Nicholas Cox is determined to prove himself in the world of competitive fencing, and earn his place on the Kings Row fencing team, alongside sullen fencing prodigy, Seiji Katayama, to win the right to go up against his golden-boy half-brother.
Tryouts are well underway at King’s Row for a spot on the prodigious fencing team, and scrappy fencer Nicholas isn’t sure he’s going to make the grade in the face of surly upperclassmen, nearly impossibly odds, and his seemingly unstoppable roommate, the surly, sullen Seiji Katayama. It’ll take more than sheer determination to overcome a challenge this big!
From the superstar team of C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad comes the second volume of this acclaimed, dynamic series.
Oh my word, this was such a damn treat. I love these characters and this graphic novel series so very much. Vol. 1 completely stole my heart last year, and Vol. 2 was a wonderful addition. Even though the wait for Vol. 3 to get published is going to maybe be the death of me.
This bind up really focuses on how all of the fencers are still in tryouts, therefore they are being ranked based off their wins verses the other candidates. Harvard and Seiji are at the very top, while Nicholas is trying to climb his way back up the rankings. But we get to see so many match ups in this volume and I was absolutely living for it.
I just love this storyline and seeing all the students at this boarding school trying to live out their dreams with fencing. The conversations are perfect. The art is a new masterpiece on every page. The friendships and brewing relationships are beyond words. The only real negative thing I can say is that sometimes the pacing feels so very slow. But I have no doubts that it’s absolutely going to be worth the wait!
Okay, so like with every graphic novel that I review, I always do a breakdown on my thoughts and feeling of each individual issue. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Obviously, I won’t give away anything too pivotal, but I will talk about some of the themes that each issue had inside.
➽ CHAPTER FIVE Aiden vs. Seiji! Aka: be still, my freakin’ heart! Also, seeing everyone love Aiden just warms my damn heart every single time. Also, Nicholas is finally and officially back!
➽ CHAPTER SIX Why is Bobby the greatest character of all-time? We get to see a little bit more background on Jessie Coste! And we get to see that Nicholas is really ready to be back and he is even more ready to fence!
➽ CHAPTER SEVEN Nicolas vs. Aiden! Still, Aiden’s fans give me life. But the winner of this single issue is easily seeing Seiji through Bobby’s eyes! Also, Aiden leaving a cute guy because something more important came up? Good lord, OTP status incoming, I swear to everything.
➽ CHAPTER EIGHT Seiji vs. Harvard! But also, Seiji vs. Nicholas and their rubber ducky shower curtain divider! Slowest burn of all slow burns! And the next match is going to be Harvard vs. Aiden and I’m not sure I can handle it!
this series is so fun and interesting, but it only takes place over 24 hours and there's literally no plot other than the boys fencing one another, so i wish it were a longer, more rounded out character exploration rather than just focusing on who makes the fencing team or not and who wins what match. it's not boring at all, surprisingly, but i think just leaves you wanting a little more.
This was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Yes, that is an actual word, not just gibberish. And yes, I can totally pronounce it without a hitch.
Now reasons why this was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:
☛ Aiden Kane KING, the genius playboy: If you thought I’m starting my list with anything other than incessant gushing over my adorable master manipulator (of which my review of Fence #5 provides plenty) then you do not know me, uh uh. Let’s just say this privileged dude became my gay baby when he showed that he’s actually got the brains and charm to observe and read people like none other and play with emotions like an uncontrollable lil kid throwing toys around. No, I don’t need a lecture on how wrong that is, I need y’all to appreciate his hidden softness and vulnerability for the pure baby that is Harvard the leader.
☛ Nicholas Cox, the bullheaded, thickheaded cinnamon bun: The fact that I love this little angry snowball because of how obliviously stuck he is in his own small head and not despite it tells you all you need to know. He is a cute, bold and brash baby who admirably reminds himself not to get cocky while being sure and overconfident, and it’s the most impossible and perfect combination ever.
☛ Seiji Katayama, the bitter sad boy covered in thorns: You can find my more in-depth analysis in my review of Fence #8 but I’m happy to announce I like him now??? While focusing on his character in the 5th and 8th issue, Pacat dived into his turtle shell, showing his humanity and the why behind his lack of respect and understanding for others. I absolutely look forward to him learning what he was not taught and growing as a person while finding the contentment and satisfaction he’s always denied himself.
☛ Last but not least, everything else from beautiful depth to heartwarming queerness to humour and delicious art: This comic series is a blessing upon the earth and I cannot get enough of Coach Williams’ wisdom, the layered queer characters and their bonds, and the increasing tension and exploration of the games’ psychology and dynamic.
“I always look at these old faces and think...how many of them achieved the dreams they had when they were at school?”
One main reason for how entertaining and unputdownable the comics are is, I think, the storytelling that is true chef’s kiss with how it juggles heartbeat and humour and dramatic deliverances—this allows the entries to care less about being unpredictable and more about being enjoyable, like that rom-com TV series you can’t resist binge-watching on repeat. The ever-awesome drawings don’t hurt either.
Gahhh but I love these characters and I’m beyond elated that this is an ongoing series because YES I NEED MORE DON’T STOP.
I enjoyed this even more than the first time I read it.
The first volume is more like an introduction to the story, and in this one we get to know the characters better, as well as the relationships between them. Nicholas is so cute here, but I can honestly say that I like every single one of them.
