Tag Archive for alison wilgus

2014 Comics Superlatives

As I started rounding up the comics I liked this year, I saw a pattern, so I made a joke:

And then I just decided to go with it.
This is not a definitive list but these are all comics, creators, events and projects from 2014 I want to recognize. I think we can all agree that 2014 was a pretty remarkable year for comics.

33 for 2013

This is my list of the 33 things that happened in the comics world in 2013 that made me happy. They’re in alphabetical order.

Blue is the Warmest Color


Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures

Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Lost Adventures
Buy at Powells.com

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.)

Review: The Last Airbender Prequel: Zuko’s Story

The Last Airbender
Prequel: Zuko’s Story

Buy on Amazon.com

Many of us liked the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Many of us were also critical and ultimately snarky about the live-action version by M. Night Shayamalan.

I am personally not anti-Shayamalan overall but The Last Airbender? I have no interest in seeing that.

But if we have anything to thank the movie for, it’s that it allowed us to have The Last Airbender Prequel: Zuko’s Story (2010, Del Rey).

Written by Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus with art by Nina Matsumoto, this can also work as a nice companion to the animated series. Sure, if you’re seen the series, not much of this is a surprise as it follows the early day of Zuko’s journey to find the Avatar to prove his worth to his father. I can only assume it provides decent background to the live-action movie.

I actually think Zuko was probably the most interesting character in Avatar: The Last Airbenderand is the one who changed the most in the series. Roman and Wilgus capture his intense anger (which is pretty justified — his dad burned his face!) while still making him into someone who wins our sympathy. Uncle Iroh continues to be the wise voice of reason.

Matsumoto’s manga-like art works well for the Asian-inspired setting and feel of the story. Her characters look enough like their cartoon counterparts to be recognizable even though she puts her own spin on them. Her inventive page layouts keep the story moving forward.

It’s hard for me to judge how well this works for people not familiar with either version of The Last Airbender but I think it’s a great bonus for fans, giving a bit more insight into Zuko’s past. And I can only hope it will lead more people to the animated series.