The Avant-Guards Vol. 1The Avant-Guards Vol. 1

Writer: Carly Usdin
Artist: Noah Hayes
Colorist: Rebecca Nalty
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Publisher: BOOM! Box

There’s something incredibly appealing about The Avant-Guards. I think it’s because of the way the facade strangers put up to shield themselves starts to dissolve as they form friendship and relationship. There’s the lively and spunky basketball team organizer Liv, who’s petrified of not getting people’s approval. The athlete Charlie, who’s distant because she’s afraid of repeating past mistakes. We get to see those characters layers peel off as their relationship grows and as they become more comfortable, more trusting of each other. It’s not easy to let other people see you, it’s powerful when people begin to reveal who they are, It was nice to see that The Avant-Guards understand that and respect it’s character’s journey so much.

The Avant-Guards is a coming of age, basketball and friendship comic. It’s the tale of Charlie, a new student at the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics. She’s trying to get her life back on track after losing a previous sports scholarship. She’s being roped into joining the new college basketball team that Liv, a young energetic woman is putting together. Together with a band of lovable misfits, they start practicing and eventually play against other teams as their bonds grow and their relationship becomes stronger. Liv also has a crush on Charlie and we see the beginning of a romance blossom between the two.

I was taken aback by the depth of this book. Judging it by its cover, I anticipated a lighthearted comic about misfits playing basketball. Which is kind of what it is, but there is a wonderful depth throughout. It’s light enough to read, but there’s plenty of things happening to keep you engaged and asking for more. The way all of the characters interact and evolve throughout the story is well-done. There are a lot of things to find under the surface. Creator and writer Carly Usdin injects her characters with an infectious charm.  Her flair for dialog allows her to fully flesh out her cast and develop them over time, never revealing more than necessary. This is also helped by Noah Hayes, the artist, who also controls the characters and their interaction comprehensibly while adding a subtlety to their body language. The colours by Rebecca Nalty are vibrant and bright, the perfect tone for this series. She knows when to darken her palette, but remains with a positively brilliant and bright colour scheme throughout. It adds to the levity of the work and makes the more mature elements contained within The Avant-Guards more palatable.

For a sport comic, movement is key to making the sports element shine. That’s something Sam Bosma‘s Fantasy Sport series nailed perfectly. The Avant-Guards falls a bit short in that regard. The basketball scenes never feel truly kinetic. Hayes tries very hard, but this is no Kuroko’s Basketball. They use a lot of ways to mitigate that throughout the comic. In particular, during the practices and basketball scenes where they use a sort of training montage sequence stands-in for a more rigorous look at movement. It’s halfway there I guess is what I’m trying to say. That may all be beside point regardless, this comic is about lonely people allowing themselves to become vulnerable enough to trust others not so much about the actual intricacies of a basketball game.

I would definitely recommend this book. My main issue with it is that it wasn’t long enough. I wanted more of these characters, their trials and tribulations, their ups and down, their love life. That’s a really good problem to have. I’m looking forward to following this team wherever they go as the series continues.