Monday, August 12, 2013

Fulfill Your Promise and Restore the World to Harmony

Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise
Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Promise

By Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

in collaboration with Bryan Konietzko & Michael Dante DiMartino
Amazon ~ Powell's

Aang and friends band together for an exciting new adventure, beginning with a face-off against the Fire Nation!

A plan to force Fire Nation colonists from their homes in the Earth Kingdom has brought Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei to the verge of war. While Aang and Katara work tirelessly for peace between the two nations, Sokka helps Toph prepare her metalbending school to defend themselves against a rival class of firebenders! Will Aang be able to bring peace in time, or will his friendship with Zuko be destroyed and the world plunged back into war?

Think of it as Book (season) Four of Avatar! Written by Eisner winner and National Book Award nominee Gene Luen Yang (
American Born Chinese), in collaboration with Avatar creators Bryan Konietzko & Michael Dante DiMartino, and drawn by art team Gurihiru (Captain America: Fighting Avenger), this is the Avatar's greatest adventure yet! This deluxe hardcover collects the New York Times best-selling The Promise Parts 1 through 3, with new annotations from Yang and Gurihiru, as well as an exclusive sketchbook of never-before-seen art! This is the story that Avatar lovers have been clamoring for, as well as a perfect jumping-on point for new fans! *
Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise Part 1
Part 1
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

The war is over ... but the adventure has just begun!

Picking up exactly where Avatar: The Last Airbender left off, The Promise takes Aang to a Fire Nation cology in the heart of the Earth Kingdom, where tensions between neighbors threaten to shatter the world's newfound peace—putting the Avatar on a collision course with one of his closest friends, Fire Lord Zuko!

Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise Part 2

Part 2
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

The Avatar's greatest adventure continues!

Aang and Katara work tirelessly to prevent a dispute between Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei that could plunge the world back into war! Meanwhile, Sokka helps Toph prepare her hapless first class of metalbending students to defend their school against a rival class of firebenders!Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise Part 3

Part 3
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

The final chapter!

The Harmony Restoration Movement has failed, and the world is plunged back into war! In the midst of the battle, can Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko mend the rift between them, or will Aang be forced to take actions that can't be undone?

Why couldn't they just have green-lit a fourth season? It says it right in the description there, "Think of it as Book (season) Four of Avatar!" Because in all intents and purposes, it is a fourth season of the show.

If you don't know what I'm talking about (what rock have you been living under?), or if you'd like a refresher course on Avatar: The Last Airbender, go ahead and treat yourself to a great series of reviews done by Doug Walker aka The Nostalgia Critic. I just finished re-watching the entire show (along with his reviews) to remind myself of themes, characters, art styles, etc., so I would have a better idea of how this series worked with its concept material.

And as I said before, it really, really works well. So well, in fact, that I think it would have fit in perfectly as the first episode (or two) of a new season. The series proper didn't really leave much on the table in terms of resolution, but this series of comics grabs on hard to the few loose ends it did leave, and weaves a whole new storyline. If Legend of Korra was able to make do with only 12 episodes, why couldn't Nickelodeon at least allow one last short season of Avatar? It's our loss, because this writing is just as strong as before.

The story basically picks up right where the show left off. The war has ended, now it's time for cleanup and relocating the displaced masses, thus the Harmony Restoration Movement is born. All Fire Nation peoples are to leave the Earth Kingdom immediately. But when some colonies have existed for hundreds of years, separating the two peoples may not be as simple, nor peaceful as the Avatar had once thought.

Meanwhile, Fire Lord Zuko is having his own doubts. Having struggled with the 'right path' in the past, he asks Aang to promise him to do the right thing if ever he takes the same path his father did. Aang agrees, but is put to the task when Zuko suddenly revokes his support of the relocation movement and sends troops into the Earth Kingdom. Now it looks as if he'll have to keep his promise, even if it means losing his friend...

There's also a side story in Part Two involving Sokka and Toph trying to teach her students metalbending. It does come back in Part Three, but mostly serves as a comedic break from the heavier stories of Aang and Zuko's decisions. There are some good jokes, some less-than-good jokes, and some great interaction between Sokka and Toph as well as her three students. Ultimately, it kept the tone light and true to the show's original vibes, though I could see it taking up its own episode instead of being worked in the middle of this one—much to its detriment, if you asked me, since it really does keep a good balance with the other stories.

On the whole, there's a great balance between the drama, comedy, action, and even romance in the book. Granted, the romance is mostly treated with comedy (Oogies!), it's still nice to see it not completely pushed aside. The drama is warranted, and thankfully it's never about miscommunication or misunderstandings. There are real issues involving the lives of people, power struggles, and telling right from wrong on a global scale. And though not all issues are resolved by the end, I did feel satisfied when the story ended. Well, satisfied and eager for the next one.

The art style is very reminiscent of the original animation, which is great. The characters are instantly recognizable, very expressive and distinctive, with new faces fitting right in with old. If I had to nitpick, I'd have to say that Aang and the gang look a bit younger than when we last saw them, but I'll give them a pass for how great Zuko looks. He suffers big time in this story, and boy does it show. There are some zoomed-out shots where the drawings look a little rough or chibi in the face, but these scenes disappear by the 2nd and 3rd Parts. The action scenes are vibrant, clear (which is great for someone who often gets confused in manga), and some are downright gorgeous. Gurihiru certainly nailed the color palate, both in matching the artistry of the show, and in creating work that is stunning in its own right.

But what if you're completely new to the series; would the comic still be enjoyable? I think so. There's some backtracking at the beginning of the first part, basically showing the original show's title sequence in comic form. The themes are pretty self-explanatory, so I think it carries itself fairly well. If anything, it should spur new people into checking out the show (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more) for more. Yeah, it'll spoil things for the end of the show, but that's a small price to pay for a memorable experience overall.

Overall, The Promise is a must-see for any fan of the original show. I'd recommend it to readers of all ages, especially those who enjoy action and fantasy but might be looking for something a little deeper. I will say that I don't think the three Parts work as well separately as they do together, so while you might want to test Part One, I'd recommend getting your hands on all three pieces or the compendium and getting the full story at once. We may have gotten gypped out of a Book Four proper, but if you have any love of Avatar whatsoever, you won't want to miss the first of its (hopefully many) comic adventures, The Promise.

Approximate Reading Time: 1 hour

*After getting my hands on a physical copy of the three-in-one compendium, I have to say IT IS HUGE! It is a full foot tall and 9 inches wide, and weighs nearly 4 lbs. However, the comics inside are not any larger than their individual printings, but instead feature a 2 inch border which occasionally holds side notes and commentary from the writers and/or artists. There is an 11-page addendum featuring sketches and changes made to the art style which was nice to look at for a few seconds, but I don't see it being too detailed. Ultimately, this book should go to a collector, not a casual reader. It more closely resembles a reference book than a comic you would readily pull out for a quick read. If you are legitimately interested in a little creators' commentary, or you're a die-hard Avatar fan who wants the nitty gritty when it comes to story and art, you might check it out and see if you like it. Just don't go ordering it online and being surprised when a monster of a book ends up on your stoop.