Other than being a mouthful, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise is a three part graphic novel series by Dark Horse Comics that helps fill in the 70 year gap and acts as a bridge between Nickelodeon’s ATLA cartoon and their new Legend of Korra series.
Continuing on from the climactic ending of the first issue, the second part of the trilogy follows the Gaang as they decide how to deal with the growing problems of the Fire Nation colonies that remain in the Earth Kingdom and how this will ultimately effect the previous issues’ Harmony Restoration Movement, as Fire Lord Zuko has just withdrawn his supremely Fire Lordy support. Specifically, the 100 year old colony of Yu Dao, a western Earth city that was colonized by the Fire Nation. Though Zuko’s withdrawal from the Harmony act puts the Fire Nation citizens of Yu Dao in an incredibly tight spot, I can’t help but feel that he is the only one troubling himself enough to take a closer look at Yu Dao and learn what the citizens themselves want.
Within the first two pages, our favorite foursome decide to split up, as the extreme overuse of the word “sweetie” between Kataang puts the readers and Sokka both on edge. To get rid of his oogies, Sokka decides to join Toph to see her new school, The Beifong Metalbending Academy. And there was much rejoicing of Tokka shippers.
Upon arrival, Toph realizes that her school has been uprooted and replaced by the return of Master Kunyo’s Firebending Dojo. Kunyo scoffs at the mention of the word ‘metalbending’ and Toph quickly demonstrates her Sifu status, much to the shock of the Firebending students. As expected, our favorite spunky Earthbender is ready to fight for her right to teach stuff, and easily accepts Sokka’s suggestion of the building going to whichever teaching method is found to be most effective. Though it was the mature thing to do, I wish that Sokka hadn’t intervened and let Toph and Kunyo battle it out. A matching scarf would look great with his newly metalbent sword hat.
Back in Ba Sing Se, Katara and Aang meet Hei-Won, co-president of the “Official Avatar Aang Fan Club.” Can I quietly drop in how deep my love is for the fact that everything, absolutely everything Hei-Won says ends in, like, a question mark? Genius. Though it acts as mostly lighthearted filler to the overall darker tone of part two, it was a welcome giggle and nice to see that Aang is still able to have fun in the midst of growing up, even if Katara’s jealousy puts a damper on the whole experience. Not so happy pairs in this part, eh? Katara is jealous of Aang, Zuko tells all the lies to Mai, even Sneers upsets his new Earthbending-yet-Fire-Nation girlfriend, Kori. At least Toph finally gets her life changing field trip, even if it wasn’t with Zuko.
Ozai reminisces about young Zuko and oddly enough offers up some sage, Iroh-like wisdom about Zuko’s apparent indecisiveness. While Zuko is still so conflicted and allows his emotions to get the best of him at every turn, Ozai has been in this position before and is correct in his assessment of the Earth King’s actions. This whole humanizing Ozai thing is kind of creeping me out.
Zuko is still not confident enough in himself to support the decisions he feels are right as Fire Lord. Critics just assume this is poor character development, but arguably, when you live for sixteen years struggling to see the world in black and white, right and wrong, you’re going to come to roadblocks along the way. To think that Zuko will be able to put aside his demons so easily now that he’s a part of the Gaang is to really simplify the character. “Oh hey, Aang is my friend now, I’ll just follow suit in whatever he does!” Zuko is starting to realize that Aang may be the Avatar, he may have done amazing things, but he is still just a boy. Zuko’s trust in himself is something that he needs to grow into, and he certainly will have lapses in judgment and regress back to his comfort zone. I feel that it is a good move on the writer’s part to make this a point in Zuko’s journey of self discovery and hopefully lead him on the path to trusting in his own instincts in part three.
Major WTF Moment: Suki?! Zuko?! …ZUKI!? SUZUKI!
Best Line: “Normally I’d pummel you for hitting me in the butt, but in this case, good job!” Pretty much every line Toph has is gold.
Most Interesting Character: Ozai, hands down. Moral grey areas are my favorite parts of any villain.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part Three hits bookstores both tangible and interweb on October 3, 2012!