Monday, 23 January 2012

Book Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 1

First published: 25th January 2012
By: Dark Horse Comics
The war is over...but the adventure has just begun!

Picking up exactly where Avatar: The Last Airbender left off, The Promise takes Aang to a Fire Nation colony in the heart of the Earth Nation, where tensions between neighbours threaten to shatter the world's newfound peace - putting the Avatar on a collision course with one of his closest friends, Fire Lord Zuko!

Written by Eisner Award winner Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) in close collaboration with Avatar creators Bryan Konietzo and Michael Dante DiMartino, this is the story Avatar fans have been waiting for!

My review:

I am a huge fan of the original animated series of Avatar and was crushed when it ended, as I felt that there was still much of the story left to tell. After reading The Promise Part 1 I can happily say that, yes, it is the story I've been waiting for. The comic book continuation of the series is doing the plot threads I had hoped to see on the show and judging by this first installment, it seems to be doing them very well indeed.

The story of Aang and his friends is picked up from where we last left them, down to the minute. Zuko is the new Fire Lord and has a lot of work ahead of him, restoring peace to the Four Nations. His first decision is to remove the Fire Nation colonies from the Earth Nation and resettle the people there back into the Fire Nation. With the Avatar by his side, he hopes this will go smoothly, but it's been a hundred years; many people of the colonies have laid down roots and don't want to leave their homes. Zuko soon realises the situation is not black and white, but will Aang agree? Or will the new friends be on opposing sides again?

I am again impressed by, despite ostensibly being for children, Avatar's willingness to tackle complex issues and do so in a smart and multi-faceted way. Being British, I couldn't help but compare the plot here to what happened, and is still happening, with our colonies. I read this volume in one sitting, completely engaged from start to finish. Everything great about the original series is present here: the characters, the humour, the relationships, the fight scenes. I don't think fans will be disappointed at all.

I'm more of a book reader than a comic reader so commenting on the quality of things like artwork and panelling is a little beyond me. However, I can comment on the quality of the story and I found it to be top-notch. I've never read Gene Luen Yang before, but based on this, I will be seeking out American Born Chinese. Zuko feels like the leading man in this one - the other main characters (Aang, Katara, Toth and Sokka) do get to show why they're awesome (although there's not as much Sokka as I would like), but its Zuko who drives the plot. Although Zuko's not my favourite character, I do think the issues surrounding him, his family and the Fire Nation are the most interesting ones in Avatar, so I'm happy for them to take centre stage here. 

A nice touch to this volume is having a few minor characters from the series show their faces again and better still is Avatar keeping up its tradition of having more kick-ass female characters than any other series in history, with the addition of Kori, who answers a question that's always been in the back of my mind: What happens when benders from two different nations procreate? I squealed aloud when she was introduced; it's just something I always wanted to know and I'm thrilled that it was finally addressed.

As it's one part of a larger story, this volume has a cliff-hanger ending and though I'm already dying to know what comes next, I was completely satisfied with what The Promise gave me. I've wanted Avatar back for so long, and now, at last, it is.

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book was provided to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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