The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 142 | Avatar: The Last Airbender–The Promise, Part 3 review

Leaving Proof 142 | Avatar: The Last Airbender–The Promise, Part 3 review
Published on Monday, August 20, 2012 by
The Promise, Part Three brings to a close the first major storyline in the post-Book Three Avatar: The Last Airbender canon. Leaving Proof conducts a spoiler-free dissection of the mini-series’ final chapter and you’ve got a front-row seat!

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Manages to be an overall fun read without treating the story’s stakes with flippancy or triteness.
  • Provides a satisfying, if open-ended, conclusion to a politically and morally complex tale.
  • Consistent art by Gurihiru.

Cons:

  • None of note.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books (a division of Dark Horse Comics)
  • Publication Date: September 2012
  • Written by: Gene Luen Yang
  • Interior and Cover Art by: Gurihiru
  • Lettered by: Michael Heisler
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender created by: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino
  • Format: 80 page full-color trade paperback
  • List Price: $10.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on September 26, 2012

Cover Preview (Click on image to view in larger size)

Full Review

Before reading further: Get caught up on The Promise by perusing our reviews of the previous chapters in this three-part mini-series. The review of Part One can be read here, while the Part Two review is here.

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In this, the third and final chapter of Dark Horse Books’ Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise, writer Gene Luen Yang takes the overarching story to morally and politically complex territory, even for a property that has gained much well-deserved renown for its multifaceted characters and layered plots. The post-World War I parallels that were evident in the first chapter are back in play after being pushed a bit to to the sidelines in the series’ penultimate installment, but the implications of the plot and dialogue now broach the argument of assimilation vs. segregation.

Aang is caught in a seemingly no-win situation as the final arbitrator between the Earth and Fire Nations’ grievances over old territorial disputes. Ruling in favor of the Earth Nation, upholding the Harmony Restoration Movement, and forcibly repatriating Fire Nation colonists from the Earth Nation territory of Yu Dao would likely mean having to fight, and even kill, his dear friend Fire Lord Zuko who seeks to aggressively defend the rights of Fire Nation expatriates. On the other hand, siding with Zuko, defending the Fire Nation colonists in Yu Dao from forced repatriation, and allowing Fire Nation colonists to retain and even expand their hold on what was originally Earth Nation land would mean undermining the democratic and multilateral ideals that gave birth to the Harmony Restoration Movement, the same ideals the Avatar and his allies fought for during their campaign against the rule of the despot Fire Lord Ozai. In either case, residents of Yu Dao will suffer from a revival of hostilities between the two nations. Aang is tasked with making an impossible choice, and even doing the right thing in this instance provides no assurance that a new war will be averted. In addition, Aang has to face the prospect that striking a blow for assimilation might mean dooming his own Air Nomad culture to dilution and eventual extinction.

Despite the themes involved, Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise, Part Three manages to be an overall fun read without treating the story’s stakes with flippancy or triteness. Toph and Sokka bring their comic relief stylings from the second chapter to the series’ “A” plot, which helps to counterbalance the gravity of the quandary the book’s protagonists find themselves in. The Nickelodeon show balanced cartoon humor, highly-stylized martial arts action, and nuanced philosophical and moral discussions. That balance seemed like it was tilting a tad too far in favor of wheel-spinning comedy in the previous chapter, but Yang successfully picks up the pace and reestablishes the story’s high ethical, political, and human stakes in Chapter Three.

Yang provides a somewhat open-ended, though ultimately satisfying, conclusion to a thoroughly complex tale. The best episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender have always avoided offering simplistic solutions to problems of violence, and decisions to use counter-violence, even in self-defense, are never taken lightly by Aang and his compatriots, and it is no different in The Promise. Nonetheless, some readers will probably still manage to find sticking points in how Yang resolves the tale for various reasons. I would remind those readers that there are no easy answers to the question of ethnic conflict, and fiction that addresses such conflicts, even fantastical fiction, is best served reflecting that unfortunate reality.

The Gurihiru team of illustrator Sasaki and colorist Kawano are remarkably consistent in their fusion of the cartoon’s look and their own comic book style: Character renderings are reasonably close to that seen on the show, but the visual storytelling takes advantage of the expanded vertical dimension offered by the comic book page.

A Dark Horse Books hardcover bringing together the three chapters of The Promise in one handy collection is a likely future release at this point, but Avatar: The Last Airbender fans would do well to seek out the mini-series. Recommended.

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