C.S. PACAT (WRITER), JOHANNA THE MAD (ARTIST)
MAY 16, 2018
School drama, peer rivalries, and passionate moments abound in BOOM!’s Fence, a series that follows the story of Nicholas Cox as he tries to make a name for himself in the world of fencing. Unofficially trained and poor, Nicholas must give everything he has to make it onto the college’s fencing team or risk losing his scholarship. Further motivating him is a budding rivalry against the near-perfect and highly experienced Seiji, who bested him once before 0-15. That rivalry comes to a head in Fence #6 as team tryouts continue and both Nicholas and Seiji are faced with the reality of their situation.
Fence is about character relationships and personal motivations as much as it’s about the sport of fencing. Between Nicholas forever living in the shadow of his Olympian father and Seiji’s single-minded determination to repent for past failures, our main characters have plenty of compelling motivation. In Fence #6, both Nicholas and Seiji come to terms with their recent failures to ultimately reignite their passion for the sport.
Nicholas is just beginning to regain faith in himself, accepting the reality of his poor training and inexperience. He comes out on top at the end of the day, proving that believing in himself and learning from his past mistakes will get him far. On the flip-side, we see Seiji struggling with the reality of his recent loss to Aiden. He’s frustrated with his failure, and for the second time we see his calm demeanor crack when faced with Nicholas’ goading. With everything that drives them on the line, there’s lots of fuel for some good, fun drama, and Fence hands it out in spades.
Stylistically, Johanna the Mad does a great job with Fence. Here at WWAC, we’ve touched on Fence‘s visual style in the past, discussing how its clean, manga-inspired art and simple visuals help to bring a more obscure sport to a broader audience. In Fence #6, both in the fencing match between Nicholas and Jay and the expressive exchange between Nicholas and Seiji, we see these visuals put to the test. Between Nicholas and Seiji, there’s a lot to follow, and even at its most intense, Fence makes that easy to read. For a sport which heavily relies on movement, Johanna the Mad’s art does a good job relaying to the reader each blow and failed dodge—sometimes supported through heavy-handed commentary from the otherwise uninteresting supporting cast.
While there’s a whole host of characters in Fence, we’ve yet to spend much time with any of them outside of the main two. The distance between the reader and this supporting cast is a barrier at times. I found myself forgetting who was who in the sea of background faces surrounding the core drama. In Fence #6, we see more of Harvard and Bobby, who have the most depth of the side characters; but even then we lack insight into their motivations past a brief “I want to prove that I can” from Bobby in issue #2. My hope is that we see more history and personal motivations for these characters. For now, they’re little more than narrative devices there to help the reader understand the action.
That aside, Fence is a cute coming-of-age story. Nicholas’ struggle to be noticed by an absent father and to rise above his circumstances makes him approachable in a way Seiji isn’t. I’m genuinely invested in his success. With a solid foundation and approachable art, Fence is a fun, mostly light-hearted comedy-drama that I’d happily recommend to sports fans and casuals alike.