“Check Please: Sticks and Scones” Review: These Are Tears of JOY, Y’all
I got a box from First Second in mid-February, and when I saw that they sent me a copy of Check Please: Sticks and Scones, I wanted to cancel everything I had planned and read it immediately. I’ve both been waiting for this forever and don’t want it to end, but Bitty’s journey as a student at Samwell is fast approaching its conclusion, and I can assure you the whole hockey crew goes out with a bang.
Sticks and Scones is the second volume for the official release of Check Please, the webcomic by Ngozi Ukazu about a gay Southern baker who finds his place on the hockey team at his small, liberal arts college. It’s been years since I first recommended this comic (back when I started, it was still only on Tumblr), and both it and creator Ngozi have come a long way. I’ve got all three (so far) Kickstarter versions as well as both mainstream published volumes. I’m sad to see it end, but I’m very proud of what it’s accomplished.
Sticks and Scones contains the comics for Bitty’s junior and senior years at Samwell, which include some very big changes in his life. For starters, his boyfriend is a professional hockey player, and no one can know they are dating. He also has to deal with even more of his friends graduating and an incoming crop of freshman Wellies who are testing his patience. And his parents still don’t know he’s gay.
Obviously I don’t want to spoil anything, because many people are anxiously awaiting the ending, but let me just say I doubt any fan will be disappointed in how Bitty’s story – at least, this chapter of it – ends. Sticks and Scones wraps everything up nicely, in a way that should satisfy everyone, with the same amount of tears (of joy!) and laughter we’ve come to expect from Check Please. I was giddy as I read it; I read so fast I didn’t retain anything and had to immediately re-read it.
And then I grabbed volume 1 and re-read the entire thing from the beginning. Maybe I’m not quite ready to let go.
After all, Check Please is still one of the few examples where a queer couple gets to have a normal, healthy relationship and has the potential for a happy ending. We’re starved for quality LGBTQ+ content and this comic has delivered in a big way. (Not to mention, it turned one of my fervently anti-sports friends into a hockey fan. This comic performs miracles!)
These characters hold a special place in my heart. From Jack’s never-ending battle with anxiety to Bitty’s fear of telling his parents to Ransom’s perfectionist tendencies to Holster’s television obsession, I have related to each and every character at some point. I’m so thankful for all that Bitty and Jack have given me, and I can only hope the success of this comic helps people realize it’s totally possible to give us well-written and developed queer characters and put them in completely normal relationships.
This volume also contains – as the first one did – Bitty’s tweets, along with the extra comics that aren’t part of the story but help add to the world of Samwell Hockey. There is also an additional chapter that was skipped in the online release. (I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s a long time coming, I feel.)
For those of you that may not be able to afford it right now but can’t wait to see how it ends, you won’t have to wait too long! Ngozi is planning a “Bitty Blast” all next week in celebration of the volume’s release, with a new chapter posted every day, as well as extras like blog posts, sketch jams, and Q&As. (When you can’t even know the names of the chapters, you know you’re in for a good time!)
For those who can afford it, if you pre-order and upload your receipt, you will receive a special poster of Bitty featuring his pre-game playlist! (Full details here.)
If I sound excited, it’s because I am, and it’s time for y’all to get excited, too, if you’re not already. I promise that you will love the heck out of Sticks and Scones, and that the end is well worth the wait.
Check Please: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu is published by First Second Books and will be available April 7, 2020, wherever books are sold.
*I was provided with a free copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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