The Avant Guards Vol. 2 by Carly Usdin Review {Graphic Novel}

The Avant Guards Vol. 2The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 by Carly Usdin (writer), Noah Hayes (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colorist) & Ed Dukeshrire (Letterer)

Publisher: Boom! Box (Boom Studios)

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: The Avant-Guards Vol. 2

Summary: The Avant-Guards have been on a roll when it come to their newly-formed basketball league and Charlie has been getting more comfortable with her new teammates, but when they hit the end of their winning-streak, will these new friendships survive? As the Avant-Guards struggle to move forward, they’ll soon learn just what it means to truly be a team― on the court, and most importantly, off the court too.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 is phenomenal continuation to a female-led sports series that at its core, is about friendship! This volume delves more into the team and their lives off the court as the season continues! The series art is colorful, features a great cast of characters and a page-turning story!

Although I don’t talk about it much on my blog, The Avant-Guards is easily one of my favorite graphic novel series (tied up there with Sera and Tea Dragon Society). I fell completely in love with Vol. 1 last year and there was no surprise I’d be continuing with the series.

As Charlie has become more comfortable with the team, found her loyal group of friends, also navigating her relationship with Liv, this volume very much focuses on the rest of the team and what they’re up to when not on the court.

While there are many things I love about this series, it’s very clear how much care is given to our delightful cast from Jay to Ashley, Nicole, Tiffany, Liv, and Charlie. No matter how much page time they have, their personalities shine through in every moment.

As the team continues their season at away games, you learn even more about their hobbies and them as a whole while they aren’t practicing. Jay has their art, Ashley has been recovering from an injury and we see its keeping her from playing a game she loves. There’s a joy she feels from coaching the team despite missing the game and her budding relationship with her physical therapist.

We learn there’s more to “cynic” Nicole and resident witch Tiffany too!

What makes this such a fantastic sequel is because not only are the girls loyal and passionate about what they love, but the series itself realizes this too! With each page you see the love and appreciation for these phenomenal characters! Each of these women have their own quirks, personalities, and energy that shines whenever their on the page.

There’s specific plot points/arcs in this volume that allow the cast to shine: Jay’s art exhibit, Ashley’s birthday, the film fest night for Liv, even when we learn more about Tiffany and her family! Even though Charlie is more in the background during this volume, I adored getting the cute moments between her and Liv!

But what stands out the most across both volumes so far is how Charlie, Liv, Jay, Ashley, Tiffany, and Nicole are there for each other, to lift each other up always! Their dedication to friendship and teamwork always fills me with so much joy and is just inspiring! I cannot pick a favorite character, I LOVE them all ♥♥

I can’t wait to see how the team dynamic/friendship develops across the rest of The Avant-Guards series! Some of my favorite moments include their practice and when their hanging out together, like at Jay’s art exhibit.

This second volume also delves into an underlying and subtle conflict, where their league is struggling financially. While it weaves into the story in a quiet sort of way, I liked how this obstacle further emphasized their dedication towards teamwork and finding a way to solve the issue!

The writing is really good, it delivers great dialogue and helps to build the development of our main cast! With this installment focusing more on the other teammates, one detail that just adds more to the already wonderful cast is the internal 1st -person dialogue bubbles that tells us a bit more about how the ladies are feeling at a particular moment. Although its brief, it shows us how these characters perceive themselves in ways we probably didn’t expect.

As with Volume 1 also, the panel and art continue to be a highlight of the series! The colors are bright and eye-catching, making the series an absolute visual delight! Paneling is also metaphorical in a way, limiting the use of full or large panels for impactful moments or action-packed scenes during the games, another example of this would be the final panel during Jay’s art exhibit with their partner Tyler.

The bright colors and dynamic art style showcase the fun, lighthearted ton of the series.

The emphasis on small, overlapping, tighter-fitting panels also leaves tons of room for seeing more of the characters, setting, and visuals! The paneling also emphasizes the action, movement, and expressiveness of both characters + scenes.

