I kind of lied in my last post. I said I read 50 books in 2015, and while that’s true, I didn’t count reading this delightful webcomic called Check, Please. I actually spent quite a bit of time reading (and re-reading) the entire archives of this webcomic and I even bought the first book, now available thanks to a strong fandom and a successful Kickstarter campaign.
I also said in my last post that Station Eleven was my most recommended book of 2015, but really I probably have recommended Check, Please WAY more often. (Also, if you follow me on Tumblr, I apologize for the Check Please-iness it’s become recently.)
So what is this all about? It’s a comic about college hockey players at the fictional Samwell University. (Go Wellies!) But I swear, even if you aren’t into any type of sportsballing, this is still a good read. (I’m only a very casual hockey fan, and even then only by proxy because my husband is a fan.) Really, it’s a character-driven coming of age story. The author is a Nigerian-Canadian named Ngozi Ukazu, and she is super talented.
There are five main characters in Check, Please, most of whom live in the hockey house (The Haus). (All images are directly from the Check, Please site)
Eric “Bitty” Bittle: Our protagonist, a Freshman at the start of the comic, is a former figure skater turned hockey player. Bitty is the smallest on the team and is afraid of being checked. He bakes amazing pies and is gay and possibly (definitely) has a crush on his captain.
Jack Zimmermann: Team Captain. Jack is a Canadian Hockey Robot. The son of a Hall of Fame Hockey player, Jack was a superstar in Quebec Juniors and projected to go first in the 2009 draft. Instead he overdosed on vodka and prescription meds right before the draft. He spent time in rehab and coaching pee-wees before giving college hockey a try. Does he return Bitty’s crush? We fucking hope so, but really we don’t know, because Jack thinks about hockey 90% of the time.
Shitty Knight: No, we don’t know Shitty’s first name (yet). He’s the dude with hair so great, girls vomit seeing that sick flow. A third-liner and Jack’s best friend, Shitty is the resident feminist. He’s majoring in Women’s and Gender studies and in his Sophomore year, five different people came out to him in one week. He’s also a giant stoner and headed to law school.
Justin “Ransom” Oluransi and Adam “Holster” Birkholtz: The best defensive duo in all of college hockey. These two bros are inseparable and they break the fourth wall for their series “Hockey Shit with Ransom and Holster,” where they discuss important things like hockey butts, Shitty’s sick flow, and the proper hockey celly. They put the bro in bromance.
In addition to the main five, we get new Freshman in the second year (Nursey, Dex, and Chowder), the team manager and probable Shitty love interest, Larissa “Lardo” Duan, and my personal favorite, Kent “Parse” Parson, who was Jack’s teammate (and more???) in Juniors and went first in the draft after Jack overdosed. Kent Parson is everything anyone could want in an antagonist, even though he’s hardly in the comic.
At first I though Tumblr was a weird place to host a webcomic, but Ukazu totally makes it work. Beyond the actual serialized story, she offers little extras between ‘real’ updates. Sometimes extra drawings, sometimes single panel one-shots, and best of all a few days after each update, she will repost it with notes about her process, and a deeper look at what happened in that particular post. Tumblr also makes it a really fan-friendly way to read, because not only can you follow the comic itself but you can follow any number of fan accounts also on Tumblr where every panel, every smile, every raised eyebrow, can be endlessly analyzed. And speaking of the fan culture of Check, Please, there is quite a good bit of fanfiction out there, and most of it is really good. It’s rare to find a fandom where much of the fic is high quality.
I think the reason the fans are so active and so into the story is because the author’s obviously very passionate about her own work and the stories and characters she creates. She’s managed to take five guys who have one thing in common (hockey) and give them very different personalities. And has made you care about all of them – even the antagonist.
Anyway, even if you’re not super into webcomics, or hockey, or graphic novels, I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Check, Please to you.