by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, and Bryan Konietzko
Azula has dug up evidence of a long-buried family secret that she believes will allow her to take the Fire Nation's throne back from her brother. As the siblings continue to search for their missing mother, she waits for an opportunity to escape and set her plans in action. It takes all of Zuko's patience and skill to keep her under control. When their quest reaches a dead end, it is up to Aang and his connection to the spirit world to lead them through the Forgetful Valley. It is their last chance to find out the fate of Ursa.
Zuko has always been the gentler of the two siblings, but for years this aspect of his personality was suppressed. In childhood flashbacks and in his interactions in this volume of The Search, his kinder side really shines through. His desire to reconnect with his sister and build a true relationship with her is touching, doomed as it is by Azula's aggression and power plays. It is also increasingly clear that Zuko finds his role as Fire Lord a burden that he would set aside if he could, following the path of his uncle Iroh. Every time he begins to hint at this desire, Aang cuts him off, insisting that only Zuko can lead his nation.
Azula's madness continues to drive her actions. Peeks into her childhood show a strong-willed girl spoiled by an indulgent father due to her ruthless nature and precocious firebending talent. After Ursa left the palace, no one bothered to reign in Azula's worst impulses or discipline, paving the way for the girl to grow up into the heartless, cruel woman she has become. Inside the monster, Azula's like a lost child, desperate for her mother's love but unable to bear the weakness she perceives this need to be.
The contrast between the happy relationship of Sokka and Katara, a strong bond nurtured despite tragedy and loss, highlights the tragedy of the Fire Nation's leading family. It makes me want to be angry at someone, but who? Ozai seems the perfect man to cast blame upon. He took Ursa away from her true love, forced her to marry him, and planned to kill her son until she gave him an alternate route to the throne. His ambition and his narcissism are undeniable. But at the same time, he was following the mandates of his father. We aren't privy to Ozai's inner thoughts; it's possible he may have loved Ursa and felt truly betrayed by her ongoing affections for another man. To bring so much depth to these characters in so few pages is why this comic succeeds so well, and it really highlights Yang's storytelling gifts.
There's only one book left in this trilogy, and I don't know how they're going to wrap everything up. Aang's running around in the spirit world and Ursa is nowhere to be found. I know the last segment is going to be good, but I hope it doesn't leave us with the same questions that we started with.
5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Avatar: the Last Airbender - The Search, Part Two, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex
2011: Taking a break...
2010: Essay: Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman
2009: Hush, hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
2008: Author Interview: Kate Hahn (Forgotten Fashion)