Tag Archive for avatar: the last airbender

Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise Part 2

Avatar: The Last Airbender:
The Promise Part 2

Buy at Powell’s

Let’s talk about The Legend of Korra for a minute. It’s one of the greatest things you’ve ever seen, right? The animation is monumentally gorgeous and Korra is an impressively complicated heroine. She’s forceful and powerful (but doesn’t get punished for it) but also flawed and vulnerable. And yeah, there’s probably some complaints to be made about the pace of the show, but I love that things keep happening constantly. I love this show. I’ve wanted this show my whole life. I’m going to have a tremendous gap in my week once this season ends.

OK, onto the review.

In true middle-book fashion (there’s only going to be three of these? Noooo!), Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise Part 2 (2012, Dark Horse) shows everyone in turmoil and conflict. Toph struggles with her metal-bending students (she’s aided/tormented by Sokka). Aang gets a little too friendly with some fan club members, much to Katara’s dismay. Zuko tries to decide what is right as he battles with is conscious and his father’s “advice.”

In terms of plot, it’s hard to say how much actually happens in this book — the conflict as to what to do with the Fire Nation-occupied colony in the Earth Kingdom, Yu Dao — it does feature a lot character development. After all the events in the animated series, everyone is at a crossroads — they now have to figure out who they are and their places in the world. Aang likes his fame but that makes Katara feel minimized and insecure. Toph realizes teaching is harder than she thought it would be and that maybe Sokka is smarter than she realizes (Sokka is always smarter than anyone realizes, honestly). Zuko sadly isolates himself from those who’d be willing to help him, taking on too much responsibility for himself.

This is definitely a lot to deal with in a fairly slim volume, but writer Gene Luen Yang is still up to the task. His dialogue and storytelling is snappy and fun. It’s a fun, easy read and doesn’t let you realize how much information and depth is packed in until it’s over. Gurihiru‘s art remains snappy and animated. This artistic team has an incredible sense of layout and color to set a mood — from the sparsely dark panels when Zuko visits his father in jail to bright sequences featuring Toph and Sokka. I can’t imagine this book in anyone else’s hands.

I am still sad there’s only going to be one more of these books. I really feel like I could read Avatar: The Last Airbender comics forever, especially since Korra only has a few weeks left until the next season. It’s such a rich, beautiful world that I want as much of it as I can get.

Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 1

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.

Yang, along with artist duo Gurihiru, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 1 (2012, Dark Horse), has created a pitch-perfect comic that is a wonderful extension of the animated series.

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.

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.

Derek Kirk Kim rails against The Last Airbender live-action casting

And he probably says it better than anyone else I’ve read on this subject.

Here’s the summary — Avatar: The Last Airbender is a cartoon that, while ostensibly for children, is much loved by many adult types who enjoy awesome animation. It draws a lot on Asian culture and mythology, but it’s always handled well. It’s a rich, beautiful show with a diverse cast of characters, none of whom I’d really describe as being “white.”

M. Night Shyamalan, who I wouldn’t describe as being “white” either is directing the live-action version.

The cast of which is full of white people, including Jesse McCartney.

So yeah, people are upset because this is ridiculous. I can’t imagine it’s that hard to find one or two Asians to put in the cast (and someone who’s not Jesse McCartney for Prince Zuko).

While out of the handful of main characters on the show, only two were voiced by Asian actors (the late, the great Mako as Uncle Iroh and Dante Basco as Prince Zuko), there were plenty of guest star turns by Asian actors, including the omnipresent James Hong and the godlike George Takei as well as plenty of others — Takayo Fischer, George Cheung, Sab Shimono and Jennie Kwan, to name a few — that had recurring or extended roles on the show. The show always felt lovely an inclusive to me.

I think everyone should be able to recognize themselves in the media that they like. The Last Airbender live-action movie just took that chance away from a lot of people.

(Link taken from The Beat.)

Image of Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender because she’s angry. Yes, she’s always angry, but it works.