Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko bring The Promise to its explosive conclusion The Harmony Restoration Movement has failed, and the four nations are plunged back into war. In the midst of the battle, can Aang and Fire Lord Zuko mend the rift between them, or will Aang be forced to take actions that cant be undone?
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
The conclusion to Dark Horse’s first three-part Avatar comic has arrived, and while I’m always happy to spend time with Team Avatar, I have to admit I closed the back cover of this volume with mixed feelings.
Now don’t get me wrong – part three is easily on par with the first two installments, and story-wise I’d say it’s better than the second, so if you’ve enjoyed yourself wholeheartedly up to this point, have no fear: the characters, humor, and art you love are all very much in evidence. But as for me, well, I got very, very frustrated with how the crux of the matter – whether or not Aang would to have to kill Zukko to stop him from turning into his father – played out.
But before I get into that, let me just say this – I did love the many questions swirling around the conflict, from the wonderfully complicated situation on the ground in Yu Dao, to the question of how two separate cultures, entwined by conflict, could be made separate once again – or even if they should be. I loved how the Air acolytes actually played into it all, and how emotional the question of whether to go back to the way things were or create something new became for Aang. All of that was really lovely stuff – but sadly, my enjoyment of it all was dampened by my huge problem with the inevitable (dramatically speaking) KILL ZUKO NOW, AANG! moment.
Here’s the thing – when you’ve got an entire three part story arc building to a KILL HIM NOW, AANG! moment, when you arrive at that moment you want to at least have a glimmer of fear that Aang might actually, you know, have to do it – but there was absolutely none. Not only did I myself not believe for a millisecond that Aang would do it, but worse, I didn’t get within ten miles of even starting to believe it might actually be necessary for Zuko to die. Now yes, I do understand that the entire Avatar world might be a little sensitive about the whole Fire-Nation-on-the-warpath thing, but you’d think Zuko would have earned a little goodwill at this point, seeing as he, you know, ENDED 100 YEARS OF WAR, and in a way his actions are actually a result of Aang backing him into a corner (which is great, by the way). I mean, why does no one stop to consider that removing Zuko could lead to an a worse Fire Lord taking the reins – hello! Azula? Remember her? – not to mention there’s that pesky little fact of Aang not killing, ever, plus there are only about, oh, a BAZILLION other things Aang could still try to solve the problem… I just kept thinking things like, hey, Aang, why don’t you use your good ole Avatar state to make a huge wall or trench around the city, or even better, to separate the opposing armies until things calm down. Or, hey, Aang, why don’t you use your mad airbending skills to snatch Zuko and the Earth King and FORCE them to sit down with each other? Or there’s always the tried and true fallback, arrow-boy, i.e. LISTEN to Katara!
So basically, the crux of this entire three-part story was the part of the entire story I liked the least. It rang false, it cheapened Aang’s internal struggle by framing it in such a ridiculously overt and juvenile way, and it made me pretty much loath every Aang/Roku scene. Yes, we can all wave goodbye to that dramatic pay-off…
So in the end, while I was happy as ever to spend time with these characters, this story did vex me – even though I still enjoyed it at times. But fear not, Avatar fans, this is not The End – this story signs off by setting up the next three-part story, wherein it looks like we might finally find out what happened to Zuko’s mom, so stay tuned. And yes, I suppose I will be back for the next one, but I am starting to wonder how much longer my fangirl nostagia can overpower my story discontent.
Byrt Grade: A- / B+
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
The Nickelodeon show balanced cartoon humor, highly-stylized martial arts action, and nuanced philosophical and moral discussions. That balance seemed like it was tilting a tad too far in favor of wheel-spinning comedy in the previous chapter, but Yang successfully picks up the pace and reestablishes the story’s high ethical, political, and human stakes in Chapter Three.