The Avant-Guards was my answer to a friend asking the question of whether there was any American comic that could be described as sports yuri (which is manga about girl-girl attraction). It’s written by Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl), illustrated by Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer), and this collection reprints the first four-issue storyline. (There are 12 issues planned in total.)
The dynamic go-getter Olivia is determined to create a basketball team at her all-female drama school “The Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics”. If new transfer student Charlie joins, that will give her enough players to get started. But Charlie’s got some kind of past with the sport — she doesn’t like the team aspect any more — and Liv has a crush on her.
The conflicts are small and predictable in outcome. Of course Charlie is going to wind up joining the team. The appeal is the emotions, such as understanding the feelings of Charlie having trouble finding where she fits in, and the diverse group of characters, particularly the humor of over-enthusiastic Liv. The team also includes Liv’s ex-girlfriend Nicole, who is extremely direct, the wannabe witch Tiffany, and the quiet Jay, who uses “they” pronouns. Usdin’s voices are well-captured, and Hayes does a great job with the various attitudes, body types, action, and personalities, creating a smooth read with a focus on character.
There’s a lot of appeal and a lot to appreciate in seeing such welcoming personalities working to “be a team and have fun!” instead of worrying about competition. I feel for all the team members, and I’m curious to learn more about them. Boom! has been trying a number of misfit sport teen team comics, including Fence and Dodge City. It’s a rich subject matter area, with plenty of opportunity for drama and emotion. The Avant-Guards fits in well.
The Avant-Guards volume 1 is due out at the end of August. It can be pre-ordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code JUN19 1303. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)