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Advance Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Written by Dan Kester on Monday, January 09 2012 and posted in Reviews

An advance review of the new adventures of Aang and his friends!

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:

The wait is over! Ever since the conclusion of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its millions of fans have been hungry for more--and it's finally here!

This series of digests rejoins Aang and friends for exciting new adventures, beginning with a faceoff against the Fire Nation that threatens to throw the world into another war, testing all of Aang's powers and ingenuity!

* The continuation of Airbender and the link to its upcoming sequel, Legend of Korra!

* Written by Gene Luen Yang, author of the National Book Award-nominated American Born Chinese.


Often when a series goes from one medium to another something is completely lost in translation. Whether it's a large amount of details going from a book to a movie or a movie being made into a television series and completely losing its original intention, rarely does the same story work to the same extent in a different medium. Dark Horse's Last Airbender, however, is one of the coveted exceptions to the rule.

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a children's animated series that ran on Nickelodeon for three seasons from 2005 to 2008. It was very well received by critics as well as fans because, despite being a children's show, it didn't shy away from things that are typically taboo for the medium. Think back to when we were kids: no one ever died in those shows. G.I. Joe featured hundreds of hardened, trained soldiers firing hundreds of laser blasts and never hitting anyone. In Voltron, Sven was injured and was just "sent away" in a glass coffin-looking "medical ship." But in The Last Airbender a 14 year-old boy's entire clan and everyone he's ever known, including his elderly father figure and mentor, are brutally murdered at the onset of a 100-year war.

The comic picks up where the television series concluded. The Avatar, Aang, had defeated the fire lord and imprisoned him. His former arch-nemesis turned friend, the current fire lord Zuko, is now in control of the imperialistic fire nation. Since the war has recently ended, the task is now to unite the four element-based clans (well three, considering that Aang is the last air bender - hence the title). In order to promote this unity, they plan to abandon the fire colonies currently occupying Earth Kingdom territories and return the land. This process starts to go smoothly until the people of the oldest of said colonies initiate an assassination attempt on Lord Zuko.

The comic book takes off right where the animated series leaves off, and it doesn't pull any punches. It takes situations that are typically reserved for an older teenager and young adult crowd and packages it for children. Not too many children's shows deal with military occupation, political coups and global wars. Even though the intricacies of the finer points of the plot are played down for its target audience, it's still very impressive for them to want to go to such lengths to make a good story.

As for the art, it seems like the animators from the original show directly consulted if they didn't actually draw the art. The artistic similarities helps this story to be so well translated from 30-minute episodic animated series to comic. With Nickelodeon studios still clutching tightly to the helms of this project, it is apparent that a lot of care is being given to keep things homogenous.

The one hang-up here that takes away from the potential universality of this comic, despite my praise, is the dialogue: it is clearly intended for a younger audience. Hearing adults speak like children became quite frustrating from time to time, and when the children talk about something being "oogie" one can't help but be irked. But when you're reading a story intended for children and pre-teens, what can you really expect?

Action sequences easily make up about half of this book, and all of them are done well. It is easy to see the moves done by each of the characters, the colors make it easy enough to see who is prevailing over whom and even the emotions in each fight scene are thoroughly conveyed. Whether it's the ease in which the Avatar handles his opponents or Toph's full mastery over earth bending, the battles are expertly handled and are visually stunning.

All and all, there are a few other books out there that are a far cry better than this one, especially ones that are more tailored to our age group. However, for anyone who is a fan of the show, this will be a great continuation and replacement for syndication.

Two and a half stars out of four.

Review by: Dan Kester

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