Tag Archives: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Book Review: The Search: One Long-Awaited Answer Tangled in Many Threads

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This link will take you to the hardcover collection of all three parts of this trilogy.

Some minor spoilers ahead.

After the close of the television show, the team responsible for Avatar: The Last Airbender and a few fans (Gene Luen Yang of American Born Chinese among them) began a series of comics that follow Team Avatar beyond the television show and help to bridge the 70 year gap between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. There are currently five trilogies: The Promise, The Search, The Rift, Smoke and Shadow, and North and South. The television series ends with Zuko’s agonized and angry question “Where is my mother?” This second trilogy sets out to answer that question.

Finding graphic novels that appeal to and are appropriate for younger audiences can be difficult (though hopefully getting easier as we booksellers realize the demand and make concerted efforts to point out and to stock graphic novels for children). These are shelved with the adult graphic novels in Barnes & Noble, but there is nothing in these first two trilogies at least that is any more adult than what is in the television series, even though in The Search there are family dramas, madness, and politics. Often, I don’t think we give kids enough credit.  Really I think these stories have more appeal for the 7-17 age range than they do for most adults—at least than for those adults not already familiar with the television series and invested in the characters and the world.

This particular trilogy deals more with the personal stories of the characters than the larger world-building of The Promise.

Four years back now, I read the first part of this trilogy and was apparently impressed. It’s only now that I’ve gone back and read the three parts together (over the course of eight days).

The Search does quite a bit of bouncing backwards and forwards in time. The past plotlines are done in more of a monochrome (red for those that happen within the Fire Nation and blue for those that happen among the Water Tribe). Still, bouncing between the past and the present was distracting.

I see why doing so was if not necessary then certainly expedient, but I would have preferred I think to have one or several longer periods of backstory (some scenes in the present were 4 or so pages) than so many often abruptly interrupted storylines. I would have been quite happy spending two parts of this trilogy learning Ursa’s story and only one part having Zuko discover it and reconnect with his mother. I wonder if the creators underestimated the level of investment that fans would have in Ursa’s story separate from that of Team Avatar—which would frankly surprise me; they set us up for this level of interest, and surely this story was told partially in answer to scads of fans asking the same question that Zuko had done because Zuko had done.

I actually think that this story may suffer from too many storylines. Exciting as they all are individually, especially with the jumps between times, it was a lot to keep track of: Zuko’s quest with Team Avatar plus his sister, Azula’s madness, the letter given to Azula by Ozai that raises questions about the Fire Lord line of succession, then Ursa’s first lover and childhood home, her marriage and subterfuge and exile, her second marriage and new life, plus the story of Water Tribe siblings living in a haunted forest in the Fire Nation to try to find a spirit who can give new faces but tangling with its massive Wolf Spirit pet instead. The theme of reuniting families and restoring old lives runs through all, but in 228 pages of comic it’s all too much. In a 500 page novel, absolutely, but this isn’t a 500 page novel.

Now, all that said, I do want it noted that I read these online, and the format was a scrolling one rather than a facing page layout. That perhaps made some difference.

***

Yang, Gene Luen and Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search: Parts 1-3. Ed. Dave Marshall. Illus. Gurihiru. Dark Horse, 2013.

This review is not endorsed by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Gurihiru, Dark Horse Comics, or anyone involved with the graphic novel series or the television series. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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Challenge: Camp NaNo: Day 21: And a Surprisingly Knowledgeable Merchant of Cabbage

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April 21

Today I remembered Written? Kitten!  Unfortunately, Written? Kitten! does not do the same auto-formats as the rest of my document (– becoming an en-dash and curly quotes instead of typewriter quotes).  I’m using Word 2008.  Does anyone know a quick fix for this so I don’t have to go through and delete all of the unformatted punctuations and retype them to fix them?

And then we discovered how to make Written? Kitten! give us randomized pictures of anything we wanted (theoretically).  Unfortunately it uses Flickr, so fandom photos are thin on the ground.

Today’s quandary is how quickly someone would die of hamstringing, if someone would die of hamstringing, and if they survived, if with therapy and surgery, they could walk again.

A passing tradesman became a Cabbage Man because.

Cabbage_merchant

Today’s goal: 35000

Total word count: 33399

Day’s word count: 3142

Average daily word count for April: 1592

Death count: 1

Total word count towards other projects (including this project, Facebook messages, cover letters, etc.): 24414

Daily word count towards other projects: 587

Average daily word count for other projects: 1248

Songs I’ve been singing: Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?” from Avenue Q, “You Can’t Succeed on Broadway” from Spamalot, “Nobody Needs to Know,” “A Miracle Would Happen/When You Come Home to Me,” and “Climbing Uphill” from The Last Five Years

Cups of tea: 1 caf, 1 decaf

Sugar: 1 bite-sized chocolate

Hours spent at work: 4

Hours driving: 1

What else distracted me: Prepping the apartment for yet another showing, a fire in the chiminea with friends when I got home from work

Other campers: Apprentice, Never MasterMore Than One Page

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

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Click to visit the publisher's website for links to purchase and a preview.

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.

