Date Started: 20th February 2019
Date Finished: 20th February 2019
Time taken to read: 1 day
Rating: 4 stars
Fence volume 2, for anyone who is unfamiliar, is a graphic novel series aimed at a young adult audience. It is a continuation of the story of Nicholas, an aspiring professional fencer, who has been accepted to King’s Row boarding school in the hopes of qualifying for the schools famed elite fencing team. I will preface this review by summarising that I read the first volume of this in 2018, and gave the story 3 stars. I enjoyed the art style, but felt that the plot was a little disjointed at times due to multiple introductions/backstories of characters (who will ultimately be more prominent throughout the story but were all completely new at the same time).
If you have not read volume 1, this review may contain some spoilers pertaining to information provided in the first volume. However, I will try not to go into too much detail.
Volume 2 continues the story of Nicholas and his fellow students during their ‘round robin’ duels to determine who will make the King’s Row fencing team for the upcoming Academic Year. And builds on our initial introduction key secondary characters such as Nicholas’ roommate and ‘arch enemy’ Senji.
I was a little hesitant going into Fence volume 2, as I had been somewhat disappointed with volume 1. I think this was a story that suffered from me over expectation – I saw so many 5-star Goodreads and Instagram reviews that I just expected it to be something more revolutionary than it was. However thankfully I had an entirely different reading experience this time around – potentially due to a lowering of expectations going into the story.
The majority of this volume focused on the competition to make the fencing team, and I enjoyed how this interwove well with introducing us more to the ensemble cast. Previously I think there were some characters added within scenes where it did not really work and I lost track of their names or motivations. The artist and author both manage to use the fencing as a way of showing personality and the repetition of names on scoreboards was incredibly helpful for someone as bad with names as myself.
This series does have a focus on LGBTQIA+ themes that I hope to see build more in future volumes. Presently we have had several characters who have aligned themselves, but there have not really been any romantic elements outside of one specific character. I also really appreciate that there has been a strong focus on showing the friendship dynamics within the group.
The art style for Fence is (and was previously) thoroughly pleasing to me, the colour palettes used are clean, bold and bright. I think the art style manages to carry the energy of the duel scenes in particular, which could be a challenge to produce in a graphic style. The colours also work well with the art’s focus on primary characters in each panel rather than overly intense backgrounds or excessive detail filling the entire frame.
Going forward, I am hoping that the next volume does start to wind up the current competition to pull in the focus further on our main cast of characters. I am excited to see a different variety of interaction types as presently they have primarily revolved just around fencing. I especially would like to see more day to day dynamics between Nicholas and Senji.
TLDR? Clean, bold and bright graphic style, following the competition to make an elite school’s fencing team. Improvement on volume one, and I am looking forward to reading more.