For anyone who is a fan of the Avatar the Last Airbender television show, know that Dark Horse Comics have heard your cries for more stories. Over the past few years, Dark Horse has released a total of three major stories and also a few smaller offerings as well. The Promise, covers the year immediately after the end of the television show. While The Search followed Fire Lord Zuko's journey in trying to find what happened to his mother after her disappearance when he was a youth. And now, we have The Rift which begins Team Avatar's further adventures and opens the beginning framing for what will eventually become issues addressed in the Legend of Korra related to industrialization and "benderism". Before all that however, it is time to celebrate as Aang wishes to share an Airbender holiday honoring Avatar Yangchen, who you may remember from a cameo or two in the TV show. Anyway, the holiday hasn't been celebrated in over a hundred years and it's looking like it will be a good one. As Aang prepares however, he is met by Yangchen's spirit who is troubled with some things going on. Aang and company are lead to a refinery operated by a tandem of firebenders and earthbenders that shows partnership and promise, but may also be causing some serious disruptions to land sacred to airbenders.
Adding to the trouble are some interpersonal struggles regarding members of Team Avatar itself. The past is weighing heavy and the future is uncertain. But one thing does shine through in these pages. The whole gang is back, including Toph who was glaringly missing from The Search. She returns here and looks to figure very prominently in this story. The nice thing to also see is that writer Gene Luen Yang is really beginning to find a very nice groove in writing these wonderful tales.
Anyone who has read Boxers and Saints know of the writing ability of Gene Luen Yang. He has a natural ability to get into the psyche of a character and pull out deep parts of story from relative simple actions, whether it is dialogue, thought processing or straightforward action. Yang works it and he has channeled himself well into the stories of Micheal DiMartino and Brian Kenietzko. There is a flow that makes things move at a pleasant pace until the time is right to turn it up with which Yang is adept at doing as well.
With the artwork of Gurihiru, there is nothing mindblowingly different about the depictions. But at the same time, there doesn't need to be. These are characters that we know and love and drawing them in some radical new way might disrupt what makes Team Avatar who they are. I will report that very subtly, there are some changes on the art made. The gang is starting to look older, becoming the adults that they are supposed to be. It works well in this story so far as we are beginning to see our teens becoming grown and having to deal with grown up problems in this tale.
There is nothing really bad that I can say about The Rift Part 1. It is well written and though the art is not groundbreaking, it has a nice touch of aging that can be appreciated by fans of the television show. As a fan myself, this story delivers and leaves you with the desire for more. Unfortunately you will have to wait till summer to find out what will become of everyone. But, at 70+ Pages, you get three months worth of issues in a very easy to digest trade paperback format. Enjoy.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang Artist: Gurihiru Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $10.99 Release date: 3/5/14