However, what began life as a classic sporting underdog tale has, for myself at least, lost some focus. At times it plays like High School Musical meets 80’s college flick meets Grease in the fencing academy, with less singalong moments and more annoying characters.
The first two issues of young angsty sporting underdog tale, Fence, breezed past me in a way that left me aware of its presence yet unaffected by it. It was throwaway but entertaining, derivative yet enjoyable, it hooked me in without ever making me feel like I simply had to have the next issue now!
With Fence #3 things have taken a slight downward trajectory. I’m not out, but I am eyeing the exits.
The problem for myself with the latest issue is that it lacked the direction apparent in the opening chapters, which left the whole thing feeling a little disjointed and muddled. As a prime example, the character, Bobby, who I would have sworn was female, largely based upon the fact that Bobby looked like a female character, and appeared to be wearing different uniform from the rest of the school collective, right down to the skirt, turned out in fact to be male. It doesn’t matter of course, it just seemed pretty odd that the reader finds out by accident in issue three that young Bob is a lad, I had to re-read a few panels more than once thinking I had missed something along the way.
Elsewhere it’s more of the same. The two main focal points of the story, Nicholas and Seiji, are still in full competitive mode, with the former dreaming of the day he can finally knock the latter from his perch. The rest of the cast drift in and out of shot barely making a ripple in the story and ensuring the reader leaves with little investment in any minor player. And, the fencing theme continues to sit at the core of the story without ever really making any connection.
At one point we are given a little lesson in the tools of fencing and how they relate to different styles of combat, but to be honest, I wasn’t really bothered and if anything it took me out of the tale for a moment.
The main storyline is still trundling along nicely behind the muddiness, and has now reached ‘Team Tryouts’ station, a classic staple of the underdog tale. And we still have questions to be answered and a showdown to look forward to in coming issues, so the heartbeat is still beating for Fence.
The artwork remains consistent. There are some neat touches, and facial expressions, dotted in the backgrounds on a number of panels, and the overall feel is very clinical and strong with well captured characters that feel nicely individual from one another.
I haven’t given up on Fence yet. There is just enough to keep me coming back for more, the read is light and easy going and requires little commitment. However, what began life as a classic sporting underdog tale has, for myself at least, lost some focus. At times it plays like High School Musical meets 80’s college flick meets Grease in the fencing academy, with less singalong moments and more annoying characters. And yet on the other hand, Fence still has a certain charm about it and still leaves me wanting to know what is around the next bend in the road. It’s a weird one right now, but at this moment in time, well, see you next time for another bout.