THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 by Carly Usdin, Noah Hayes, and Rebecca Nalty
Carly Usdin charms readers with another enthusiastic issue of THE AVANT-GUARDS. Usdin's passion for fun perfectly aligns with Noah Hayes and Rebecca Nalty's exuberant artwork.
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Smells Like Team Spirit!

In Issues #1 and #2 of BOOM! Studios’ high-spirited sports comic THE AVANT-GUARDS, writer Carly Usdin demonstrated a natural talent for feel-good comedy writing. THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 continues this trend. With Noah Haye’s skillful design and Rebecca Nalty’s trademark bright colors, it’s hard to feel sad when you pick up this issue. THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 relies more on the cute factor than character development. Nevertheless, this issue keeps the series’ lighthearted tone as the plot jumps forward. Indeed, it’s an exciting moment for the young basketball players at the Georgia O’Keefe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics. It’s time to hit the road for the first game of the season.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Good Sports: Writing a Winning Team

Unlike other sports comics such as BOOM! Studios’ FENCE, THE AVANT-GUARDS puts friendship and team spirit first. In THE AVANT-GUARDS #3, the team’s five players passionately train for their first match. Everyone likes to win, but Usdin’s adorable team mostly wants to have fun. Even when the Avant-Guards’ team captain Liv goes to dramatic extremes to pump up her teammates, they all run with it. Liv is extra, and that’s why we love her.

The Avant-Guards may give off scrappy underdog vibes. However, everyone from their stand-in coach to the newest player Charlie shows up to play for the team. As a result, Usdin’s characters set up a universe where it really doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Playing the game with your friends is the real reason to get out on the court.

By focusing her narrative on good sportsmanship and fun, Usdin crafts a space in which every player belongs. Although Charlie is an all-star and Jay stands feet above their opponents, not every player on the Avant-Guards is so experienced with basketball. Nevertheless, the the team is focused on playing together. Ultimately THE AVANT-GUARDS #3’s celebration of team spirit will make even the most competitive readers root for them.

The Avant-Guards #3
Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #3: Bring on The Cute

Previous issues of THE AVANT-GUARDS dedicated considerable time to building rapport between protagonists Charlie and Liv. Excitingly, Issue #2 even hinted at a growing crush. However, Issue #3 surprisingly skirts the topic. Instead, THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 briefly touches on Charlie’s past experiences with basketball but then quickly moves on to cuter topics. This may be Usdin’s attempt to prove that Charlie can find joy in the sport again. However, Usdin seems cautious to introduce any past traumas and misses an opportunity for readers to fully empathize with characters.

Instead of digging a little deeper, THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 stays in the cute zone. Take, for example, the mascot of their opposing team. This cute dog helps Usdin ground her humor in an already witty comic. However, for a series about drama students, there isn’t a whole lot of drama in THE AVANT-GUARDS #3. Sticking to a deliberately upbeat energy, Usdin presses on with cute jokes and adorable characters rather than diving into dramatics.

Accompanying Usdin’s choice to stay away from too much tension, Hayes keeps the illustrations lively and bright. One contemplative moment doesn’t stand a chance against the sunshiny images. Happily, everyone on the team has a chance to shine. And Hayes makes sure they all shine in their own way – even the players on the opposing team. Hayes lovingly incorporates different body types onto the basketball court proving that athleticism is for everyone. The artistic style embraces basketball fashion in a way that is oddly evocative of the 90’s. This is brought out by Nalty’s bright swaths of electric colors and different textured backdrops (which, I now realize, are cleverly meant to compliment the texture of a basketball).

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Practice Makes Perfect

Just like her players, Usdin’s cheerful series will surely continue to improve. Although the members of the Avant-Guards didn’t have much time to practice for their first game, the third issue keeps the energy high and the laughs coming.

Unlike previous issues, THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 is more upbeat than profound.While dwelling on the more profound moments could have strengthened the plot and character development, there are times when we just need puppies and happiness. This issue is undeniably adorable and enjoyable for its light-hearted approach. Ultimately, Usdin’s focus on the cute factor leads her creative team to another success.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 is available here

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