Check, Please!: #Hockey
Ngozi Ukazu’s immensely popular webcomic Check, Please! is here collected in the first of two volumes. Check, Please!: #Hockey covers the freshman and sophomore years of “Bitty”, a former figure-skating champion who’s playing hockey in college. He’s not your typical athlete, since he’s also an excellent baker and coming to terms with his authentic self. He’s also deathly afraid of being checked on the ice.
This comic, like its lead, is adorable. It’s told as if we’re watching Bitty’s video blog. His enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s wonderful to see how accepting his more typical teammates are of him. I don’t actually believe that a house full of college hockey players would be this charming — I would expect more casual sexism and violence — but the portrayal is lots of fun. (And has lots of profanity. THAT seems very authentic.)
The vlog format allows focus on the character’s emotions, which well suits a story about a boy’s growing up during the formative college years. The character designs are attractive, with a manga look and an animation influence that is balanced by the more detailed backgrounds.
I appreciated the extras here. The author’s foreword, in which she expresses her love of hockey as “this fast-paced, explosive, wild, and beautiful game” and explains how the comic began, brought new insight to a topic I didn’t know much about. Also included are some bonus comics explaining hockey traditions and Bitty’s Twitter feed.
I can see why Check, Please has so many dedicated fans. It’s a fun, exciting, charming read that turns a traditionally macho sport on its head. Even when elements are familiar — team captain Jack, for example, is the son of a famous hockey player and struggling with the weight of those expectations placed on him — Bitty’s presence makes them fresh, since he’s such a non-traditional hero for these kinds of stories.
The promotion talks about Bitty’s feelings for Jack, but that’s barely getting started by end, which makes for a heart-warming cliffhanger. The second book is due in fall next year. (The publisher provided a review copy.)