This has to be one of my favorite graphic novel duologies of all time. I love how Ukazu examines and reshapes bro hockey culture through the eyes of a queer former figure skater who loves to bake, and how his teammates and the world begin to open up.
Check Please! Book #1: Hockey
This is probably the most precious thing I have ever read.
I just want to wrap little Bitty up in my arms and have him bake me all the pies and we can eat them off Jack’s butt while Shitty serenades us with witticisms and Lardo belches and Ransom and Holster chug beers on the filth couch.
…yes I may be drunk.
Those two mega-glasses of whatever-delicious-peach-alcoholy-sneak-up things didn’t drink themselves.
OR DID THEY????
Anywho, this is probably one of the best subversions of bro culture I have ever seen, with typical jock bros who are all about objectifying women (and sexy times but despite this they still respect women and love Lardo and include her as part of the team?) but who are intrinsically united as a team by a tiny, hyper figure-skater-turned-hockey-player who just happens to love baking. And vlogging. And tweeting everything.
And while sure Jack is dreamy and those blue eyes and all, lemme just say that I would love to have Shitty give me his stamp of “will affirm all sexual identities.” And no, not a sexual stamp. The kid’s too young for me.
I am a dignified—if drunk—old who can’t wait for book 2!
Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones
Book 1: Bitty discovers himself
Book 2: Bitty announces himself to the world
I’ll admit to something mildly bad with this book—I had been staring at it on the tech processing cart for about two weeks, and after a really awful and draining day, I pressured one of the techs to move it up the queue so I could check it out that night. Then I checked out Book 1 as well, told my wife that I was going to have some Bitty therapy, and read until 1 in the morning. The next day was rough, but I felt so much better, because these books are just heartwarming and magical.
After the emotional cliffhanger that was Book 1, I was all in and invested to discover what was going to happen with my favorite pie-baking hockey player. And scared, because I’d grown to love the seniors and didn’t want them gone.
The seniors all stay in the picture and there are many more characters that are introduced. There’s so much growth and acceptance and I just love the slow breaking down of bro culture and the realization that people are people and who you prefer in the bedroom doesn’t make a lick of difference on the court.
Jack and Bitty navigate their secret, long-distance relationship, and it was so sweet, so tender, and filled with so much growth. Both characters had unique hurdles to face, both internally and externally, and there was also the coming out—to their parents, their teammates, and eventually, to the world—and the realization that if you’re the first (to be out), you are automatically set up to be the example to everyone else.
I absolutely loved Bitty, and how he brought so much joy and that special something extra to each person he met and touched, just by being himself, unapologetically. I loved that he survived and thrived in bro culture by showing compassion, baking pies with extreme enthusiasm, and making friends—friends who had his back and helped shape a team where he could go from that special something to a leader.