Charlie is a new student at the Georgia O’Keefe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics. She’s coming to the university with loads of personal baggage and she really just wants to be left alone. Liv sees something in Charlie and she wants desperately to bring it out. Sure, part of it is that Liv is trying super hard to start a basketball league at an art school and has an inkling of hope that Charlie would want to play. It’s also that Liv is one of the nicest, most enthusiastic people in the world.
Although a chunk of the plot for The Avant-Guards #1 was given away in the solicitation information, the journey provides so much more. Writer Carly Usdin introduces us to Charlie in a way that instantly invests us in her life. There’s this feeling of loneliness around Charlie that is something just about everyone has experienced. Although she’s surrounded by people who would probably all talk to her and spend some time with her, she feels so alone.
This is exemplified by Rebecca Nalty’s colors. Charlie could be standing in the middle of a crowd, but everyone else is faded out. She’s the only one (or one of the only ones) that is in full color. This is such a great effect that perfectly sums up how the character is feeling.
The differences between Charlie and Liv are staggering. On one side you have this critical and jaded grimace and on the other there’s a smile that’s practically made of glitter. Artist Noah Hayes captures the essence of each of these characters very well. You instantly get an idea of their personalities based on their design and mannerisms. It would be easy to make Liv so upbeat and positive that she becomes annoying, but she stops just short of that. Instead, her enthusiasm is infectious. You have to admire her charisma.
There are a handful of panels where Hayes’ artwork gets a little cartoony. These happen sparingly and are used to great effect. My favorite comes when Charlie is trying to be quiet remain unseen but is quickly spotted by Liv. Charlie’s eyes literally pop out of her face. Letterer Ed Dukeshire adds to this with some great sound effects, such as a long, drawn-out squeak of a chair opening. It takes up almost the entire panel and you can imagine how uncomfortable that must feel.
We’re given a glimpse into Charlie’s history which is presented without any dialogue or narration. Instead, we’re left to connect the dots and start to think about what she might have been through to get to this point. From what we can see, she was pretty happy, so what could have happened to turn things sour?
The Avant-Guards is much more than a catchy title. It presents us with an all too familiar feeling that anyone can relate to. Charlie’s sky is full of clouds and Liv represents this small glimmer of sunlight that’s peeking through. It’s this beautiful story of friendship and we’re just getting started. This fits right in next to the other titles under Boom! Studios’ Boom! Box imprint like Lumberjanes, Giant Days, and Fence.