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Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 2 by Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult. He has since written and drawn a number of titles. His 2006 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association‘s Michael L. Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – New. A short story from The Eternal Smile, his 2009 collaboration with Derek Kirk Kim, won an Eisner Award as well. His books Prime Baby and Level Up (with illustrator Thien Pham) were also nominated for Eisner Awards. Gene currently writes the graphic novel continuation of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Another great addition to the Avatar: the Last Airbender universe. The artwork was once again perfect, the characterisation was spot-on and the story moved along at a fast pace, but without feeling rushed in any way.
Toph and Sokka were especially great in this installment. I loved their relationship in the TV series, so it was great to see them off on their own side-adventure while tensions reached boiling point for Aang, Katara and Zuko in the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. I also think that Sokka and Toph’s interaction and their individual personalities were captured perfectly.
I know a lot of fans are unhappy with the choices Zuko is making and feel that he is out of character. While I agree that his choices aren’t good and he has a lot of simpler options available to him, I also think it’s very in-character for Zuko to chose wrongly. how many times in the series did we shake our heads and scream at Zuko for the decisions he made? Even after his final choice to join Aang and fight against his father, he still had the same unfortunate one-step-forward-two-steps-back decision making skills. I’m confident that we’ll see a growth in Zuko’s character similar to the many changes that we saw in Zuko over the course of the three seasons of Avatar: the Last Airbender.
The best part of this installment is that the constant back-and-forth between humour and important story-building scenes kept the pace of the graphic novel exactly as it would have been if translated into an actual episode. Seeing and reading about the adventures of these characters I love, it was so easy to hear their voices and be transported back to the world of the TV show. I can’t wait for the last part to be released in September!
While the previous volume focused on Aang and Zuko and seemed to cover half a season’s worth of story, this volume is largely an episode-length comic romp featuring Toph and Sokka at Bei Fong Metalbending Academy. The “lily livers,” er, students are entirely one-dimensional and basically repeat the same line of dialogue over and over, which is simultaneously lazy and amusing. Yang saves the characterization for Toph and Sokka (especially Toph). While it’s a fun diversion, the political intrigue introduced in the first volume does heat up, setting the stage for what should be an exciting conclusion.
As if it wasn’t enough that the TV series was awesome – the books are also fantastic. This one picks up where the previous one (The Promise: Part 1) left off: Toph is with Aang, Katara, and Sokka in the Earth kingdom to resolve the issue of Yu-Dao and the Harmony Restoration Movement, while Zuko is seeking help from his father, Ozai about the pressures of being the Fire Lord. There is a subplot with Toph trying to teach Metalbending to her students, and Sokka helping her with it – Sokka’s wit is something being greatly missed in Korra, but the book has it spot on.
There is an Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Promise: Part 3 that will release in September/October that will conclude this story arc (possibly leading to Republic City!) – I’m eagerly waiting for it.
Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/MsXokK