This is a bit of an odd Avatar comic and that's not just because I got it for free at Otakon (there was a booth for a New Jersey anime con, I believe it was AnimeNext who had a box of free stuff and just asked that we spread the word about where we got it so there you go!). When the The Last Airbender movie came out there were two tie-in comics, one that was a summary of the film (which apparently wasn't that great either) and this one which is supposed to be what happened to Zuko between the time he was banished and the events in the first episode. I've actually wanted to read it for a while, I had heard the writer (not sure which one) was a fan of the show and I've always wondered if the story might be considered "canon" for the cartoon show since it sounded like Mike and Bryan liked it fairly well, wonder if anyone out there knows the answer to it.
Zuko's Story written by Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus, art by Nina Matsumoto
Summary: Before Aang awoke from his 100 year sleep in Avatar: The Last Airbender the stage was already being set for a showdown that would dethrone the fire lord and bring balance back to the world. A few years earlier another key event happened, Prince Zuko of the fire nation was shamed in a duel against his father and banished, given the quest of capturing the Avatar. While this was a terrible thing it also gave him a chance to see the world and start to understand what this war his father continued to wage really meant.
The Good: Well I guess you can say one good thing came out of that trainwreck of a movie (I've seen some people say Korra happened because of that but I'm not so sure) because I actually liked this a lot more than the first volume of The Search. This story could fit into the ATLA canon easily, Zuko is consistent with the character we saw in the series and the story fits thematically as well into his overall character arc. Truly I think that's the best praise this story could receive, I don't think this story works well if this is your first introduction to the franchise but if you're already familiar with the show then go ahead and pick it up, it fills in the gap between Zuko's banishment and episode one and actually gives an explanation for where the blue spirit came from.
The Bad: It's a bit jarring to see how quickly the story progresses here considering that it took the better part of two seasons of the show to reveal exactly what happened to lead to Zuko's banishment. I wish it had been a bit longer but I can understand that they just wanted a quick tie in piece of material and it does work fine for it's length, it just could have been better if longer (which funny enough is my exact same complaint with currently airing show Avatar: The Legend of Korra). The story does feel a little limited, unsurprisingly since there's only so much they could do without disrupting the rest of the story, and weirdly enough about a forth of the book is just showing the initial sketches for the first 20 or so pages, but overall it's pretty solid work.
The Art: The art follows the movie's designs (character, clothing, and setting wise) which did make this a little jarring at times, although at least here Zuko's scar looks like an actual scar and not an accident in hair and make-up (well, at points it actually looks like he was mauled by a bear but that's still an improvement over the movie's effects). The movie designs do lend themselves to some nice artwork with all their details and the fight scenes look nice as well, although for some reason I can't quite pinpoint everything does look a little rough, probably due to the pen and ink style of shading.
I'm giving this book a 3 out of 5 for being a nice addition to the franchise yet not a must read for every fan. I certainly recommend it but I can't admit that I'll probably reread it that often, might end up donating it to a library or such sometime soon.