Friday, January 17, 2014

Comic Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search Part One

Hmm, so it appears that my library does not yet have Wandering Son Volume 4 and that it is in fact still in the process of ordering, guess that review won't be up for a while. I had originally hoped to push this review back a little bit in the hopes that my library might get the second volume soon so there wouldn't be a large gap in reviews but, since I recently found out that there was also a third volume in this series and my library just got this volume, it looks like that plan of mine is also a bust. Drat, well, time to talk about Avatar (and it appears that I somehow forgot to review The Promise when I finished it sorry about that folks, might get to that in the future might not!). In case people are confused, yes this is a direct sequel to The Promise which is a direct sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender and I do recommend reading The Promise before The Search, although you could probably follow the story relatively easily if you haven't.

Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Search (part one) written by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Gurihiru

The Harmony Restoration Project is moving along and it seems like the world might finally find peace with this new way of mixing the nations together but there is still unrest in Fire Lord Zuko's life. After being plagued by the question for years he finally gathers up his friends and sister and sets out to find the answer to his biggest question, just what happened to his mother?

While the finale to the original tv series was a fairly good one it did leave a bit of a gaping hole regarding what happened to Zuko's mother, if I remember correctly that might even be his last spoken dialogue. I've heard that the writers had considered leaving the answer in there but cut it, at least partially because they didn't think it was that important, and on one level I can see why, she was just a side character and only appeared in a few flashbacks. On the other hand, if you end a main character's role in the series with that question and never plan to answer it, and considering how big an impact Ursa's disappearance had on Zuko's life, well, you're an idiot and given the twist the end of this volume seems to throw out there you're an even bigger one.

I had heard rumors of a twist but it seemed like so much bad fanfiction that I discounted it until I saw it myself. It could be a red herring but if it's true then it erases one of the more interesting parts of Zuko's life (one that's a metaphor for his entire personality) and, well, it just felt so out of place that it just feels off. The series also makes Zuko's father Ozai seem even more irredeemable than before which I didn't like, yes he's a villain but it feels incongruent with the rest of the series to have him, and Azula, as seemingly irredeemable characters (back in the main series, even Iroh who is one of if not the most level-headed and mature character, called her a crazy person who needed to be put down [from power, not killed] which did feel a bit out of place even at the time). Speaking of feeling off, I feel like once Zuko was "redeemed" in the original series that the writers just weren't sure how to write him. I can see that they meant to write him as just a teen whose unsure about his new role and is having a hard time becoming a good leader and striking a balance but instead we have The Promise where he flies off the handle easy and tries to kill Aang in the first volume and this series where he's entirely too trusting and is taken advantage of by Azula over and over. Instead of coming off as unsure and growing he's just coming off as a character who doesn't learn.

To speak of the writing more generally, guys I'm confused. It's generally established that ATLA was a good show, I see new people coming to it all the time and really like it. But other than that, none of this new material has been really good. Korra just doesn't seem to have worked and neither do these series and I don't think I can place the blame here on just Yang. I'm starting to feel that, like Korra, these mini-series are just paced way too fast, they seem to be treating these stories as little 2, 3 episode affairs when really there's enough material in them for six or eight episodes, the pacing problems are just too similar. And because of all of that I'm now a bit scared what those other two books in the series are going to do, I want to keep loving this story but it's just not working for me anymore and hasn't been for a while.

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