The Avant-Guards may be a fledgling team in a fledgling league, but that’s not going to stop them from giving it their all on and off the court. They’ve got a few games lined up that will test their merit. They can only fly on this wave of positivity for so long.
I like how the latest issues of The Avant-Guards have shifted the focus to some of the other members of the team. This one puts Ash on center stage, further developing her as a character. Writer Carly Usdin gives us some valuable perspective with Ash. Here you have a star player who’s sidelined with an injury. While she’s happy to coach the team, she’s aching to get back on the court. It’s killing her to see everyone else playing and having fun and she’s sitting on the bench.
In many ways, The Avant-Guards is about overcoming adversity. This basketball team and the entire league, isn’t supposed to happen. Liv practically willed it into existence. This issue shows Ash reclaiming the spotlight, not necessarily on the basketball court, but for herself. She was shaken up by her injury and now she’s ready to stand tall again.
Artist Noah Hayes shows Ash as this pillar of confidence. She has a smile on her face and she’s ready to take on the world. This makes the occasional doubtful expression carry so much more weight as you have to wonder what could have been so devastating as to sour her usual happy demeanor.
Ash’s outward appearance creates a nice juxtaposition against her internal narration. Letterer Ed Dukeshire captures those feelings of doubt and regret which contrast against her outward appearance. The caption boxes are placed in such a way to drive this home perfectly.
Hayes uses some great dynamic layouts for the games, focusing on some key moments on the court. This creates a nice montage effect, showing the gist of the game without having to dedicate too much time to it. I realize that might sound weird considering this is a comic about a basketball team, but the team plays three games in this issue alone so there’s a lot of ground to cover.
Colorist Rebecca Nalty controls the tone throughout The Avant-Guards. Brighter colors correspond with more positive, upbeat scenes, like a cordial meeting of friends or a good game. Darker shades signify a downturn in the energy, like when Ash doubts if her personal trainer / crush is going to attend her birthday party. These changes create a subconscious reaction in us to great effect. Things really come to a head with the final page of this issue with some pitch perfect colors.
The Avant-Guards have been on an amazing upward trajectory and for the first time they’re facing some real challenges in the other teams. With the personal drama occurring off the court, it’s easy to forget sometimes that the main reason they’re all together is for basketball. This makes the game feel a little less important, although it’s still a driving force within the comic. In any case, I would read The Avant-Guards even if they never picked up a basketball again. I’m here for the interactions between these characters and what they bring out in each other.