Challenge: Camp NaNo: Day 5: And Then the Fire Nation Attacked

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April 5

Today’s blog post is apparently sponsored (not really) by Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Today I considered setting fire to my protagonist’s home village for plot and felt like this:

Azula's_blue_flames

But then as the council seemed to be finding in favor of my protagonist and securing his sanctuary instead of chasing him away from it as I’d wanted them to for plot, I felt more like this:

Ozai_in_prison

So I wanted to retaliate like this:

Burning_Earth_Kingdom

So I did this:

Damaged_Kyoshi_village

Ooh! My writerly impulses want to crush my protagonist—because after all, it can and does always get worse—but lines must be drawn, mustn’t they, when the worst would end the plot.

In other news, isn’t it great when you have a question about your novel, and while cleaning, discover that you’ve already started to work out an answer?  I found a map that lists some of the necessary professions for an all but self-sustaining village and where those professionals would live.

Total word count: 7974

Day’s word count: 3257

Average daily word count for April: 1595

Death count: 0, but a close scrape with smoke inhalation.

Total word count towards other projects (including this project, Facebook messages, cover letters, etc.): 4144

Daily word count towards other projects: 994

Average daily word count for other projects: 1187

Today’s musical playlist: The soundtrack for Movin’ Out, Clannad, Pogo (a YouTube channel that remixes movie soundbites), Taylor Swift, and the soundtrack for Spamalot.  Mae, VeggieTales, Marc Gunn, Lee Ann Womack, and Miranda Lambert… Adele, the soundtrack for Jekyll & Hyde: A Gothic Musical Thriller, and Broadway’s HairsprayGlee’s soundtrack… The soundtracks for Evita and Into the Woods, Union Station, Queen, and the soundtrack for Jekyll & Hyde again….

Songs I’ve been singing around the house: “Always Dance” from A Very Potter Senior Year, “Queen of Mars” from Phineas and Ferb, Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “22,” “The World Has Gone Insane” from Jekyll & Hyde, “Savages (Reprise)” from Pocahontas, “Schadenfreude” and “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?” from Avenue Q, Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” “Moments in the Woods” and “Giants in the Sky” from Into the Woods.

Cups of tea: 1 caf, 1 decaf

Sugar: 4 cookies and a jellybean

Hours spent at work: 0!

Hours driving: 0!

Times I’ve gone to smack some spiders, skeletons, and kobolds: 1

What else distracted me: I just can’t keep away from Phineas and Ferb.

Other campers: Apprentice, Never MasterMore Than One Page

Book Review: Perhaps The Promise was Not Fully Fulfilled, But at Least It Wasn’t the Movie Adaptation

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Click to visit the publisher's page, for links to purchase, summary, and preview.

A lot of young boys come to our store looking for comic books.  Hindered by the way that my brain works, recoiling from the explosive quality of traditional American comic book illustration style and finding it difficult to digest together the text and illustrations of comic books in such styles, I have read very few well-known comics, though I have tried to read several.

As such, I don’t know what is kid-friendly and what is not, other than being very positive that no elementary or middle school student ought to be reading Sandman.  Heck, I hardly follow Sandman sometimes, and I don’t think that the illustrations would help me much there.

I always ask such customers if they happen to be fans of the Nickelodeon TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender.  The creators of Avatar have written two companion storylines published in comic book form, the second of which, The Promise, takes place just after the conclusion of the television and helps to bridge the dramatic cultural changes between Avatar: The Last Airbender and the sequel series Avatar: The Legend of Korra.

These comics use a style nearer to manga than most American productions—or nearer to the modern and evolving graphic novel—or is it a storyboard format?

I have great respect for the creators of Avatar.  They created a complex world with complex yet logical magic, researched Eastern cultures in order to found their world.  They have created complex characters with complicated backstories and complicated psyches and a bestiary’s worth of surprisingly plausibly constructed composite creatures.  They do not shy from throwing all this complexity into a children’s television series.

They don’t shy from throwing it all into their comics either.

I actually expected more from the comics and was a tad disappointed.  I’d hoped for another season, though, and recognize that my disappointment stems from this.  The comics read more like the final three episodes of a series than a complete story arc.  Neither shenanigans nor dialogue lived up to the ridiculousness of the TV series.  This is what I missed most in The Promise.

Quickly the era of peace that was ushered in by the replacement of Fire Lord Ozai with Fire Lord Zuko dissolved into war.  I think that there were probably some several months of nights of poor sleep and growing suspicion for Zuko that the comics skip over.  Those same months were probably filled with wonderfully ridiculous escapades by Team Avatar, the blossoming relationship of Aang and Katara, and Toph’s departure from the team in order to create the first metalbending school.

The plot is heavy.  It begins with Zuko extracting a promise from Aang to kill him if (and I think he might believe “when”) he begins to act like his father.  Though defending his people, Zuko’s actions look even to him to be like those of his father, and Aang struggles with whether to kill his friend and is told by trusted advisors that he must.

This particular version of The Promise, the library binding, is particularly nice for the marginal notes from the creators, who discuss their love of the characters, some of the ideas for the scenes, and notes about the characters’ stories.

The Search will fill a few more gaps.

***

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

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