The Avant-Guards Vol. 1
Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Noah Hayes (illustrator), Rebecca Nalty (colourist), Carly Usdin (writer and creator)
September 4, 2019
Getting my 13-year-old daughter to do more than shrug or mumble an “It was good” when I ask what she thinks of a particular comic is an effort in futility. When she spends the entire volume of The Avant-Guards cooing and squealing and threatening to cry happy tears over every page, it means something.
Charlie Bravo (yes, she’s heard all the jokes) has just transferred to Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics and is making her way through the campus, trying to avoid all the not-so-subtly-dramatic student groups vying for her attention. But it’s impossible for her to ignore Olivia, the captain of the Avant-Guards. The group is just one player short of having enough people to make up a team so that they can officially join the competitive basketball league for other art students who don’t want their lives to only be about the arts. But the surly Charlie isn’t so easy to win over, no matter how energetically, enthusiastically pushy Olivia is.
Broody transfer student joins rag tag team and learns the true meaning of friendship is a pretty common trope. Carly Usdin neither leans into the trope nor shies away from its pitfalls and pratfalls. Focusing on Charlie and Olivia, and occasionally adding some inner monologue, Usdin takes a lighthearted look at college life. Charlie and Olivia’s relationship and where it might lead is a key element of the plot. This leaves less room for the other characters though, but I have hope that future issues will give us more details on their lives as well. There are some darker moments, as characters reveal themselves to each other, but Usdin is careful to keep the story as bright as the colours on each page.
Noah Hayes and Rebecca Nalty are MVPs on every panel, especially when the team takes to the court. From amusing training montages to jump shots, every page is a colourful treat that pushes the boundaries of what a comic page must look like. “The art style is cool,” shrugs my daughter when pressed for more input for this review. I assume that means that she loves the bright colours, expressive faces, and uniquely designed characters—oh that hair!—that pop out from the simplistic backgrounds. Those simple backgrounds and Usdin’s tight dialogue leave lots of room for Ed Dukeshire’s letters to find clean spaces, but sometimes, less is more, with some scenes needing only sound effects or nothing at all to tweak the senses.
My daughter has absolutely zero interest in sports, but she appreciates the heart and soul of the story, despite its basketball court setting. I’d love to see a little bit more of the art side of the college, but for now, as an introduction to the team and their utter love of the game and each other, The Avant-Guards scores big.