REVIEW: ‘The Avant-Guards,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Avant-Guards: Volume 1 is published by BOOM! Studios. It comes from the creative team of writer Carly Usdin, artist Noah Hayes, colorist Rebecca Nalty, and letterer Ed Dukeshire.

Charlene “Charlie” Bravo is a new transfer student at the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics. Having just arrived at the college, she grabs her registration materials and heads back to her dorm. The next day she heads over to the school activities fair to peruse options for clubs to join. After passing an eclectic selection of clubs such as Dungeons and Dragons, Music, and Witchcraft, she looks bored. However, her attention is grabbed by another student sitting at a table labeled the Avant-Guards Basketball Club.

Within moments Charlie is swept up in the excitement and passion of the club leader Liv. Despite this Charlie brushes Liv off and returns to her dorm. Later on Charlie suits up and heads to the gymnasium. Here she finds Liv practicing and decides to shoot hoops with her. When Liv presses Charlie again to join the team Charlie gives her a challenge. Shoot a half-court shot and she’ll join.

Liv shoots, but comes up short, but as Charlie leaves Liv gives her some contact info. Later on, after leaving her dorm and heading to the dining hall Charlie meets back up with the Avant-Guards to eat. Soon enough the group is in a full-court press to get Charlie to join. But whether or not they succeed or if Liv’s dreams of a basketball team will crash and burn hangs in the balance.

The story for Avant-Guards from Carly Usdin is refreshing. It manages to catch the manic, busy, and bizarre first few days of a new college student perfectly. Obviously not everyone makes friends quite so quickly, but there is a familiar energy to the dialogue that is reminiscent. Likewise does this book provide unique characters who seem entirely real and realistic.

Each of the supporting cast around Liv and Charlie feels like a fully realized person. They have interests, quirks, and flaws that, while not explored deeply, are still present. For a slice-of-life character story, this is a great place to start. Who these people are, their identities, and relationships with one another are thoughtfully presented and it ends up being one of the comic’s greatest strengths as a result.

The art and colors from Noah Hayes and Rebecca Nalty are excellent. The action is simple to follow and pages are chock-full of details that are perfect for rereads. Characters are brilliantly expressive. At times you can see emotions play across their face thanks to the superbly detailed art. Likewise do the colors assist in this. The palette leans towards warmer brighter colors which helps keep the upbeat nature of the story as a focal point. Additionally, the letters from Ed Dukeshire are clean and solid. Dialogue is easy to follow and the splashier letters are fun and thematically appropriate.

There’s a lot to love in The Avant-Guards: Volume 1. As I was working my way through I found myself rooting for Charlie and the Avant-Guards. This is surprising, as I don’t usually find myself interested in the more realistic comic series. As such I think this serves as a testament to the strength of the story and characters. If you’re a fan of slice-of-life storytelling then this is a solid choice.

The Avant-Guards: Volume 1 is available as a trade paperback in comic stores everywhere

Rating: 4.5/5 Slam Dunks