I have written about Avatar: The Last Airbender before. As an animated series, it was epic in scope with a well-developed mythology and beautiful animation that appealed as equally to adults as it did to children. I think it’s something that will last the test of time (but let’s just continue to ignore that movie version — in my world, it doesn’t exist).
Some of Avatar: The Last Airbender has appeared in comic form before — from last year’s Zuko’s Story prequel by Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus with art by Nina Matsumoto to the adaptation of the movie, as well as a few titles from the late Tokyopop. The crossover makes sense — it’s a series that captured the imagination of plenty of creators (and with planned meetups at Comic-Con, it obviously continues to do so).
That’s a lot of introduction to get to Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures (Dark Horse Comics, 2011), but I think it’s necessary background. Originally scattered in the pages of Nickelodeon magazine, it’s a wonderful thing to have all these comics in one place.
All the comics take place within the timeline of the series and do assume knowledge of characters and events. These comics aren’t meant to be an introduction to the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender but a compliment to it.
Still, the comics don’t get too bogged down in continuity. Understanding who these characters are and what’s come before is necessary, but for the most part, the individual stories are playful and comedic. It may be going a bit far to say they’re all gag-based, but most of them do have a punchline. Still, there’s the series trademark thoughtfulness and poignancy in many of these comics — Avatar: The Last Airbender presented a world of complications and so even when things were fun, there was always something at stake.
The book features a diverse group of artists and writers, from those who I was familiar with (Roman, Wilgus, Brian Ralph, Gurihiru) to those who were unknown to me (Rawles Lumumba, Johane Matte) as well as many people who worked on the series itself, from the creators to storyboard artists and episode writers. Everyone here was obviously passionate about Avatar: The Last Airbender and the consistency of the art and writing is amazing.
I realize I haven’t talked that much about the individual stories here, but this doesn’t feel like a traditional anthology where the stories feel separate from each other. The cohesiveness of this book is part of what makes it great. However, I did love Wilgus’s and Gurihiru’s “Boys’ Day Out” where Katara and Toph dress up as boys to be allowed into a restaurant, manage to get into some fights, and ultimately decide being a boy isn’t much fun. Ralph’s “Fruitstand Freestyle,” a wordless tale that follows Momo, is probably the most unusual for the volume (it’s more Ralph than it is Avatar: The Last Airbender) but I love that it’s here. All of this, though, it a tremendous amount of fun. I have no complaints.
So really: Do you like Avatar: The Last Airbender? (If you don’t, why not?) Do you like comics? (If not, why are you here?) If the answer is “yes” to both of those, why don’t you have this already?
(Digital review copy provided by NetGalley.)