in other lands with side characters. It all became rather confusing, especially when taken together with trying to follow all the lore of the Elder Gods.

The spectacular artwork continued to draw me into this world, despite the muddled plot. I’m particularly enthralled by the variety of creatures.

While I intend to keep reading this series, this volume was not my favorite, mainly because I found the details hard to follow. Perhaps other readers would enjoy the mystery of it, but I like more concrete information.

Read more of my reviews here.

Graphic Novel Review – Monstress Vol. 2 (The Blood)

Monstress Vol. 2 (The Blood) is a graphic novel written by Marjorie Liu, with art by Sana Takeda. I had read the first volume in November and my review of it can be found here. While I enjoyed the first book, this second one was even better.

Maika Halfwolf is possessed by a monster that may be a demon or a god, but is haunted by her mother’s past and pursued by familiar and unknown enemies. In this second volume, she arrives at the city of Thyria and looks for passage to the Isle of Bones, where she hopes to find answers about her mother.

Master Ren, a talking, two-tailed cat necromancer (or nekomancer), and Kippa, a fox-girl continue to risk their lives at her side, and Maika finds other friends amongst the pirates of Thyria, many of whom knew her mother.

This book is just as dark in its subject matter in some parts as the first one. Maika’s demon must feed, but she has learned to retain some control over the details. The world in Monstress is harsh and many of its inhabitants have long lives and old rivalries.

I enjoyed this book better than the first because I already knew the characters. It also felt more linear in its structure, with a more direct style of story-telling and fewer leaps to different locales and times. When the plot does show past events, these scenes felt more natural in this second volume.

The artwork in this book continues to be gorgeous. The sea and its inhabitants are brought to life with the same aesthetic as the earlier gothic structures. Simple conventions such as changing the background in text bubbles make it easy to follow a particular non-human conversation.

The next volume of Monstress is sitting in my to-be-read pile and I’ll be reading and reviewing the third book soon.

Find more of my book reviews here.

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