AVANT-GUARDS #2 by Carly Usdin, Noah Hayes, and Rebecca Nalty
Carly Usdin jumps directly into the fun with the fast-paced AVANT-GUARDS #2. With bright artwork by Noah Hayes, Usdin's comic is full of charismatic characters and celebrates basketball, friendships, and the thrill of young love.
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Game On!

The clock is ticking for the young basketball players at the Georgia O’Keefe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics. They need one more player to qualify for their division. In the first issue of Carly Usdin’s charming series from BOOM! Studios, readers met Charlie, a loner transfer student with incredible athletic skill. AVANT-GUARDS #2 switches the POV over to the tenacious team captain Olivia, who desperately wants the team to succeed. Usdin wastes no time in setting the stakes in AVANT-GUARDS #2. The quick-witted issue humorously fleshes out the full roster of characters. Moreover, Usdin seamlessly sets off a romantic spark between Olivia and Charlie. Additionally, Noah Hayes’ expressive illustrations capture the comic’s lighthearted mood, emphasized by Rebecca Nalty’s consistent use of bright, bubble-gum colors.

AVANT-GUARDS #2 introduces readers – and Charlie – to the members of the basketball team. Each is wonderfully unique and hilariously dedicated to their assignment: convince Charlie to join the team. However, no one is quite as guileless as Olivia. Humorously over-the-top, Olivia is the group’s young genius, entrepreneur, and resident over-achiever. Instantly lovable, Olivia is motivated by her love of basketball and just the slightest of crushes on the new student. The combination makes AVANT-GUARDS #2 a total delight.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Sports and Comics: Bringing Energy to the Page

Fans of CHECK, PLEASE! and FENCE will feel right at home with AVANT-GUARDS #2’s exciting energy. Although similar in tone to other beloved sports comics, AVANT-GUARDS #2 highlights the importance of quality sportsmanship and a dedicated team. Olivia takes the helm of the second issue, giving Usdin space to develop on-court and off-court drama. Ultimately, however, the comic draws attention to the team as a collective of unique young people who love each other as much as they love the game.

Even though the Avant-Guards haven’t even fully recruited their last member, readers may feel that they are ready to go sit in the bleachers and cheer on the whole team. This is in part thanks to Hayes’ enthusiastic illustrations and Nalty’s ultra-bright colors. Indeed, Hayes’ characters have adorably large eyes plus unique character designs that capture each personality. Moreover, Hayes is careful to develop the details. For example, the emojis that characters use in text messages adds depth of character. Hayes is also careful to lay out the panels in a way that builds the comic’s speed. As a result of Usdin, Hayes, and Nalty’s expert balance, readers will have no choice but to root for the team of misfits. The comic’s excitement is palpable and it drives the plot boldly forward.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Diversity Front and Center

Although I always look for LGBTQ+ representation in comics, I was surprised and delighted to see it joyfully appear in AVANT-GUARDS #2. Usdin can’t wait to suggest a connection between Olivia and Charlie, fearlessly dropping hilarious hints throughout the comic. Additionally, one member of the team (Jay) is casually referred to with they/them pronouns, adding a non-binary character without fuss or worry. Without hesitation, AVANT-GUARDS #2 provides excellent representation for LGBTQ+ readers. Moreover, AVANT-GUARDS #2 embraces the importance of giving the world a fun, sporty, and enthusiastic comic about people of color. The comic does not give into tokenism either. Instead, queer POC are rightfully portrayed as people with complex identities and interests. AVANT-GUARDS fits appropriately in BOOM! Studios’ canon by making space to put diverse characters in comics.

Consistently delightful, the comic also celebrates the quirky and hilarious friendships that form between “weirdos.” Olivia’s infectious passion for basketball inspires her friends to go to extremes. The comic open-heartedly conveys the charm and hype of the whole team.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

AVANT-GUARDS #2: Endearing and Direct

AVANT-GUARDS #2 goes all in, balancing smart character development, adorable artwork, and a crisp plot. Although the characters may not always take the most direct approach to fixing their problems, they are still a loyal team. Despite the brightly colored pages and sporty environment – which might suggest to readers that the comic is more fluff than substance – AVANT-GUARDS #2 is surprisingly direct in its loving insistence on quality representation. Indeed, there is a sense of lighthearted frivolity to the comic, but that does not stop AVANT-GUARDS from diving into a world of wonderfully nuanced characters. The dedication to bold and unique characters helps draw out the comic’s fresh narrative and leaves readers feeling exhilarated.

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