Saturday, November 9, 2013

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search goes right where The Promise went wrong

In my review of the previous Avatar: the Last Airbender comic series, The Promise, I hoped that the next series, The Search, would do better. I am happy to say that it did! Where The Promise had too many characters, too many storylines, shifts in tone, and characters acting out of character, The Search told a tighter story with fewer characters, a better narrative, and better writing.

And of course, The Search answers the top question asked by fans of Avatar: the Last Airbender: what happened to Zuko's mother? I won't spoil the answer, but it's worth picking up the comics just to finally know.

(This review does contain some minor spoilers, though, but probably nothing you couldn't pick up from the covers.)

One of my biggest gripes about The Promise was that it had too many characters: all of the original Team Avatar, plus several minor characters from the show, plus several new characters created just for the series. This led to several ongoing side-plots and a lot of wasted time. The Search, on the other hand, focuses on the characters shown above on the cover. Zuko takes Azula on a search for their mother, with Aang, Sokka, and Katara along to help and make sure that Azula doesn't try anything.

You may look at the cover and wonder, where's Toph? Everyone's favorite earthbender gets left behind for this story. At first I was sorry not to have Toph along, but then I considered that Toph is so powerful that we would never be worried about Azula getting out of control if Toph came along. Having fewer characters also meant the story could be more focused, and bringing Sokka and Katara allowed the writer to add several moments focusing on brother-sister relationships.

Both Gene Luen Yang's writing and Gurihiru's art show how the characters have matured since the TV series and the previous comics. I found the change in Aang's behavior to be the most welcome. He seemed silly and ineffective in The Promise, and wiser and more thoughtful in The Search.

I thought the art was still too exaggerated in The Search, though not to the level of The Promise. And while there was still a fair amount of angst, I felt like it was more justified in this story than in the previous one. Things are definitely heading in the right direction!

If I were to make a recommendation to Avatar fans for which comics to read, I would suggest skipping The Promise and going straight to The Search. Then, when you read it, let me know what you thought of the final reveal. I'm eager to discuss it, but I shouldn't say any more than that!

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