Friday, June 8, 2012

Comic Review: The Promise part one

As promised, more Avatar: the last airbender stuff! The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the original series and in a completely different setting so the creators (Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino) decided to create a short, three volume comic to show how the new setting was established and hopefully wrap up a few plot threads from the original series that were never resolved but that's for another review. Sadly not all of the books came out before the series premiered, the second volume came out just a few days ago, and it's going to be a while before I get to the second book but for the moment, here's how the first volume shapes up. As a note, this review is a bit more spoilery than normal but, considering how a lot of stuff in here can already be inferred from Korra/the Republic City game on the Nick site there's not much I can do about that.

Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise Part One written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Gurihiru (lettered by Michael Heisler)

Summary: It's been a year since Aang defeated Firelord Ozai and agreement has been reached between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom for all fire nation colonists to return to their ancestral homes to help change the world back to what it was 100 years ago. But the world has permanently changed in those 100 years and the new conflicts have arisen, ones that don't have any easy solutions to them. 

The Good: Much like the anime Last Exile: Fam of the Silver Wing from earlier in the year, The Promise tackles a question that doesn't appear as much in non-historical/realistic fiction, at what point do "immigrants" become "natives", much like one of the problems that plagues modern day Israel. Korra watchers know what the solution here is but it'll be interesting to see how the characters manage to come to it. The comics also incorperate a number of plotlines that were left hanging at the end of the tv series (such as whatever happened to the Earth King after his last appearance in the comics and perhaps, finally! closure about Zuko's mother) and starts bringing in plots that will connect to Korra (such as Toph's earthbending school which would later become where she trains the first metal bending cops). This mini-series has a lot of ground to cover but it making good progress in dealing with everything.

The Bad: It may be dealing with everything but goodness is it short and fast paced. It's only about 70 pages long, it took me under 20 minutes to read the whole thing, and much like Korra is means the characterization feels a bit rushed. I felt like some parts (such as Aang's decision that he must kill Zuko after all) felt almost random they were so rushed and, even though I have always been an ardant Kataang shipper, I'll admit that Katara and Aang calling each other "sweetie" and such did seem incredibly out of place with the language previously used in the series*. I was a bit underwhelmed overall by the volume but hopefully the next two will make up for that.

The Art: The book was drawn by a team of Japanese artists called Gurihiru (which as some people have pointed out could technically make this manga, I think of it as a comic since the original creators are American as I believe Gene Luen Yang is as well) and they do a pretty good idea sticking to the original art style of the series. It helps that over the years I've seen a number of other ATLA comics (all of which I believe have been collected in The Lost Adventures) so I don't mind that the style was slightly different from the tv show. I'm a bit surprised how well the pages flowed together, sure the comic didn't use a lot of elaborate panel layouts but the artists were still working left to right instead of right to left and having that kind of flexibility is rather impressive.


Again like LE:Fam, I really wish this in-between comic had been fully released before the start of Korra since so far nothing in here has spoiled Korra (indeed it's been the other way around) but it is doing a fairly good job filling in the gaps and I hope it does improve from here. It'll be a while I suspect before I get the second volume (just due to me needing to budget even more carefully than usual) but I do plan on buying the second and third volumes as well (and the third won't be out until September I believe).


*it also kept reminding me of River Song from Doctor Who but that one is my own fault. 

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