THE AVANT-GUARDS #4 by Carly Usdin, Noah Hayes, and Rebecca Nalty
THE AVANT-GUARDS #4 flirts with fate as Carly Usdin's adorable protagonists Liv and Charlie get closer to each other. Artist Noah Hayes and colorist Rebecca Nalty add key details and help reinforce the series' adorable queer representation.
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Feeling Flirty?

In THE AVANT-GUARDS #4, there is no more tip-toeing around the subject of love. In previous issues, readers saw the chemistry and tension between protagonists Liv and Charlie grow. Now, the game has really begun! Indeed, Liv flirtatiously accuses Charlie of being “suspiciously gay” — a phrase that could describe the whole series. Of course, THE AVANT-GUARDS has been suspiciously gay from the beginning. However, it seems that now THE AVANT-GUARDS won’t hold back anymore when it comes to queer representation.

Writer Carly Usdin’s delightfully cute sports comic highlights a passion for basketball and, more importantly, a desire to playfully and lovingly represent queer people of color. Usdin leads a strong team behind the BOOM! Studios series. Artist Noah Hayes and colorist Rebecca Nalty give Usdin’s fluffy yet satisfying writing a lighthearted boost. As a result, THE AVANT-GUARDS #4 exemplifies the adorable, concise, and charming sports comic we know and love. In this issue, Usdin takes her players on an emotional rollercoaster, capturing the excitement of life at college and all of the feelings that go along with it!

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Crushing is a Team Sport

Thematically, THE AVANT-GUARDS #4 explores the topic of “crushes.” In the previous issue, the team soundly crushed their opponents at the American Institute of Veterinary Curiosities. But THE AVANT-GUARDS #4 turns to a more emotional crush: Liv’s feelings towards the brooding basketball whiz Charlie. Usdin makes the crush hilariously obvious. Although Liv protests that she is an actor, she wears her heart on her sleeve. Moreover, as it turns out, her crush isn’t so unrequited.

Although Usdin expertly builds the chemistry between her characters, their flirting abilities could use some practice. Indeed, it is difficult to tell if Usdin wanted Liv and Charlie to struggle through awkward flirting. It is possible that the characters’ attempted passes at each other are supposed to be sincere examples of witty repartee. Nonetheless, as Liv and Charlie forge ahead with their conversation, readers will revel in the awkward and adorably queer interaction.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Don’t Miss the References in THE AVANT-GUARDS #4

The humor of THE AVANT-GUARDS relies on well-placed details. The fourth issue is no exception. Hayes and Nalty cleverly insert recognizable references throughout the comic to help set the scene and add to the characters. For example, in the opening scenes, Liv plays a “Galactic Banger” pinball machine. The design and colors make an obvious reference to the cult basketball classic SPACE JAM. If Liv wasn’t already relatable as an overachieving drama-nerd, this humorous detail seals the deal.

However, the comic uses references to bring up more serious points as well. An example is a flashback involving Liv’s ex-girlfriend and teammate Nicole. In this flashback, Nicole’s dorm room window is covered by the recognizable pink, white, and blue trans pride flag. I almost missed it, but it’s an undeniable and clever strategy to reinforce the positive queer representation that is already prevalent in the series. Indeed, although Nicole and Liv share a complicated history (that may complicate Liv’s crush on Charlie!), the two are fiercely loyal to the team and each other.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Predicting the Future

One intriguing (and as of yet underdeveloped) subplot in THE AVANT-GUARDS is the witchy character Tiffany. On the cover of THE AVANT-GAURDS #4, she looks deeply into a basketball as if it was a crystal. However, it would be a challenge to read the future in a basketball! Likewise, it is hard to guess at the future for Liv, Charlie, and the other members of the Avant-Guards! If the first 4 issues offer any indication, the series will be dominated by Liv and Charlie. While they are exciting characters, the series might benefit from rounding out the other characters’ backstories. Indeed, while positive queer representation is important, it would be a pity if the comic’s confirmed nonbinary and trans characters continue to only play background roles.

Usdin, Hayes, and Nalty leave readers with many questions. Will Liv find someone who appreciates how extra she is? Maybe Charlie will regain her confidence on the court? Will Tiffany conjure a perfect season for the team? We will just have to wait and see! The only prediction I can soundly make is that Usdin’s team will prove that there is no way to be too gay in this adorable series.

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