One example of this where it was cleverly drawn was: When Jay & Ashley are passing out flyers, even the full page spread of Jay and Tyler looking at a painting together. There was also a moment in Ch.6 where the paneling brilliantly was presented in the shape of a basket to emphasize the action! (It mirrored a similar scene in Vol. 1 where there were panels shaped in the form of a basketball). Overall, the way the panels are presented in this series is phenomenal!

Friendship continues to be a hallmark of the series and no matter what, the Avant-Guards always come together to support each other in different ways! The series also continues to feature characters of color and Queer women, and just continues to be a diverse/inclusive series! For ex. we get introduced to Jay’s partner Tyler (who also goes by they/them).

My only issue with this volume is that I wanted more page & plot time with these characters, because the last page does leave the ending somewhat abrupt leading into Vol. 3. It just felt like there needed to be MORE whether it was more Liv/Charlie moments, Tiffany/Nicole bonding, or just the team hanging out. The story is just so wholesome and they deserve the world!!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 2 is a fantastic sequel to a series that can only continue to get better and better! Its a series dedicated to its characters and focuses on friendship, centering around a college basketball team! The colorful artwork, wonderfully diverse cast, and immersive story makes The Avant-Guards one of the best sports series out there!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin Review {Graphic Novel}

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly UsdinThe Avant Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin (writer), Noah Hayes (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colorist), & Ed Dukeshrire (Letterer)

Publisher: BOOM Box! (Boom Studios)

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: The Avant-Guards Vol. 1

Summary: When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Avant-Guards is a fantastic series from Boom Studios! This female-led series is about friendship and discovering who you are! The colorful art, alongside the great cast of characters, and much more, deliver a page-turning story you won’t be able to put down! With a fresh start at a new college, Charlie learns more about herself and finds where she belongs when her new friends convince her to join their basketball team!

This first volume of The Avant-Guards completely captured my heart and I can’t wait to see where the series is headed next! 💞

I’d already been familiar with Usdin’s graphic novels, already having read Heavy Vinyl (which is getting a sequel next year & recommend checking it out! 🎉 — it basically follows a group of girls in the 90’s who work in a record store and follows the newest employee, Chris as she discovers her co-workers are actually part of an all-female vigilante group!).

Going into The Avant-Guards, I knew I’d love it! But, I didn’t just love it, I adored it so much! I can definitely say―that THE AVANT-GUARDS IS MY NEW FAVORITE GRAPHIC NOVEL SERIES, I love it with all my heart!! 😭 

Charlene (Charlie) Bravo is a recent transfer to the Georgia O’Keeffe College For Art & Subtle Dramatics (amazing title for a school tbh) and she’s still figuring out where she fits in, that is until she meets the all-girls basketball team!!

Olivia is the energetic and optimistic one that really wants Charlie to join and sees her potential, then there’s the other wonderful teammates who I loved too: Jay, Nicole, Tiffany & Ashley, who are all incredibly welcoming to her!

This first volume chronicles the team getting together and introducing us to the wonderful team of The Avant-Guards! From beginning to end I felt I knew the team so well and I’m excited to learn even more about them. The Avant-Guards is the kind of story where the characters just pull you into the story and throughout it, they feel like your best friends too! 💞💞

Stories like that connect with me on such a deep and personal level because friendship is incredibly important to me and to see it highlighted and be such a focus of this series, just warms my heart!

Alongside that, this story is just filled to the brim with supportive and positive energy and you can’t help but smile while reading. As Charlie attempts to find where she belongs on this new campus, she seems to be pretty nonchalant about her environment. That is until she meets The Avant-Guards at their table during the campus’s activities fair!

With the team only needing one more player to make it official, Liv makes it her mission to convince Charlie to at least think it over. But after they all immediately click with Charlie, Liv comes up with a plan for all of them to get her to join!

As the story progresses, you learn so much about each of the girls (Liv is the captain of the team & got them all together, Nicole is the “resident cynic,” Ashley who “sings like Beyonce, [parties] like Rhianna & balls like Lebron,” Tiffany, whose interested in crystals & the like, & Jay, they are pretty quiet but an incredibly loyal friend).

The Charlie & Liv dynamic was so beautifully written! Having been a former basketball player, Charlie isn’t too interested in returning anytime soon, but its through Liv and the other girl’s she realizes its not just about the game, but also the connections she’s made with them!

