Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise is a series of four comics that pick up right where Avatar: The Last Airbender ended, with the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai. Just a warning, there will totally be spoilers for both shows (Avatar and Korra) in this review. I picked this up care of NetGalley.com. The edition I downloaded was actually the Library Hardcover edition that includes notes from the writers and artists, and collects all four books into one.
This book actually makes a really interesting bridge between Avatar and Korra and begins to set up the changes we see in Korra. Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang are working together with the Earth King to create peace, it’s call the Harmony Restoration Project. All throughout the first series Aang has to save the balance of the world because the four elements have gone out of whack. The Air Nomads were eliminated, the Fire Nation conqured much of the Earth Kingdom, most of the Southern Water Tribe is gone. It’s sort of understood in the series and made plain here in the book that Aang’s idea for peace is to make the world like it used to be. To separate the four nations again. They run into some problems. Namely that the oldest Fire Nation colony as actually incorporated Fire and Earth together. (not always in the most harmonious way as is wont to happen in colonized civilizations) But there has been a new mixing of peoples over the last 100 years. The characters include a girl who is an Earth bender but her father is from the Fire Nation. She maintains that she is a Fire Nation citizen.
The title “The Promise” comes from the opening of the book, Zuko gets a promise from Aang that if Zuko starts to turn evil like his father that Aang will kill him. This is pretty dark for what is arguably a children’s comic, but sets up the main conflict of the book. Basically Zuko withdraws his support from the Harmony Restoration Project because he sympathizes with the colonists. Aang (and the Earth Kingdom) see this as an act of war and Aang sets off, fearful that he might have to kill his friend.
I was actually really impressed with the story, the writing and the art. The art stays pretty true to the series. Almost everything was on model. The new characters all look like they could have walked right out of the cartoon. The backgrounds, sets, characterization, everything was amazingly on-model. I think there was a touch of missed opportunity for some really creative art, however I know that with a widely watched show, a 12 and under audience, and the wide distribution of the book that it wasn’t possible for the artists to get too creative. Plus I enjoy the art of Avatar so it was nice to look at.
All of the characters are there, at least in some small role. Each one of them acted in character. There was still the great mix of drama and comedy. Over all it felt like an additional episode. It was really solid. Plus I found the ideas around the colonists fascinating. It really touches on issues of mixed heritage in a modern way, it should speak to Americans. The idea that someone can belong to two cultures and yet none at all is a distinctly American problem that we have been giving voice to for generations. Plus I thought the conflicts, blessings and lingering problems of colonization were dealt with in a smart way that brought out both the positives and negatives. It wasn’t presented as black and white, but really brought the nuances. This is an even more admirable feat when you remember that this is a children’s book! There are history textbooks (not to mention the countless history books at B&N) that can’t deal with these issues with the level of realism and honestly that this fantasy comic book can.
I’m hoping to get more books in this series since this book left off with out really solving too many issues. It left a bunch of storylines opened. That is really the only problem I had with it.
Because of that I’m only giving it 4 out of 5 momos.