20 Fists is a three-issue Kickstarter project written by Frankee White, with art by Kat Baumann and lettering by DC Hopkins. The plot is an action/romance story that revolves around two women, Chel and Billie, trying to make their relationship work while leading opposite factions of the illegal fist fighting league that operates within their city. Caught between two sides of a battleground, can the two ladies come to terms with how they feel about each other?
The plot manages to expertly balance the grizzly, bone-crunching fistfights with the utterly adorable moments between the two protagonists, attempting to not give in to the magnetizing chemistry between them. In a few scenes they are tentative and sweet, the next they are throwing fists at each other. There isn’t always combat when the two crews encounter each other, but the high amount of tension created in the pages informs the reader that anyone can be punched within a panel’s notice. And don’t let the softer moments between the two women fool you. This isn’t a cute or timid love story. It’s fast-paced, violent and messy.
If the plot itself isn’t intriguing enough, the characters make 20 Fists soar. The gang features five members apiece, and all of them appear to have relationships with the other. White successfully creates individuals with unique stories, interests, and struggles. Towards the end of issue one, both factions find themselves on the same pier together. Here you see that there are more relationships blossoming between the two crews (although Chel and Billie’s are the only ones who threaten to breach the divide). Each one of these small moments between each other is so well written and they soften the reader’s views of the fighters that were portrayed as so battle-hardened at the start of the comic. 20 Fists is full of so many fun moments; just Billie and Chel smoking next to each other outside a bar is brimming with scintillating tension.
Baumann’s fantastic art takes White’s soulful character traits and gives them bodies to inhabit. All of the crew members in 20 Fists are given distinctive looks that make them easily identifiable in the middle of a bar brawl. The cast is incredibly diverse, with characters of all physical sizes a welcome sight in an area of entertainment where the representation of different body sizes is extremely lacking. The two protagonists look amazing, but Chel seems most detailed. Despite the monochromatic color scheme, Chel’s hair appears to have highlights. Her eyes have a mischievous glint to them when she speaks.
Baumann’s linework bursts to life during the fight scenes. Individual fights between the members aren’t extended, they’re fleeting but fierce. The brawls and battles as a whole are epic and span multiple pages ( issue 2 is almost entirely a last person standing slugfest), but every punch and kick thrown carries the threat of a finishing blow. The combat is effortless to follow, the character models and nature of how they battle gives the comic a similar atmosphere to playing a side-scrolling, button-mashing fighting game in an arcade. The locations don’t help deter from this feeling, with the combat in 20 Fists #2 taking place on and around a park playground. It’s chaos of the most delectable order.
The lettering by Hopkins is incredibly influential in giving potentially static scenes movement and impact. The ‘GLUG GLUG’ of Chel downing a drink and the visualization of the thumping music gives the pages personality. And when the crews start trading punches, the sound effects give the blows more weight.
20 Fists takes the Romeo and Juliet story and places it in Streets of Rage. White takes an already interesting concept, and turns it into a high octane slugfest, while still allowing time for sexual tension and flirting. While the action is enjoyable, the rare but impossibly cute moments between the characters is what I found myself going back to. The powerful theme of identity, White’s lovable characters, and Baumann’s superb art style has the potential to turn this into a cult classic.
The Kickstarter for 20 Fists #1-3 releases on March 23rd. The pre-launch page is here.
20 Fists #1-2
20 Fists takes the Romeo and Juliet story and places it in Streets of Rage. White takes an already interesting concept, and turns it into a high octane slugfest, while still allowing time for sexual tension and flirting. While the action is enjoyable, the rare but impossibly cute moments between the characters is what I found myself going back to. The powerful theme of identity, White’s lovable characters and Baumann’s superb art style has the potential to turn this into a cult classic.