FENCE #8 by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
C.S. Pacat lets readers in on the life of Seiji Katayama, the series' antagonist. With expressive artwork by Johanna the Mad, FENCE #8 is an exciting character study that builds towards the tryouts finale.
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A New Perspective

If the cover of FENCE #8 makes you say “Uh oh,” then you are on the right track. The latest issue of BOOM! Studios’ high school drama by C. S. Pacat jumps straight into the fray of the fencing team tryouts. FENCE #8 brings us the subplot we’ve all been waiting for: a window into Seiji Katayama’s life. On the cover, HamletMachine’s design sets the tone. The image features a sweaty Seiji looking grim as his nemesis Jesse Coste, national fencing champion, peeks back at him. We know a storm is coming. In FENCE #8, Pacat carefully formulates what sets Seiji apart (besides his bad attitude). As in previous issues, Johanna the Mad draws out the tension between characters with a touch of quirky kawaii humor.

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One is the Loneliest Number?

So far, Pacat’s hero Nicholas Cox has proven his abilities on the fencing piste. However, no one really stands a chance against Seiji. His nose is always just a little stuck in the air, his eyes dead-set on what’s in front of him. Up until FENCE #8, his superiority complex has made him easy to dislike.

FENCE #8
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

However, with the spotlight on Seiji’s side of the story, FENCE #8 may help readers soften up towards him. Pacat opens the comic with Seiji starting his day hours before the other boys at Kings Row. Seiji is no ordinary fencer, nor is he an ordinary teenager. Without a snooze alarm, Seiji crisply jolts out of bed and prepares for his day. Johanna the Mad illustrates Seiji’s rigid routine with measured illustrations. Indeed, her artwork parallels Seiji’s fixation on precise movement and dedication to his training.

As the comic progresses, the Kings Row fencing coach offers some insight into Seiji’s world. Only she has the vantage point to understand that, while Seiji’s talent is impressive, it is also isolating. The rest of the comic explores other students’ responses to Seiji, giving readers an interesting view of how he operates. Moreover, as Seiji rises to the top of the leaderboard, Nicholas’ chances of making the team and staying at Kings Row seem slim.

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FENCE #8: Character Studies

FENCE #8 gives readers an excellent new perspective on the story. However, as always, Pacat advances the plot at a tantalizing pace. Inch by inch, we are approaching the battle between Seiji and Nicholas. While not necessarily plot-oriented, FENCE #8 provides crucial character development. Seiji’s lone wolf lifestyle comes head to head with team captain Harvard’s friendliness, as well as Nicholas’ hilariously immature teasing. Thus, FENCE #8 gives readers a better feel for the interpersonal dynamics approaching the duel between Seiji and Nicholas.

FENCE #8
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Character studies such as FENCE #8 often leave more questions than answers. Indeed, Pacat’s writing is prone to dramatic cliffhangers, giving us just a peek at the whole story. In FENCE #8, we understand Seiji’s daily life, but his cold demeanor hints at a complicated backstory. Like an iceberg, we know there is more to Seiji’s personality just below the surface.

Stay Focused, But Don’t Lose Heart

Unlike Seiji, I am not patient. As with every previous issue, FENCE #8 leaves me excited for what’s next. But FENCE #8’s cool and collected pace is a reminder to stay focused. Character studies give the tryouts a sense of urgency as readers start to empathize with their favorite athletes. Pacat deliberately creates a bracket of diverse characters. While not all of them can make the team, each character adds dimension to the comic.

FENCE #8
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Previous issues show that Nicholas’ love of fencing is what drives his athleticism. FENCE #8 suggests that Seiji loves fencing, but he loves winning even more. And he knows that technique and focus are the keys to success. However, Seiji’s dedication masks his loneliness. Hopefully in upcoming issues, Nicholas and his friends might be able to melt the ice. Regardless of the outcome, FENCE maintains a balance between exciting characters who are full of heart and humor.

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