Netflix has recently announced its new Avatar: The Last Airbender live-action reboot. Avatar creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, were originally participating in the Netflix project, but have since departed after losing creative control of the new series. This has left fans crossing their fingers that it will still be as iconic as its source material (some spoilers ahead, Supa-Fans!).
The original Avatar: The Last Airbender returned to Netflix as a long-forgotten relic of so many young-adult childhoods. The series’ return also captivated a whole new enthusiastic audience. Fans new and old watched as Aang and Katara embraced and kissed for one final time at the emotional conclusion to the series.
Firelord Ozai was gone, the Hundred Year War was over, and finally, Team Avatar could rest. The scene panned to a cloud scattered pink sky as music soared and the words ‘the end’ suspended in the air.
That was it. Book 3 ended and Avatar: The Last Airbender was over.
If you read our title, you know this isn’t true. You can still get your Avatar fix after the end of the animated show. While a few comics were published during the airing of the series to help fans ride out the wait between seasons, the real story after the war and before the events of Legend of Korra is found in the graphic novels published by Dark Horse Comics.
The comics, written by Michael DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko and Gene Yang, follow Team Avatar through personal journeys, which further explore their characters and bonds as friends. They continue the story fans yearned for while maintaining the same fun dynamics.
The series of comics are Illustrated by Gurihiru, the Japan-based comic artist duo made up of Chifuyu Sasaki and Naoko Kawano. Their vibrant art style carries you through the nations in three-part graphic novels.
If you’re still wondering what happened to Zuko’s mother, or how the Earth Kingdom rebuilds after the hundred-year war, the comics published between 2012-2017 delve into these complex issues and much more. The original and most renowned graphic novels released by Dark Horse after the airing of the iconic series consist of (in order) The Promise, The Search, The Rift, Smoke and Shadow, and North and South.
The Promise picks up right where we left off and explores how the Fire Nation releases its control of the Earth Kingdom as the new Firelord, Zuko, attempts to repair the damage his nation has caused. A very realistic political struggle ensues, as many members of the fire nation have started families within the Earth Kingdom and now call it home. Earth King Kuei and Zuko approach the brink of a new war, with Aang in the middle of it all.
The Search follows Zuko, Sokka, Katara and Aang, as they investigate what happened to Zuko’s mother, Ursa. Zuko also begrudgingly enlists the help of Azula, who is approaching total insanity and has been having hallucinations of their mother.
The Rift covers Aang’s journey in founding Republic City. Don’t worry, Toph isn’t left out of this one! In fact, tensions rise between Toph and Aang as the pair’s morals collide when they discover a refinery created on sacred Air Nomad land. Aang struggles with balancing preservation and evolution as a spirit infuriated by the refinery’s presence causes havoc.
Smoke and Shadow sees Zuko, Mai and Aang unite against the threat of The New Ozai society, a group which attempts to assassinate Zuko in order to restore Ozai as Firelord. Mai’s estranged father leads the ruthless group who appear to be working with Kemurikage which are kidnapping children.
North and South marks the end of Gurihiru’s work on Avatar comics. Katara and Sokka find a political imbalance amongst the Southern and Northern water tribes upon their return home. The usual traditional ways of the Southern tribe have changed, and Katara wonders if her tribe is losing its identity. A group of Southern Nationalists who are displeased with the changes and Northern influence push back using violence.
What is captivating about these comics is that they truly prove there is no ‘happily ever after’. Following a war that ravaged all four nations, many moral and political issues are sure to arise. The comics reflect the bittersweet reality of war and dictatorships, using familiar and relatable characters who all bring something wonderful to the table.
The complexity of Avatar is what makes it timeless. Avatar is not afraid to approach difficult situations, and the series doesn’t assume that children can’t understand serious plotlines.
If you’re seeking more from the Avatar series, these comics will be the perfect fit for you. Avatar will never truly die because its messages will always resonate with its audiences. A different creative team is currently releasing new Avatar comics as of December 2018. The next comic, Katara and the Pirate’s Silver, is set to release in October this year.
With news that Netflix will continue its production without the original creators, fans can only hope that the new reboot attempts to stay true to the underlying messages of its source material as these comics did.
Lead image: The cover of ‘Smoke and Shadow: Part One’