Book Review: Finally! The Search Finds the Series’ Tone

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I dance with spoilers.

Fans of Avatar: the Last Airbender have waited a long time to have these questions answered.  The Search, the latest of the story arcs created in conjunction with the series, published in as a graphic novel series, has promised to answer what happened to Zuko’s mom, the resounding question with which the series closed, and so has a lot of live up to in the minds of fans.

And so far, with the publication of Part 1, I’m impressed.

Though it may stem partially from the way in which I have read the two (the one being a complete, contiguous compilation devoid of the intended breaks and the other being the first of several parts of a story arc), The Search: Part 1, returning to questions of family and honor and leadership, seemed more like several of our beloved episodes (maybe a DVD’s worth) than The Promise.  The main characters of the series here, maybe because they are interacting in situations more akin to what we are used to as viewers (questing and camping alone together), seem more themselves, more fully portrayed.  The inclusion of Ursa’s red-tinted backstory seems to make this half her story and half Zuko’s.

The Search: Part 1 has left us with almost more questions than answers, though we’ve been given backstory for Ursa now and Ozai’s disappointment bordering on dislike of Zuko.  They’ve made me see Ozai in a new and better light, though I’m not sure that that was their intention.  Except that The Legend of Korra makes me suspect the possible twist in this plot will be resolved in a palatable way, the plot would be nail-biting.  I’m not sure how the authors will pull it off, but I’m going to put my faith in this talented team and hope that they know what they’re doing.  They’ve put themselves in a tenuous position, teetering on a knife’s edge of destroying some of the positive messages and some of the complexly interwoven destinies of the original TV series that made it so powerful and tight as a story.

The inclusion of the Wolf Spirit makes me hope that we’re about to get more about the Spirit World.  Several characters have had interactions with the Spirit World: Aang, obviously, as the bridge between the two worlds; Sokka, who was once abducted by a spirit and can authoritatively tell us that there are no bathrooms in the Spirit World; and Iroh, whose trip to the Spirit World has never been fully explained (the explanation that he had an encounter with the last two dragons who led him to understand the true meaning of firebending has never seemed to me to explain his ability to see spirits that others do not).  It seems to me we may get the answers to Iroh’s Spirit World visit as well as the answers as to where Ursa is in this story arc, and that would leave me with few burning questions from the original TV series (though I’m sure that Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko can dredge up more to which I will devour the answers, and I’m still not satisfied with the history we’ve been given of Republic City).

This is a fantastic teaser for the next (I believe) two parts.

****

Yang, Gene Luen, Michael Dante DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko.  Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search: Part 1.  Ed. Dave Marshall.  Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse, 2013.

This review is not endorsed by any of the authors or creators of Avatar, Nickelodeon, or Dark Horse Comics.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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