Review: ‘The Avant-Guards: Down To The Wire’ Is A (Pardon The Pun) Slam Dunk

by James Ferguson

The Avant-Guards, the art school basketball team is back and they’re heading to the championships. This league didn’t even exist a few months ago and now, thanks to Liv’s sheer determination, it’s here and her team is ready for the finals…that is, if they can get through its own drama first.

I am so happy to see The Avant-Guards back on comic stands. This comic has been utterly charming since it began and this graphic novel finale continues that trend. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in these characters’ lives. They feel real and more importantly, you want to get to know them further. I could read whole comics about their times just hanging out and chatting.
Writer Carly Usdin further develops more characters in Down to the Wire. Each one has had some time in the spotlight as we see the world from their perspective. We were still learning more about them even as the series was approaching its end. Some of this feels a little rushed, so I wonder how much was planned to be explored at a later date and if the creators were forced to condense.

My only issue with this comes with Charlie’s sister Allie who feels rather shoehorned into this book. She’s popped up in previous issues and she’s certainly part of Charlie’s life, but we didn’t get much time to dig into that before she becomes a major player (no pun intended) in the last few chapters. Again, I wonder if there were plans for her to come in later on. As it stands, there’s a whole lot of development happening at a very fast pace here.
Much of the charm of The Avant-Guards comes from artist Noah Hayes, aided in this graphic novel by Gabriele Bagnoli for one chapter and inks from Lea Caballero for some. The characters are very expressive and just cartoony enough to showcase every bit of their personalities. As we continue to learn more about them, Hayes says a lot with body language. You get a sense as to what’s going through their minds as they go through the stresses of not just basketball, but their own relationships, school, and more.

Hayes mixes up the layout with the basketball scenes, framing them like high-intensity action sequences. This adds to the excitement and fun. Although I’m not a basketball fan, I was pulled into these images completely. Letterer Ed Dukeshire matches this with some bold fonts. You fully understand the stakes of this game based on how the players are yelling.
Eleonora Bruni’s colors match that welcoming tone of the story and artwork. The palette is bright and vibrant. It creates a positive vibe that I absolutely love. While the mood is mostly lively, Bruni dials it down at times when we get some nice heart-to-heart moments between the cast. This creates a more somber mood that works very well.

The Avant-Guards: Down to the Wire is a fun, character-driven comic with a diverse cast. We need more comics like this. It’s a warm, welcoming book that will bring a smile to your face.
The Avant-Guards: Down to the Wire from BOOM! Studios is currently available at your local comic shop, bookstore, or Amazon and digitally through Amazon Kindle and ComiXology.

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