The matches were super fun here and I really appreciate all the little explanations here and there for those of us who knew nothing about fencing before starting this series.
*I initially read this online as single issues #5-8.
Very cute, just more... fencing-focused than I thought? I know I'm an idiot but it's literally just a series about fencing (and interpersonal relationships, sure). Perfect for my middle school kids to read with nice illustrations.
I continue to like this series, but there were three people who read it today before me in this house. They all liked it a bit better than I did, I think. Everyone whipped through it. I did, too, as it is mainly about the competition. The first volume had a better balance between the personal and the fencing. In the first volume we get to focus on main character outsider Nicholas Cox, who is fighting to make it in a rich kid's private school world. His goal is to be one of the best, but Seiji is already there, and he can't beat him.
In the second volume it's the second day of the tryouts. Interspersed between matches are developing relationships between Seiji and Nicholas & Aiden and Harvard, though the latter two are really focused on in this issue. Again, it's mainly about the fencing, or mentally preparing for the fencing, and so on.
I really do continue to like this, but I honestly thought this was a three star volume. However, I actually have to give this four stars because the eighth grader who would five star it if he could is looking over my shoulder as I type and would give me such grief if I gave it three stars, so there, four stars, fine!!!
this was the second one and was must less introductory than the first. we get more fencing matches as people try out for the team. we get hints at romantic relationships that might develop, we get to see friendships developing.
it was great. i'm already invested. cs pacat can do no wrong, the end.
I still like the hair and all the fencing details, but this comic needs to widen its scope and have some story lines besides fencing tryouts. They all go to a boarding school, surely they attend some classes and have free time?
Also, Pacat needs to start delivering romance-wise. Otherwise the whole two volumes are just nothing more than shameless queerbaiting.
We return to Kings Row and the tryouts for the fencing team. Ever since he surprised everyone by showing up at this school rather than someplace more prestigious, everyone is expecting Seiji Katayama to make the team. But who else will join him?
Nicholas has wanted to do nothing but fence for as long as he can remember. But can his skills overcome his lack of training and technique? Will his desire to make Seiji respect him cause more friction with his sullen roommate?
Volume 2 and Volume 3 of the series cover the remainder of the tryouts, culminating with the selection of this year's fencing team. Will Aiden finally get his comeuppance for being the cocky, love-em-and-leave-em fencer who only wants to be on the team to prove his superiority? Will Eugene finally make the team? And of course, will Nicholas, or will he watch his dreams and his scholarship go up in smoke?
What I really enjoy about this series is not only how well it is drawn, but how C.S. Pacat delivers tension, emotion, and so many facts about fencing. I like that the characters (at least most of them) are starting to get a little more depth. I also like that the sexuality of the characters is a total non-issue, which you wouldn't expect in such close quarters.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Vol. 4 will be published until the summer, although I may be able to read the rest of the 12-volume series online. I hate having to wait to see what happens next!
I’ve been loving graphic novels lately, particularly those with LGBT themes. Anyone have any recommendations?
Este segundo tomo que recopila los números del 5 al 8 es espectacular. Ya conocemos a Seiji, a Nicholas y a otros chicos de King’s Row, así que ya sabemos lo comprometidos que están con dar lo mejor de sí mismos y ganar la mayor cantidad de duelos posibles en los tryouts para poder clasificar al equipo.
Nicholas está centrándose cada vez más y, a pesar de sus deficiencias técnicas, está demostrando que es un gran esgrimista y que puede llegar a ser un digno rival para Seiji. Y él, por su parte, sigue arrasando como esgrimista estrella que es. Seiji demuestra a cada paso que da por qué está rankeado como el #2. Sin embargo, me gustó mucho que pudiéramos ver un lado vulnerable de Seiji y que demuestra que ha llegado a donde está gracias a horas y horas de entrenamiento, dedicación y trabajo duro.
Una de mis partes favoritas de todos estos cómics, además de las infinitas “peleas” y provocaciones entre Seiji y Nicholas, son los comentarios de la entrenadora. Esa mujer es tremenda y me fascina que entienda a los esgrimistas mucho más que ellos a sí mismos. Y, por otra parte, también tengo que mencionar a dos personajes que se destacan del resto: Harvard y Aiden. Me encantan, quiero que estén juntos y que Harvard sea la razón por la que Aiden deja de ser un playboy. Déjenme soñar y ser feliz.
En fin, de verdad les recomiendo esto si están buscando un cómic lleno de tensión, momentos emocionantes e ilustraciones impecables.
“his talent is isolating. it sets him apart. it probably has his whole life.”
april 2022: knocking off a star from my initial rating upon reread, because i still love it a lot but from my current point it doesn’t quite hit that 5 star mark anymore. i do still stand by everything i’ve said, though, and love this series with all my heart.
→ 4 stars
november 2019: helppp, i’ve fallen deep for these characters and i can’t get up. how is it humanly possible to fall head over heels for this graphic novel series so incredibly quickly? even the ones i didn’t like so much in the first volume are starting to grow on me, like aiden. i absolutely adore his friendship with harvard! they’re always supportive of each other when in need and it’s the cutest thing ever.
also, this series is soo funny! i’ve been laughing the entire time while reading and this story just brings me so much joy. other than that, i really appreciate the technical input about fencing. as a noob, i probably only know the bare minimum, so these extras are really great to learn more about it.