Sports are a common source of entertainment in almost every culture. Usually, when people think of sports, team sports like football or baseball come to mind. However, Boom! Studios shine a spotlight on an underrated physical activity: fencing, in Fence Vol. 1.

The Plot Of Fence Vol. 1

In 2018, C.S. Pacat (writer), Johanna The Mad (illustrator), Joana LaFuente (colorist), and Jim Campbell (letterist) released Fence Vol. 1. Their series follows the main character, Nicholas Cox, on his journey to become a skilled fencer. He is the illegitimate child of one of the world’s fencing champions, Robert Coste. His father was barely in his life, but he showed Nicholas some fencing skills. After working at a fencing studio in exchange for free lessons, Nicholas entered into a competition where he met Seiji Katayama. Seiji is a skilled fencer who is nearly unbeatable. Nicholas’ first match in the tournament was against Seiji, who destroyed him 0-15.

After his defeat at Seiji’s hands, Nicholas enrolled in Kings Row Boys School. This private school has a fencing team which has never won the State Championship. Nicholas joined the school in order to face Seiji in the next tournament as he assumed Seiji would attend Exton, the school leading in championships. However, to Nicholas’ surprise, he finds Seiji not only enrolled in Kings Row Boys School, but he is also Nicholas’ roommate. The two’s rivalry became a motivator for them to make the three-man team headed to State. This is where they wish to face the number-one-ranked fencer in the country, Jesse Coste, Nicholas’ half-brother. Will the two overcome their differences and become a team or will their rivalry make it impossible to enter State?

The Artwork Of Fence Vol. 1

Johanna The Mad provides the illustrations in Fence Vol. 1. Her art style is cartoony and simplistic. She does not show anatomically-realistic detail within her art like other comics. Her illustrations also portray an anime-like style with the expressions she draws.

However, despite the simplicity of her drawings, Fence Vol. 1 provides readers with lovely scenery and, dare-I-say, handsome characters. Readers have no problem guessing how a character feels due to how expressive she makes them. Johanna The Mad also gifts readers with a diverse cast who all have their own unique features. The artwork she provides for the fencing scenes flows so well too. These fight scenes have finesse to them since she details each flick or clash of the épée (dueling sword). Her drawings emphasize the fact that despite the delicacy of each movement, they are impactful.

The coloring done within Fence Vol. 1, by Joana LaFuente, is bright and colorful. She brings life to Johanna The Mad’s drawings as she adds detail to backgrounds and shading to characters. The colors make everything pop in the cartoony style. The mostly light and pastel colors also enhance the overall innocence of the series.

My Thoughts On Fence Vol. 1

Fence Vol. 1 has a unique premise through its fencing focus since most media typically pays little attention to the sport. However, like any comic series, Fence Vol. 1 has its pros and cons.

Con: The Rivalry In Fence Vol. 1

The rivalry between Nicholas Cox and Seiji Katayama is the driving force within Fence Vol. 1. While their rivalry works in terms of storytelling, it nevertheless comes off as very cliché. Particularly, when Johanna The Mad makes their faces similar to an anime character’s when they are angry. While there is nothing wrong with a good classic, sports stories specifically abuse this trope. 

It is safe to assume that as the story progresses, the two will grow to either like or respect each other. These types of rivalries hardly offer anything new or surprising as they follow the same pattern. Nicholas is a rebel-without-a-cause while Seiji is a button-down, by-the-books character. One hates the other while the other does not care what the other one does. Overall, we have seen this type of interaction before and it’s overplayed. Readers will have to trudge through a lot of clichés while reading Fence Vol. 1.

Pro: The Sport Of Fencing

Fence Vol. 1 helps introduce readers to a sport not many of them are familiar with. Fencing often gets portrayed as either an aristocratic or snooty sport characters play in films. However, Fence Vol. 1 helps make it a more accessible sport for people outside of that social status. C.S. Pacat portrays an extensive knowledge of the sport. She tactfully breaks down fencing in a manner people unfamiliar with it can understand. Johanna The Mad and Joana LaFuente help illustrate this knowledge and enhance it with their skillful stylization of each duel scene.

This series showcases an in-depth look at the sport, providing information on the weapons and techniques used. It erases the idea that fencing is a sport where people stand around poking and prodding each other. Fencing requires quick reactions and concentration in order to land the necessary points to win a round. Fencers have to stand a certain way to minimize hit areas; also, depending on which blade a fencer uses, the areas they can hit on another person’s body changes too. Overall, Fence Vol. 1 demonstrates the intensity of the sport and the technicality which goes into earning points. The series succeeds in changing the reader’s initial “snooty” perception of fencing to a more respectful one.

Pro: LGBT Representation In Fence Vol. 1

As time goes on, the LGBT Community has received more representation in various forms of media. However, depending on the writing, sometimes these characters feel shoehorned in. They fail to be represented as anything beyond their sexual orientation. Thankfully, Fence Vol. 1 manages to create three-dimensional characters whose sexuality is not their only characteristic.

C.S. Pacat provides characters of different orientations and races and does not bring their sexuality into question. She does not try to make their sexuality seem strange or special: it is just who they are so let’s move on. She also provides an array of characters on the sexuality and gender spectrum, ranging from gay to transgender. Overall, Fence Vol. 1 portrays LGBT people as just that: people. And I love it!

Fence Vol. 1 is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes and Noble. For more comic reviews, click here.

Fence Vol. 1 by C.S. Pacat, Johanna The Mad, Joana LaFuente, and Jim Campbell
Despite its standard underdog plot and rivalry clichés, Fence Vol. 1 shows the potential of becoming an interesting series to follow with its art style, diverse cast, and how-to information on fencing.
Breaks Down Fencing For Newbies
LGBT Representation and Diversity
Great Character Designs
The Rivalry Cliché
Too Many Blank Or One-Color Background Panels
En Garde!