Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko continue the story right where the TV series left off. Aang and Katara work tirelessly for peace when an impasse between Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei over Fire Nation colonies within the borders of the Earth Nation threatens to plunge the world back into war. Meanwhile, Sokka must help Toph prepare her hapless first class of metalbending students to defend their school against a rival class of firebenders.
Written by Eisner winner and National Book Award nominee Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and drawn by Gurihiru (Thor and the Warriors Four), this is the adventure Avatar fans have been craving
You can read an excerpt here.
I really, really wish they’d been able to release all three volumes of this comic before the premiere of Legend of Korra. With the first volume, I was so giddy at the chance to return to this world, and spend more time with these characters, that I was able to overlook the fact that the story didn’t really bring anything new to the table, especially in terms of the characters we’ve come to love. But reading this latest volume, now that the shadow of Korra looms large, I just can’t avoid the feeling that this series doesn’t particularly have a lot to say.
Look, it’s no secret that I’m a raving fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and any chance to return to this world I’ll hug and squish to death, but let’s face it – we know how this story ends. The flashes we’ve seen in Korra – the connection she made with Aang, the brief glimpses we’ve seen of adult Aang, Sokka, and Toph (and man am I dying to learn what Katara’s role in Republic City was – was she teaching? Was she part of the White Lotus?) are far, far more powerful than any of the events in this comic, because they’re actually new – they advance the characters, show us things we’ve never seen before, teach us what happened to our beloved Team Avatar as they grew up. This story, by comparison, is just treading water – much as I love how dead-on the voices are, how pitch perfect the humor is, and how absolutely right the art is (my hat’s off to the artist), this story really doesn’t go much of anywhere. Let’s face it – the characters are exactly the same. They’ve had their journey already, they’ve become who they were meant to be (at this age), and this comic keeps them in exactly the same place they were at the end of the animated series. Oh sure, superficially this story introduces new things – Toph’s metal-bending academy, Katara’s jealousy at Aang’s fan-club – but at a deeper level, in terms of character, nothing is changing at all. This story is almost an exercise in nostgalia more than anything else.
That said, don’t get me wrong – I still whisked through this comic, and I really liked how volume two set the stage for the explosive events of volume three, but this volume was setting up so much, in terms of the larger arc, that it ended up feeling mostly like a filler. There’s a fun runner of Sokka helping Toph learn how better to teach metal-bending, but amusing as it was, it just didn’t cover any new ground. And as for Zukko’s story – well, Zukko being an idiot is certainly nothing new. I’ll say it again – our characters are stuck in neutral, and the longer this comic goes on, the more apparent it becomes. As far as the new characters go, Toph’s students are okay, and we also get to spend a bit more time with the Fire nation earth-bender who tried to kll Zukko (and how ridiculous is it that she got away scott-free with an assassination attempt?), but overall none of them really does anything for me – they’re fine, but I don’t particularly care what happens to them. And that’s the problem with this comic – it’s strength is in the familiar, and not the new.
Still, I am invested enough in this story to come back for the third installment – I want to see how it all ends, and witness the founding of Republic City – but I don’t feel the need to rush out and get it on release day, because as I said, we all know how this story ends. And honestly I’m far, far more excited to learn more about the gang as adults in Republic City than I am to see them here.
In the end, this series does a lot right – and Gene Luen Yang is without a doubt a first-class, grade A, Avatar geek – but all in all, this comic just pales in comparison to both Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra (the TV series). And frankly, I expect more from Team Avatar than this.
Byrt Grade: B+
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
The core of this fun filler revolves around Toph learning to become a teacher and spreading metalbending to the degree we know it becomes in the upcoming Avatar: The Legend of Korra.
I know a lot of fans are unhappy with the choices Zuko is making and feel that he is out of character. While I agree that his choices aren’t good and he has a lot of simpler options available to him, I also think it’s very in-character for Zuko to chose wrongly. How many times in the series did we shake our heads and scream at Zuko for the decisions he made?
It’s a fun, easy read and doesn’t let you realize how much information and depth is packed in until it’s over.