The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 118 | Avatar: The Last Airbender–The Promise, Part 2 review

Leaving Proof 118 | Avatar: The Last Airbender–The Promise, Part 2 review
Published on Thursday, May 17, 2012 by

Dark Horse Books’ The Promise continues its examination of the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender one year after the passing of Sozin’s Comet. Will the fragile peace the Aang and his allies worked so hard to create collapse under the weight of old injustices?

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Humourous interplay between Toph, Sokka, and Toph’s metal-bending students.
  • Gurihiru art team does a great job of combining the animation’s visual aesthetic and their own style.
  • Surprising soap opera romance developments sure to thrill fans of certain characters.

Cons:

  • Main overarching plot about the brewing tension between the Earth and Fire Nation doesn’t progress in any significant way.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books (a division of Dark Horse Comics)
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Script by: Gene Luen Yang
  • Art and Cover by: Gurihiru
  • Lettered by: Michael Heisler
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender created by: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino
  • Format: 80-page full-colour trade paperback
  • List Price: $10.99 US (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on 30 May, 2012

Cover and Interior Page Previews (Click to view in larger size)

   

  

Full Review

In February’s Leaving Proof review of Avatar: the Last Airbender–The Promise, Part 1, I wondered how far writer Gene Luen Yang (Animal Crackers, American Born Chinese) was willing to take The Promise‘s seeming parallel with post-World War I Europe, with the Fire Nation standing in for Weimar Republic Germany and the Harmony and Restoration Movement as an analogue for the somewhat retaliatory Treaty of Versailles. We don’t get the answer to that question in Avatar: the Last Airbender–The Promise, Part 2 as the narrative shifts its primary focus—from the Avatar’s attempts to introduce a workable détente between an increasingly belligerent Fire Nation and a vindictive Earth Nation—to a rather lighthearted Toph Beifong subplot introduced in Part 1. The change of pace and the move away from the grim footing of The Promise‘s first installment are welcome, although towards the end, the story about Toph Beifong’s upstart metal-bending academy starts to wear a little thin.

Part of the book is devoted to showing Aang and Katara’s efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the disagreement between Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei over the status of citizens in former Fire Nation colonies before the sabre-rattling turns to all-out war. These sequences don’t really advance the plot significantly; arguments from the first book are repeated and one gets the sense that the characters involved are simply waiting for the inevitable showdown (or last-minute compromise deal—this is an Avatar: The Last Airbender book after all, more nuanced than many other action-heavy fantasy properties).

The bulk of the book is devoted to a story featuring master earth- and metal-bender Toph Beifong, with the help of the always amusing Sokka, preparing her first class of metal-bending students for a fight against a rival school of fire-benders over the ownership rights to their dojo. Yang gets a lot of mileage from the humourous interplay between Toph, Sokka, and the misfits that are the students of Toph’s recently-founded metal-bending academy but as entertaining as this subplot is, I couldn’t help but feel that it would have benefited from being trimmed down somewhat. All but the most novice readers will suss out early on how the confrontation between the student metal-benders and the fire-benders will shake out, and Yang’s belabouring of the point about how terribly over-matched Toph’s students are only really serves to telegraph his intentions with the story.

The soap opera romance aspect of Avatar: The Last Airbender gets fair play in this book, with some surprising developments (some that may have implications on the lineage of certain characters in The Legend of Korra) that I’ll leave to readers to find out when the book comes out at the end of the month.

As in the first installment of The Promise, the Gurihiru art team (illustrator Sasaki and colourist/designer Kawano) does a great job of combining the animation’s visual aesthetic and their own distinct style. Certain characters like Aang and Toph look particularly slimmer and taller than they’ve been portrayed in the cartoons and previous comics, but readers should keep in mind that this story takes place over a year after the conclusion of the animated series, and that characters will have to have grown and matured physically.

Sokka and Toph’s adventures in Avatar: the Last Airbender–The Promise, Part 2 are a fun distraction from the overarching conflict at the core of this mini-series, but this installment will likely read much better as part of the larger story of The Promise. Bring on Part 3!

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3 Responses
    • ” (. . .) some that may have implications on the lineage of certain characters in The Legend of Korra (. . ) ” – I presume you mean Zuko’s daughter (the current Fire Lord in Legend of Korra), given the leaked panels of Suki talking to Zuko and Mai telling Zuko goodbye.                              

      But I have to know, are there any romantic developments for Toph of any kind in Part 2? How they handled that in the original series never made sense to me (or to a lot of Toph fans), and I’m really hoping they don’t  butcher that whole subject by never explaining where Lin came from in any way. Anything, even if it’s negative for the character, would be better than giving her nothing simply because she’s a rougher girl character than most. If you can give any indication at all about that subject, I would be very grateful. 

      On another note, I have to give you props for the fair-mindedness of this review; obviously, I haven’t read Part 2 yet, but you’ve managed to strike a more moderate tone than the other reviews that I’ve seen, which either seem to rabidly against it or for it (in my mind, at least).

      • We’ve got a “no spoilers” agreement with Dark Horse Comics so I’m afraid I can’t give any details in this space, but yes, the way I read it, there are some romantic implications suggested by the juxtaposition of the Suki-Zuko-Mai developments you’ve seen in the leaked pages you mentioned and the book’s spotlight on Sokka and Toph’s growing chumminess. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s some sort of red herring, though. 

    • […] its narrative wheels in the second installment. Granted, this was also the same problem seen in the second chapter of Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise, so the issue might not so much be with the writing per se as it is with how Dark Horse’s […]

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