We learn that they both had girlfriends in the past and its so obvious Liv has a crush on her, so seeing their friendship and romance develop was just so beautiful and I just loved seeing them together! 😭💞 There’s 3 moments throughout this volume that stuck out to me: Liv telling Charlie she wouldn’t give up on getting her to join, Liv explaining that the other girls genuinely want her to join b/c they’d love to be her friend, & their talk on the bus about Charlie’s anxiety!

All of the girls have their own quirks and personalities that shine throughout this entire first volume and I’m really looking forward to more of their interactions and dynamic as both friends/teammates in future issues! Every one of these girls resonated with me so much because their confidence and loyalty to each other was just incredibly inspiring to me!

The writing and pacing of the story allow for their characters to get the perfect amount of development, page-time, and still leave some mystery about them for future issues/volumes!

I also appreciated this intersection between sports and art! An underlying message (at least that I found) was the empowerment one can find through art! I mean anywhere you go I believe your surrounded by art in some way and I’m not really sure how to describe it, but I feel The Avant-Guards gets that? 😄

Throughout Volume 1, I found the art and paneling was done so wonderfully! The colors are bright and bring even more to the already brilliant story! As does the art! Its expressive, detailed, and feels incredibly cinematic & animated! The paneling is also something I was paying close attention to and it never felt like space was wasted. Alongside that, I felt the art and dialogue together complemented each other and came together to tell a fantastic story!

From the character expressions, pacing, action scenes, and even backgrounds, they all come to life through the vibrant colors and great art-style!

Overall, I felt The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 story was complete and well explored!

Honestly, if you were to ask me to pick a favorite character of the Avant-Guards, I honestly couldn’t do it, I adore each of the them with all my heart!! ❤ ❤

Considering this is a sports comic series, I did want to quickly talk about another series I’ve read which is Fence! Looking back, I can see why I enjoyed it when I first read it (its one the first sports comics I read & had a unique cast of characters like Avant-Guards). But if I’m being honest, I feel like my love for Fence has faded and The Avant-Guards has found that special place in my heart! Not saying they should be compared (because they are completely different stories) but if your stuck between both series and not sure which one to pick up, I’d say read The Avant-Guards!

Based on this first volume alone, I found the art, characters, pacing, and much more to be better developed and explored!

The Avant-Guards is diverse, colorful, the characters are all full of life, and the wonderful themes of the story weave their way through each page! I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful graphic novel!

Featuring characters of color, queer women, and just overall being incredibly inclusive, I just love the care and attention to diversity that the team behind this series has represented!  From the characters of different backgrounds (mainly featuring Brown/Black women), characters identifying as Queer and Jay (who uses They/Them), this is just such a beautifully inclusive series and I hope more people will pick it up!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 is must-read graphic novel series from Boom Studios! This series is all about friendship, self-discovery, and is beautifully inclusive + diverse! Charlie learns more about friendship and overcomes obstacles from her past when she joins the all-women’s basketball team! From the lovely artwork and colors to inspiring themes throughout this first volume, The Avant-Guards is a new series you don’t want to miss!

Graphic Novel & Comic Recommendations Featuring Women Of Color

This past weekend it was D23 (an expo to showcase/celebrate Disney properties + announce upcoming Disney projects)! One of those projects that had many (including myself) incredibly excited was that there is now a live-action series for Ms. Marvel in the works for Disney+.

To celebrate that announcement, I’m sharing a list of comics and graphic novels featuring women of color! A lot of these series are ones that have really stuck with me with their immersive stories, wonderful artwork and above all, feature inspiring female leads!

831. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (artist)

Publisher: Marvel

Release Date: October 28, 2014

Summary: Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey! 

