The Team Preps For Their First Game Against…The Cuddly Retrievers In The Avant-Guards #3

by James Ferguson

Now that they have enough players for a team, the Avant-Guards prepare for their first game against the fearsome…Cuddly Retrievers. Hey, this is a brand new basketball league made up of art schools, so what did you expect? Considering they’ve only had one practice, the team is untested, so they’ll have to learn how to work together on the court.

If you were expecting trash talk and fouls, look for another basketball story. Maybe try Space Jam. The Avant-Guards has none of that. It’s almost eerie how now the Cuddly Retrievers are. It weirds out some of the players. This is a different type of athlete and they can still have fun without the intense competition.

The action on the court is just as fun as any sports movie would be. Artist Noah Hayes breaks the pages up with dynamic layouts, focusing on specific elements of the game. In the scheme of things, there’s not a huge amount of time dedicated to the game, but it feels much bigger and grander than a small college expedition.

The Avant-Guards #3 reaches an awesome climax in a double page spread filled with small and quirky images of the final moments of the game. If you needed to boil down the ending to every sports movie into two pages, this would be it. I like that there’s a dog in there too to mix things up, adding to the fun of the story.

Even with this last minute intensity, The Avant-Guards #3 maintains a good-natured tone. This can largely be credited to colorist Rebecca Nalty, who brings a vibrant palette to the book. There are several instances where there’s no background to the images. Instead, it’s a block of solid color, usually bright pinks, blues, or yellows that really catch the eye.

There’s an unmistakable feeling of camaraderie throughout this comic. It oozes friendship and positivity, but not in a way that hits you over the head with a “message.” Instead, writer Carly Usdin fills each character with this tone in their own unique way. Every one of them brings something different to the team that makes it better. It would not be what it is without each of them.

Under any normal circumstances, Liv, the leader of the group, would annoy the heck out of me. She’s the kind of personality that I would instantly clash with. Through the lens of The Avant-Guards, she has an infectious enthusiasm that you can’t help but get swept up in. She has an incredible drive and that seems to extend to the people around her, encouraging them all to work a little harder and dream a little bigger.

Liv is not without her own doubts and insecurities though. We get a glimpse of these deeper thoughts on the trip to the game. Letterer Ed Dukeshire weaves these caption boxes of inner narration through images of quiet reflection. Liv is anxious about the team working together, particularly with newcomer Charlie, who came with her own set of baggage. The placement for these boxes allows the words to carry so much weight.

The Avant-Guards #3 ends on a high note which could serve as the end of the series. It’s not a shocking cliffhanger or anything like that. Things are almost too good. There’s definitely more to come for this rag-tag team as they’re just getting started. With their first game behind them, they’ll only get closer as a team.

The Avant-Guards #3 from Boom! Studios is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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