Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Promise Part 1
Buy at Powell’s
Gene Luen Yang made a comic clearly explaining why he had no interest in the Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action movie. A lot of people like to bring up that the cartoon was created by a couple of white men, but the Asian influence is clearly respectful and thoughtful. Yang understood those things about the series and that’s why he loved it (and that’s why most of us loved it, actually).
So it was delightful news when it was announced that Yang would be writing the Avatar: The Last Airbender comic book series that will bridge the gap from the end of the animated series and the upcoming The Legend of Korra (not upcoming fast enough, but that’s another issue). It seemed like he’d do right by Avatar.
And it should be to no one’s surprise that he did.
No, if you haven’t watched the series (and why haven’t you?), you’re going to be pretty lost, despite a quick catch up in the first few pages. Despite the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai by Aang and Zuko taking his place, there are still many issues to sort through in the four kingdoms. Among them are the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom. After the “Harmony Restoration Movement” is announced, the action picks up a year later. And obviously, not everything is going as well as planned. Zuko and Aang have to face their old conflicts as well as growing up.
Most of the action here focuses on Zuko, which is fair (Avatar: The Last Airbender was as much about his journey as it was Aang’s, after all) but the other characters aren’t neglected. Sokka tosses out a few good lines as he expresses his horror over the fact his sister, Katara, and Aang are now a couple. Toph has started a school for metalbenders, which I’m guessing we’ll see more of in the next book.
Gurihiru does a masterful job of capturing the look of the series while still giving it their own style. I love how subtly the characters have aged — they still look like themselves, but everyone’s taller and Aang’s a bit more muscular, Katara a little curvier and Zuko’s face is slightly more angular. Likewise, Yang writes these characters as older and more mature without sacrificing the personalities we’ve come to know. It’s a wise transition as these character approach adulthood and will continue to face more adult decisions.
The action scenes are beautifully-paced and definitely capture the feel of animation on the static page. There’s still humor throughout, even as the story begins to take a darker turn. (It’s still appropriate for the ages that Avatar: The Last Airbender was appropriate for, however, so no worries there.)
Unlike many other comic continuations or adaptations of TV shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 1 is completely satisfying. Gene Luen Yang’s and Gurihiru’s love for the original shows through. I’m already eagerly awaiting part 2.
Advance review copy provided through NetGalley.