I remember when I first getting back into graphic novels, this was a series I picked up in my early days as a book blogger (2015) and fell in love with it! Not only was it the first female-led superhero series I’d ever read, but also I loved that it had a diverse lead (Muslim & Pakistani-American). Also, after looking at my Goodreads, I really need to catch up on this series! I can’t wait to see how the Disney+ series turns out, looking forward to seeing Kamala on screen! ⚡❤

Sera And The Royal Stars Issue 12. Sera And The Royal Stars by Jon Tsuei, Audrey Mok (artist), Raúl Angulo (colorist),  Jim Campbell (letterer), & Tim Daniel (design)

Publisher: Vault Comics

Release Date: July 17, 2019 (issue #1) & Jan. 2020 Vol. 1

Full Review: Sera And The Royal Stars Issue #1

Summary: Civil war rages in the Empire of Parsa, and famine has struck. As the seasons refuse to turn, Princess Sera receives a vision from the deity Mitra telling her to find the Royal Stars and restore them to the heavens. Despite her kingdom and her troops’ need of her command, Sera embarks on a quest to find the fallen stars-now trapped on earth-and save her people from dearth and death.

Its been such a long time since I’ve found myself reading comic/graphic novel series and keeping up with them regularly, that is until, I discovered Sera And The Royal Stars! The first issue introduces colorful and detailed artwork, the world of Parsa is expansive, and I can’t wait to see where Princess Sera’s epic journey takes her next as she embarks on a quest at the height of her country’s civil war! This is a fantastic series and I highly recommend picking it up if you love fantasy tales with ancient prophecies, epic journeys, immersive world-building, and more! 💖💫

goldie-vance-vol-13. Goldie Vance Vol. 1 by Hope Larson (writer) & Brittney Williams (artist)

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Full Review: Goldie Vance Volume 1

Summary: GOLDIE VANCE IS ON THE CASE

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it’s her dream to one day be the hotel’s in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills, and connections to solve the mystery…even if it means getting into a drag race, solving puzzles, or chasing a helicopter to do it!

If your looking for a fun, 1960’s-set graphic novel filled with mystery and featuring a diverse cast (biracial, queer, & Black rep!) pick this series up! I’ve only read volume 1, but I really want to get back into this series again because I love mystery stories! 🔍🌟

M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder4. M.F.K.: Book One by Nilah Magruder (author & artist)

Publisher: Insight Comics

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Full Review: M.K.F.: Book One

Summary: A fantastic adventure following the story of Abbie, a deaf girl with a mysterious power, who is traveling across a vast desert to scatter her mother’s ashes.

In a world of sleeping gods, a broken government, and a fragile peace held in the hands of the corrupt, one youth must find the strength to stand up against evil and save humanity.

This story is not about that youth.

It’s about Abbie, who just wants to get to the mountain range called the Potter’s Spine and scatter her mother’s ashes. But the way is filled with sandstorms, wild beasts, and rogues that wield inhuman powers and prey on poor desert dwellers. When one of these rogues threatens the town where Abbie takes refuge, she must choose between running, or unleashing her own hidden power to meet danger head-on.

Journeys are hard on the social recluses of the world.

This is one of those graphic novels that in my opinion, is highly underrated! It has a lot of diverse representation within its main cast (featuring brown-skinned characters and Abbie, the MC, is deaf). I fell in love with this incredibly unique and moving story about Abbie who’s trekking across the desert alongside her giant pet bird, to spread her mother’s ashes! The artwork is beautifully illustrated and introduces so many different elements from some sci-fi/fantasy and is incredibly character-driven as she finds refuge in a small town and makes new friends! I remember reading MFK: Book One back in 2017 and was so excited to pick up the next volume, I haven’t heard much about a continuation recently but I do hope to one day see another installment of this wonderful series! 💖🏜

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin

5.The Avant Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin (writer), Noah Hayes (artist), Rebecca Nalty (Colorist), & Ed Dukeshrire (Letterer)

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Summary: When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this upcoming series and I’m counting down the days until its release! I’ve also been wanting to get into more sports-related stories and this one looks fantastic- not only does it feature a diverse cast, but its also about a women’s basketball team, and has a lot of queer representation! The Avant-Guards looks incredible and I’m hyped to read it when its finally out on shelves! 🏀🎉

And that’s my list of comic and graphic novel recommendations featuring women of color! I highly recommend checking out all of these wonderful female-led series and adding them to your TBR if you haven’t already! 📚❤

Are any of these on your list? Do you have any other recommendations you think I should check out? 📚✨🎉