Monday, December 9, 2013

May You Find Who - And What - You Are Searching For

Avatar: The Last Airbender The Search
Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Search

By Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

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

For years, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have burned with one question - what happened to Fire Lord Zuko's mother? Finding a clue at last, Zuko enlists the aid of Team Avatar - and the most unlikely ally of all - to help uncover the biggest secret of his life.

Immediately following the Avatar's adventures chronicled in
The Promise, this remarkable oversized hardcover collects parts 1-3 of The Search, from Airbender creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko! Featuring annotations by Eisner Award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and the artist team Gurihiru (Thor and The Warriors Four), and a brand-new sketchbook, this is a story that Avatar fans need in an edition they will love!

Avatar: The Last Airbender The Search Part 1
Part 1
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Azula joins Team Avatar?!

For years, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have burned with one question - what happened to Fire Lord Zuko's mother? Finding a clue at last, Zuko enlists the aid of Team Avatar - and the most unlikely ally of all - to help uncover the biggest secret of his life.

Avatar: The Last Airbender The Search Part 2

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

Enter the Forgetful Valley!

As Fire Lord Zuko continues his quest to uncover his mother's fate, a shocking revelation causes him to question everything he knows. It's an opportunity that his sister, the deathly and insane Azula, will not fail to take advantage of as she joins Zuko and his friends Aang, Katara, and Sokka on their journey into a mysterious forest from which some people never reemerge...

Avatar: The Last Airbender The Search Part 3
Part 3
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

The Fate of the Fire Lord!

Avatar Aang travels to the spirit world to parlay with an ancient power, bringing Fire Lord Zuko ever closer to discovering the truth about his mother's fate - and his own past. Yet Zuko's sister Azula is becoming increasingly dangerous, threatening to ruin everything that Zuko, Aang, Katara, and Sokka have struggled to achieve on their search!

Once again I must lament over the decision not to put these stories into a fourth season. This story in particular was one that EVERYONE wanted to know, was teased in both the finale of Airbender, as well as in the premiere of Korra, and could have easily carried its own made-for-TV movie. But, as it stands, it still was an amazing story.

Thankfully, all those years of teasing and waiting have finally paid off. The Search reveals everything through both flashbacks from Ursa's life as well as the current search being conducted by Zuko and Co. Filled with nostalgic references, even more Avatar lore, and a few great twists and cliffhangers, I think this will be accepted and enjoyed by any fans of the show.

It seems like the team behind these graphic novels took to heart any criticism of or advice for The Promise and came back with something even stronger. The story is tighter, traveling along all three books as a whole while still offering individual arcs for each part. I will say that a lot of people may be put off by the major cliffhanger in Part 1, but please trust me when I say that you have to continue reading until the end. You won't want to be in the dark after this series.

All the characters were true to form, some even better than in the last story. But my favorite by far had to be Azula. Her fall into insanity was a great development in the last episodes of the show, and here things only get better. The way she shifts from calm and collected to completely paranoid and deranged is masterfully written and illustrated. And even when she's trying to burn everything (and everyone) to the ground, you still feel for her because of her inner turmoil. There is so much depth given to her character, both from her interactions with others and her solitary rants, that she may very well have become my new favorite character. I think she really needs a hug.

If I had one complaint, I was a tad disappointed by some of the confrontations with finding the mother. After all that buildup, the conflicts, the twists, the ending seemed a bit convenient and rushed. I suppose there was enough drama without adding an added bit of confusion or denial, but I was expecting more than I got. Still, I can't say I'm disappointed with the ending, as it wraps things up with plausible explanations and leaves no plots open. Well, save for one that I trust will resurface in future installments.

The art style is just as beautiful as the first, possibly even moreso in regards to the Forgetful Forest and a new Spirit's design. I mentioned before how wonderfully Azula's insanity is illustrated, but really all the characters have a huge range of emotions depicted in here. Add in the fire and lightning fight scenes, the sepia-toned flashbacks, and the vibrant spirit world, and this series is as wonderful to look at as it is to read.

So how does this installment hold up by itself? Well, I'd say complete strangers to the Avatar universe would still greatly enjoy The Search. For being such a long-awaited story in the eyes of fans, it's actually handled in a way that is very self-contained. Enough references are explained that I don't think newcomers would be lost for very long. And the art alone would be sure to keep them entertained. I will say that having this be your first experience in the Avatar universe would probably kill most of the intrigue that the unknown story held in the series, but if this was your one and only jaunt into this world you'd probably still enjoy yourself.

Overall, The Search is the story all fans have been waiting for, and it doesn't disappoint. I'd recommend it to readers of all ages, especially those who enjoy action and fantasy but might be looking for something with a little drama and a lot of heart. I will say that the cliffhangers between parts may send readers into a frenzy, so having all three parts on hand at the start is definitely recommended. The long wait is finally over, so if you've got any Avatar fans in your life, go out and find The Search for them pronto.

Approximate Reading Time: 1.5 hours