On Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please!

SOURCE: http://omgcheckplease.tumblr.com/

Since I started off February with a book that will make you cry, I figured it’s only fair I pick a happier story this week. Besides, I haven’t actually talked about Check, Please! on its own here at The Book Wars. (Though Yuriy has talked at length about Ukazu’s art, which you can read here.) Plus, it fits this month’s theme perfectly, so the time is just right! Let’s dive in, shall we?

What It’s All About:

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu is a wonderfully written and incredibly illustrated webcomic about hockey, bros, pies–so many delicious pies!–and everything in between:

SOURCE: http://omgcheckplease.tumblr.com/post/135152201022

Eric Bittle—former Georgia junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and amateur pâtissier—is starting his freshman year playing hockey at the prestigious Samwell University in Samwell, Massachusetts. And it’s basically nothing like co-ed club hockey back in the South. For one?

There’s checking. – [X]

But … Hockey?

Whether you like the sport, hate it, or know next to nothing about it *points to self*, Check, Please! has got you covered. In fact, if you’re wondering what Eric “Bitty” Bittle is so scared about:

In between the comic, Ukazu takes it upon herself to introduce hockey terms in whichever way seems best for the story at that point. The instance I provided above is the only time we see Bitty break the fourth wall while he isn’t vlogging. Sometimes it just comes up naturally in conversations, and sometimes we get my favourite parts of the comic: “Hockey Shit With Ransom and Holster”!

While hockey is what brings all the characters together, it isn’t necessarily the only thing that keeps them together and Ukazu translates this understanding perfectly in her story.

Hockey Shit With Who Now?!

Yeah, okay, those are just nicknames*, but I guess now is a good time to introduce those bros I mentioned earlier.

SOURCE: http://omgcheckplease.tumblr.com/post/156009609487

Obviously we have Bitty, but aside from him there’s:

  • Jack—Jack Laurent Zimmermann, the captain, a history buff, 100% Canadian, and 100% lovable
  • Shitty—I’m all caught up on the comic and I still don’t know what his real name is, parties hard, works harder, Jack’s bestie, slowly becoming Bitty’s bestie too, is hella feminist
  • Ransom—Justin Oluransi, so smart it should be illegal, bio major, one half of my favourite duo, is kinda tired of explaining to people that he’s Canadian, is a coral reef
  • Holster— Adam Birkholtz, economics major, other half of my favourite duo, likes a lot of the same TV shows I did in university, can’t see without his glasses
  • Lardo—Larissa Duan, team manager, she’s also a close friend of Jack’s, fine arts major, the broiest bro to ever bro

Easily the most diverse hockey anything to ever happen? I think? And! There are more lovelies I haven’t talked about! But I’ll let you meet Nursey, Dex, Chowder, and the other freshmen on your own time. They all have distinct characteristics and quirks and are quite impossible to forget or confuse. Even if they don’t share as much page/screen time as Bitty, Ukazu takes special care to show how they all develop from the moment they are introduced to wherever we are in the story now. It’s really details like that that makes Check, Please! such top notch storytelling.

So What About That Romance You Failed To Mention?

Oh, yes, how could I forget? The set-up is fairly obvious, but in case you haven’t figured it out or been spoiled, I will say very little about this romance that I love. Here’s what I am willing to divulge:

  • Because Ukazu is not a jerk, there is no queerbaiting. The main relationship is absolutely, unambiguously canon.
  • Both characters involved have to deal with different kinds of trauma and different kinds of concerns about the nature of their relationship. Ukazu handles these issues with the care they deserve.
  • What’s lovely is that both are willing to talk about it and unwilling to give this relationship anything less than their best.
  • There are also two interracial straight couples that feature in the background much in the way that queer couples used to be, which delights me. Both couples involve white characters, but I’ll let it go this once because they are just so adorable.

Lastly, every one of the relationships in Check, Please! are unique in that they are rooted in a solid friendship.

SOURCE: http://omgcheckplease.tumblr.com/post/136304678667

Certainly there are things that make these friendships difficult, maybe even unlikely, but that they happen anyway—through no small effort from the people involved—is what makes the ever-evolving relationships in Check, Please! such a joy to behold. This series gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me!

For those who are curious:

  • You can read all of the main comic here.
  • You can then opt to read all the blog posts here. (Start from the bottom and work your way to the first page.)
  • All of the extras here. (Ditto.)
  • And all of Bitty’s real-time tweets here.
  • OR, my preferred method, you can opt to read everything on the blog in chronological order here and then read the tweets.

Hope you enjoy Bitty’s world as much as I do!

Happy weekend, unicorns! <3

*hockey nicknames to be precise and yes, there is a Hockey Shit episode for that one