For those of us who grew up watching Avatar: the Last Airbender , we were peeved. It was an amazing show, but it only lasted three seasons and there were a lot of unanswered questions. Starting with, “What the hell happened to Zuko’s mom?” and ending with, “How did we get from there to the craziness of Republic City?”
Well, ask no more. Because Gene Yang and Gurihiru started a series of graphic novel trilogies to answer those questions. We see what Zuko is like as a Fire Lord, Sokka and Katara re-visit the South Pole, and Toph starts her own metalbending academy.
Even if you’re new to the Avatar franchise and are wondering why this post features a distinct lack of blue people, you can jump into the comics. Especially the first trilogy, The Promise . That’s got a nice “FYI here’s what happened in the show” at the beginning.
One thing that has always impressed me with this series is the fact that it sees several different layers of conflict. There’s the obvious war, but then there’s the clash between different cultures within the same society, the clash between friends, and a single person’s inner struggles. You’d think that after a war is over and done, that’s it. But it’s not. And I love how these books address the craziness and growing pains of the world after a century of war. That ain't going away overnight, and it's so refreshing to see a kids' series not only acknowledge that, but make it the centerpiece of their story.
Starting right where we left off, we see the Fire Nation, Earth Kingdom, and Avatar working together to heal the scars of war, starting with the Fire Nation colonies in the occupied Earth Kingdom. But after a year, Fire Lord Zuko suddenly stops shutting down colonies, and instead insists that they stay.
This is problematic for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being his relationship with Avatar Aang. More than that, Zuko's number one fear is that he'll turn into his father. So what's a guy to do? Why, make the Avatar promise to kill him if he turns evil. What could possibly go wrong?
It's actually cheaper buying the three books of this trilogy separate on Amazon than together. Weird, right? Click here to learn more.
This one is probably my favorite, probably because of the abundance of Zuko and the flashbacks to his mother's past. After the collision in The Promise, Zuko decides it’s high time he find out what happened to his mother. Aang and the rest of Team Avatar (sans Toph, who’s busy terrorizing metalbending students) agree to help him.
The catch? They need Azula.
Where The Search focuses on Zuko’s problems, The Rift focuses on Toph. She and Aang butt heads when he tries to bring back old Air Nomad traditions that rub her the wrong way.
Oh, and her dad shows up.
Smoke and Shadow
North and South
The old vs. the new is a common theme throughout the series, and it’s even more prominent here. Katara and Sokka return to the South Pole after being gone for years, only to find that it has undergone dramatic change. Sokka is, unsurprisingly, all for this “progress.” Katara, on the other hand, is warier. She, and the villain, is seeing her culture and way of life slip away.
This one is a great example of what happens when an economically more powerful country (re: the North Pole) tries to “help” a less prominent country (the South Pole). It usually doesn’t end well.
My only problem with this one is that Zuko swings by to help them out. The last time he was here, he smashed through the wall, terrorized the village, and kidnapped Aang. I was really looking forward to seeing him get confronted by the Water Tribe and face the wrath of Gran-Gran, then being forgiven at the end. But they kind of glossed over that.
The good news is they make up for it with Hakoda's awesomeness and Sokka's sarcasm. Totally worth it.
North and South came out this year, making it the most recent collection. I haven't heard anything about any more graphic novels, but the writers have left enough loose ends that another trilogy isn't far-fetched.
If anyone hears anything, let me know ASAP!
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!