Ngozi Ukazu’s debut graphic novel, “Check, Please!: #Hockey” tells the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a figure skater turned collegiate hockey player. This volume covers Bitty’s freshman and sophomore years at Samwell University.
Fair warning — I’ve been waiting to review this for about three years now. “Check, Please!” originated as a webcomic by the same title, which I binge-read my freshman year of college and have been following faithfully ever since.
I’m in deep. I’ve backed two of Ukazu’s Kickstarters, read all the fan fiction and am desperately waiting to find out how Bitty’s story finishes.
Ukazu is in the process of uploading year four of the comic online, and if you don’t want to buy the graphic novel you can read the entire comic for free on checkpleasecomic.com.
But enough about my own obsession and onto the story.
“Check, Please!” is a sports story we need because it disrupts toxic sports culture, it is accessible and it’s adorable.
Hockey is well known for its fights; like any sports environment, it perpetuates toxic masculinity. Hockey specifically is a space dominated by white dudes. However, “Check, Please!” disrupts traditional hockey culture.
Team bonding at Samwell still includes frat-party levels of drinking at team keggers, but Ukazu doesn’t let that be the focus of her story. Instead, she uses the narrative device of Bitty’s baking vlog to emphasize the positive aspects of team culture and show a different type of hockey player.
Beyond being a former figure skater, Bitty is also gay and loves to bake (mainly pies, but anything really). The use of Bitty’s blog gives “Check, Please!” a confessional style feeling and Bitty disrupts the idea of what a hockey player should be like.
Bitty isn’t the only character who shakes up this expectation. The Samwell men’s hockey team includes characters of color, and team manager Larissa “Lardo” Duan is a woman of Asian descent.
Even the large, stereotypical-hockey-player white men who are part of Bitty’s team have their own issues to grapple with. For example, team captain, hockey legacy and overall jerk Jack Zimmermann grapples with anxiety.
By disrupting hockey culture, Ukazu reframes sports as what they can and should be, a positive and supportive environment. Additionally, Ukazu is an African American woman, and by writing about a sport dominated by white men, she offers a unique perspective.
“Check, Please!” is also accessible to non-sports fans and non-readers alike.
Before I read “Check, Please!” I didn’t know a lick about hockey, despite having seen several hockey games live. Now, I’m at the point where I watched the Stanley Cup finals this past spring and was able to keep up with the action.
Ukazu includes humorous interludes that she uses to explain hockey terms. Plus, she sprinkles enough information into the text that makes it easy to understand just what’s happening during the hockey scenes.
So, if you don’t know hockey — don’t worry. And if you’re not typically a fan of sports books, don’t worry about that either. The main focus of “Check, Please!” isn’t the hockey, it’s about Bitty’s character development and experiences.
This book also great for non-readers because it’s a graphic novel. The heavy focus on image as opposed to solely text makes the content easier to digest and follow, and it’s also way faster to read a graphic novel — you don’t have to be daunted by this story just because you don’t typically like to read.
Finally, this story is adorable. I’m in love with watching Bitty find himself. There’s a romance sub-plot that pays off at the end of the volume, which is well worth the wait.
All of Ukazu’s characters are well-written, the art is top-notch and this story is funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching all at the same time.
This volume also features a compilation of some of Bitty’s tweets, which Ukazu created in real time with the webcomic. They add humor and depth to the in-text material.
Once you finish “Check, Please!: #Hockey,” you can read the rest of Bitty’s story on checkpleasecomic.com.
Macy Davis is the assistant culture editor and a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.