October 20th, 2012

Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, Part Three

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part Three
by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko

Part One and Part Two of “The Promise” were previously reviewed here.

The background for those unfamiliar with Avatar: The Last Airbender, taken from the TV show’s opening: Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world. [cue epic music]

At the end of the TV show, Aang had successfully defeated Lord Ozai, leader of the Fire Nation. The new Fire Lord is Prince Zuko, the formerly exiled crown prince. Zuko’s been reformed from his old habit of persecuting the Avatar, but he’s worried that the pressures of ruling his kingdom will make him evil, so he makes Aang promise to kill him if he goes astray. A year passes, and Zuko abruptly backs out of the “Harmony Restoration Movement”, an agreement he made with the ruler of the Earth Kingdom to withdraw Fire Nation colonies from their land. Aang fears that Zuko is following in his father’s footsteps, and that he may be forced to fulfill his vow in order to maintain peace.

Part of me really wishes that this story had been animated. Don’t get me wrong – artist Gurihiru does an amazing job telling the story in comic book form! But Part Three of “The Promise” has several battle scenes, and although they look great on the page they would have looked awesome in motion on a TV screen.

The story is just as compelling as the fighting. Throughout the series, Aang has supported the Harmony Restoration Movement, which that the four nations exist as separate entities. Over time, however, Katara’s views have changed. As she explains to Aang, when she looks at families that have both Firebenders and Earthbenders in them, she sees their future. If Aang insists on the separation of the groups, then they can’t be together because she is a Waterbender and he is an Airbender. When I was growing up, the pressure to identify as either Chinese (like my mother) or Caucasian (like my father) was very strong, and so this conflict hit really close to home. It isn’t a topic that always comes up in books for children – although I’m sure the selection has greatly improved since I was a kid. Even as an adult, it still pops up, like when I realized that marrying my husband meant that our children would only be one-quarter Chinese, and they even more removed from Chinese traditions than I was. But like Aang and Katara, I’d rather embrace a new mixed world than force a separation of groups to preserve the purity of tradition.

Although Part Three is the third and final installment of “The Promise”, the story doesn’t end here. The ending leads directly into the next Avatar series, due out next year, which will focus on the search to uncover what happened to Zuko’s mother.

4.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Promise, Part Three, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott
2010: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
2009: 10 Comic Book Series You Need to Read (Even If You Don’t Like Comics)
2008: The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway