Jul 21, 2015

[Comics] Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search

In the same way that my partner Tobie was able to find a copy of Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, he eventually managed to find a copy of the sequel mini-series, Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search. I was pretty sure that we were going to get a copy for ourselves eventually but I did find it rater amusing that once again it was Tobie who found the book.

These Dark Horse comics have proven to be an interesting balance of interest in the franchise despite my mixed feelings about The Legend of Korra at times. They're quite the vivid continuation of the original story of the and a nice bridge between the two shows in a manner that is way more effective than some other prequel type creations we've seen.

But what I really love is how these collected editions also include commentary from the creators which really adds to the flavor of the whole experience. The story and the art are already amazing on their own, but when you learn more about what the team was thinking while they were putting things together or the direct reasons for certain artistic directions, then the whole experience really gets added dimensions of significance and brilliance.

Synopsis: Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search is a 3-issue comic book mini-series written by Gene Yang together with the cartoon's creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.

Picking things up about a year after the events in The Promise, The Search involves efforts of Team Avatar to help Fire Lord Zuko to discover the fate of his long lost mother. And since his imprisoned father seems reluctant to offer any information to help things along, Zuko eventually decides to release his sister Azula from the mental institution in the hopes that she'll be able to help him find their mother. But Azula has clearly become more unstable over the years and it take a lot of effort for our intrepid heroes to keep up their search and deal with Azula's various outbursts.

But then you have the search itself and the potential revelations about the fate of Zuko's mother. Azula's willingness to help out goes beyond any love from a daughter to help find a lost parent - she has her own motivations for providing this critical information, and this is news the she clearly hopes to use to her advantage. Thus Team Avatar remains on-guard for possible threats and other complications. But this the book that will finally answer this big question once and for all, although the final answer may not be to everyone's liking.

It goes without saying that the art by Gurihiru is stellar and perfectly captures the feel of the original show. And it's not easy to capture things like martial arts movements and silent scenes in a visual medium like a graphic novel. There's so much thought that went into this book and the final result was all the better for it.

But the story itself is the heart of the matter here and that's what defines the comic and what makes it awesome. These books were designed to address a pretty direct fan question - whatever happened to Zuko's mother? And thus the books dive into not just providing a simple answer to the question but also a bit more of the back story and an explanation of how things had gotten to be they are today. It's never easy for a mother to decide to leave her children and this book is a great effort to provide a plausible answer.

But this has to be considered canon since the show's creators were involved in the entire creative process and their fingerprints are all over the entire arc. The dialog is consistent with the "voices" of the characters that we hear in our heads that match the show and how the characters deal with the challenges set in their path. A fiery, somewhat unstable Azula is just the beginning of their problems in this book and it makes for quite the involved adventure even for the reader.

What I also liked was how the comic tried to lay some groundwork for things we would later see in the Korra series, especially when it comes to the spirit realm. The creators' commentary helps explain additional elements introduced into the story that also tie back to the world of Korra and I felt these were nice little bits that really helped to flesh things out further.

This review will end up being rather brief, but on the whole it just reflects that (1) I really enjoyed reading this title and (2) words fail to fully describe everything that just went so right with this book. We all wish that we could experience more of Aang's adventures with his friends and these comics are the absolute best way to do so in a manner that truly honors the show and of course is actually canon! Canon is important to geeks!

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search is a great new adventure for our heroes from The Last Airbender. It has all the fun stuff that we love from the show and it really does provide a fulfilling answer for the fate of Zuko's mother and perhaps even the state of their family as a whole. Thus the comic book mini-series gets 5 surprise revelations about the past out of a possible 5.

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