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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fence #1 and #2 by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad

From the BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Cox is 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...and on the road to the elite all-boys school Kings Row. A chance at a real team and a place to belong awaits him—if he can make the cut!

‘Fence’ is a new young adult comic series from Boom! Box, written by C.S. Pacat and illustrated by Johanna the Mad. It launched in November and only two issues have been released so far – but it is going to be a once-a-month schedule, with the first Volume of issues 1-5 due for July 2018 release.

First of all – Boom! Box (or, Boom Studios) is hella smart. They are the publisher behind what feels like a new wave of comic books – ones that are more diverse, inclusive and directly aimed at a young generation who weren’t previously swayed by the offerings of Marvel and DC. Boom is responsible for such groundbreaking and popular series as Giant Days, Goldie Vance, Misfit City and perhaps most popular of all among certain fandom’s  - Lumberjanes.

Boom are also part of a new era in comic books fusing with fiction writers like never before, and especially those who have appeal to younger (teen, mostly) readers – such as Rainbow Rowell partnering with First Second Books for a graphic novel called Pumpkinheads, to be illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks and releasing in 2019.

Boom inviting C.S. Pacat to create her own YA comic book was a bold, and smart move. Given that Pacat didn’t launch her career (into the stratosphere!) with a YA series, rather her debut ‘Captive Prince’ trilogy was LGBT fantasy romance (some would say erotica, at times) that found a huge teen fanbase because it started life as an online serial of original fiction that went viral, before being acquired by traditional publisher Penguin Random House. In any case – Pacat’s series became huge, particularly in the ways it highlighted and proved young people’s craving for more LGBT stories across all genres.

Giving her the reigns to develop her own comic series at the height of this popularity is pure genius – and it pays off (tenfold) in ‘Fence’. Set at the prestigious Kings Row boarding school and following a group of boys trying to come together as an elite fencing team to take out the top-ranked competitors. The series is focused on rivals, teammates and roommates Nicholas Cox and Seiji Katayama.

Two issues in and this world already feels so full and vibrant (a testament to this is how it’s already impressively sparked Tumblr imaginations). There’s a huge focus on rivalries and love affairs, skeletons in the closet and backstabbing afoot. The series has echoes of 2001 film ‘Lost and Delirious’ for me, maybe with a little ‘One Tree Hill’ and a feel of something like ‘Kids on the Slope’ or ‘From Up on Poppy Hill‘ thrown in. But honestly, ‘Fence’ is so wholly original it’s hard to quite put your finger on all that it evokes. Except to say it’s building a wonderfully full cast of characters, based in a small student community and with so much room for drama and emotional action – I’m already salivating at the possibilities!

Illustrations by Johanna the Mad make me crave this being turned into an animated-series, even though it would work equally well as live-action drama there’s just something about the art that sumptuously fits the whole unique story.

If you haven’t already, do start collecting all the ‘Fence’ issues and jump on this series bandwagon – I guarantee that even these two issues will fuel your imagination for what’s to come, and if that’s the case you can easily tap into an already very full and vibrant fandom that’s emerged in the wake of its decadent genius.


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