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ONE OR DONE: En Garde! And other French words in Fence #1

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It’s almost the holiday season. For many, it means eating, family, and if you’re insane…shopping. Some of us use it as a time to catch up on those comics that sit in ever-growing piles until they take the shape of a new piece of furniture or get become home to random spiders. Allow me to add to your reading list with Boom! Box’s newest out of the ordinary darling, Fence.

FENCE #1

 

 

Story: C.S. Pacat

Art: Johanna the Mad

Colors: Joana Lafuente

Letters: Jim Campbell

Published by: Boom! Studios (Boom! Box)

 

 

Fence is the story of Nicholas Cox, an outsider to the competitive fencing world. Filled with raw talent but lacking proper training, he signs up for a competition that puts him head-to-head with fencing prodigy Seiji Katayama. Seiji is the embodiment of most modern superstar athletes. Hubris, good hair, and not slouching. It’s only fitting we root for street kid Nicholas to pull off a miracle win. Where other stories would use this David vs. Goliath paradigm battle as its crescendo, Fence cleverly launches the meat of its story from the match’s outcome. You get hints at the hard abandoned life Nicholas has had to endure in the lead up to his big break at the fencing tournament, but it never makes him overly sympathetic making it so you can still accept him as the lens of this story.

Novelist C.S. Pacat (Captive Prince) pens a detail-attentive story. Which is a classy way of saying anyone who loves fencing will see a lot of correct details. Two seemingly polar opposite characters of this tale have distinct feels and dialogue cadences. One is an emotionally shielded ice cold parry machine and speaks with a cocky awareness of his earned place in the sport. The other is almost a modern-day Rocky Balboa; scrappy, eager to use his talent to escape the reality of his poverty. Along the way he’ll end up with more to prove then he started with.

Though the writer’s final page twist is a bit on the predictable side, it still lands well in getting a reader invested in this series. I’ve maybe watched fencing during an Olympics but I’m far from a fan. Yet this story gives the sport a layer of drama making it palatable even if you’ve never heard of this sport.

Joining C.S. Pacat is artist Johanna the Mad. I hope that her parents are actually last named The Mads and they have a doormat the says The Mads. Anyway, enough of my delinquency. Johanna the Mad is a young illustrator doing American comics for the first time. Her style shows influence from Pixar animation and Anime. She’s got a soft yet strong quality to her character poses and a keen eye for camera choices in certain panels. She does have some growing to do in her sequential storytelling abilities, some of the layouts during dialogue scenes have a right to left eye guiding feel more in line with a Manga than a comic book. One noticeable problem which could have either come from the artist, colorist, or even the production process. Some characters in distance have zero facial features. Yes, in some cases it can be a focus technique, but when overused it goes from gimmick to mistake. It makes them all look like young versions of The Question. Typically a reader can ignore something done once or twice for effect but when repeated throughout pages it becomes glaring.

Overall, I’m surprised I like this comic book as much as I do. Having never read any Pacat works or heard of Johanna the Mad, along with being centered in a sport I’m less than fairly indifferent to, was a recipe for lining bird cages. The result is something that definitely earns a place on my must-read books list. Fence has a subtle quirkiness to it in both its characters and visual flair that’s often attempted but hardly ever this good. Instead of being miscast or mis-published, Fence is a case study for something being in the right hands at the right publisher.

[WON] Fence #1 will win a gold medal in the Olympics of your heart if given the chance. Even with a broken freaking neck.

Here’s the rest of this week’s debuting comics:

  • JENNY FINN #1 (DARK HORSE)
  • RASPUTIN VOICE OF DRAGON #1 (DARK HORSE)
  • BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1 (DC COMICS)
  • DARK FANG #1 (IMAGE)
  • EVOLUTION #1 (IMAGE)
  • BRILLIANT TRASH #1 (AFTERSHOCK COMICS)
  • NINJA-K #1 (VALIANT)

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