Sunday, June 16, 2013

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part One (graphic novel) script by Gene Luen Yang, art and cover by Gurihiru, lettering by Michael Heisler

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part One is a continuation of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series. I absolutely loved the TV series and probably would have bought this if I had been able to find it at my local bookstore. Since I couldn't, I requested it via interlibrary loan instead.

I'm not going to list any read-alikes or watch-alikes in this post. If you'd like some, I'd suggest taking a look at my Avatar: The Last Airbender posts.

Synopsis:

As the back of the book says, this picks up where the TV series left off. Fire Lord Ozai has been defeated and Zuko is now the new Fire Lord. Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko are all working towards a balanced world. They think they know what that means, but the situation is more complex than they realize.

The group believes that, in order to achieve balance, the Fire Nation's many colonies must be removed. The decide to start with the colonies in the Earth Kingdom. Things go well with the youngest colonies, but some of the colonies have existed for 100 years – citizens of both nations have intermarried and made lives for themselves, and there is no longer a clear division between Earth and Fire.

Review:

This is absolutely not the place for Avatar: The Last Airbender newbies to begin. Fans of the series, though, will be thrilled to see this world and their favorite characters again. Unfortunately, this book alone isn't very satisfying.

The biggest problem with this volume is that it is very, very short. There's only enough time to show the basics of what's going on, plus a little of how the original series characters are doing, and then it's over. I'm glad I got it via interlibrary loan, because I'd have been unhappy about spending $10.99 for this.

All the original main characters are there, which is great, but there's little time to give them any depth. Toph is brash and has a metal bending school. Sokka is a joker and thinks it's icky when Katara and Aang call each other “sweetie” in front of him or, even worse, kiss. Katara can still kick butt. Aang is a happy guy who just wants to bring peace. Zuko is very serious. That's about it, as far as the characters go. Don't get me wrong, I liked seeing all the old characters (including several  minor ones!), I just disliked that there wasn't enough time to do more than scratch the surface of their post-TV series lives. I hope the later volumes make up for this.

Zuko fans are offered the most in this volume, as Zuko deals with a very rocky start to his reign as Fire Lord. It seems as though nothing he does will make all his people happy, and so he finds himself unable to sleep, constantly afraid of assassination attempts and unsure of the path he should take. This is another area where I found myself annoyed with the low page count, because it seemed like Zuko went from “I don't want to be like my father” to “Father, please give me advice” awfully quickly. Yes, I know, technically that stuff is one year after the first part of the volume, but, for readers, a year of changes and upheaval is crammed into 76 pages.

All in all, while I'm happy to see the story continued, this was a little disappointing. I hope the later volumes slow the pace down a tad. The artwork, however, is very nice – all the characters are recognizable and the style is close to that of the TV show. The only thing that made me laugh a little was Aang, who seemed taller than I remember him being in the series (did he have a growth spurt?). If you like the cover of this first volume, you'll be happy to learn that it's available as a desktop wallpaper.

Additional Comment:

Even if I hadn't been a Zutara fan, I think Katara and Aang's use of the word “sweetie” would have made me cringe. They seemed to be trying a little too hard to project “we're a couple!” to everyone around them, and it didn't feel natural. Although maybe Kataang fans will feel differently?

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