But, this mojo he has, this pure ability to fence, has so far been absent from the pages, and I’m struggling to see how anyone still sees anything in our man as a future giant of the sport.
The fourth instalment of Fence is with us. The underdog sporting drama set in the world of fencing has so far built some decent story foundations, and fleshed some quirky characters for our reading pleasure. The journey so far has been largely hit and miss for myself, with some definite highs countered by some disappointing lows, but I’m still here. However, issue four has left me wondering if my own journey is about to come to an abrupt end?
In Fence we follow Nicholas, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks with a raw but exciting talent for fencing. It has been a tale of well-worn sporting underdog traditions to this point. We have a nemesis for Nicholas, Seiji, who also happens to be our protagonist’s room-mate in the fencing academy they board at. We have a range of characters dotted about that are entertaining when they get panel space, but are equally shallow and cartoon-like, doing little to drive the story along. And we have, not a great deal else to be honest that can’t be found in a hundred other sporting underdog stories.
In this latest issue we are thrown into the fray of the fencing trials. A place on the four-man team is up for grabs and the process plays as a round robin of contests between the academy students. We get to witness the victors and vanquished as the pages fly by, before Nick finally takes centre stage for his bout. And now we get to see that he is such a naturally raw and gifted fencer, that the coaching received recently in attempts to improve him, have in fact made him overthink and lose his mojo. But, this mojo he has, this pure ability to fence, has so far been absent from the pages, and I’m struggling to see how anyone still sees anything in our man as a future giant of the sport. In issue one he nearly landed a strike on Seiji, but he failed and ended up on the end of absolute demolition job, and since then has failed to light up any of the pages with his fencing ability.
To add some tension we find out that Nicholas has to make the team or face leaving the boarding school. Now, I might have missed a plot point earlier on, it does happen, but I don’t understand why this is a thing at all? The team only has room for four athletes, does this mean everyone bar the four has to leave too, or is our Nick a special case? It seems harsh that the kid from the poor background and least training is getting booted if he doesn’t make the cut.
Issue four drifts by without ever really making any impact at all on the reader. Very little besides the opening of the competition process takes place, and for me it left me in a state of mild boredom. In terms of the run so far, #4 is the weakest outing for this series, and I’m struggling to see where the story can go to revive a plot that lacks originality at every turn. Fence isn’t terrible by any means, but it also isn’t terribly exciting.
There has been talk that the comic has opened up fencing as an interesting sport for the uninitiated, but for myself it lacks the drama and intensity of the more popular sporting subjects out there, and this leaves the comic swinging and missing more often than it makes any meaningful contact.