For the better part of the year, Dark Horse has been playing out this adventure story that takes place after the Last Airbender TV show and before the Legend of Korra. This story however, takes place while the members of Team Avatar are still quite young (i.e. no Abe Lincoln beard for Aang or threat of blood bending, Republic City, etc.). It does follow the continuum of “The Promise” story arc which was released in 2012 and directly began right where the TV series ended. “The Search Part III” is a 78-page conclusion that does wrap up the story in a nice neat package and it answers all questions that have been brought about during the previous two installments released in March and July of this year. The story up to this issue has been filled with murder, conspiracy, political intrigue, and “who’s the father” drama that might be a little more intense for the real young ones who are fans of the shows to understand or enjoy. For us older folks though, it’s all good.
“The Search” has consisted of Fire Lord Zuko and Princess Azula’s search for their mother Ursa (with the help of Team Avatar of course), and it answers questions as to what happened those many years ago when she mysteriously disappeared late in the night without a trace. All the members of the Team that we know and love have been a part of the tale thus far with the exception of Toph who conveniently sat out of this arc so to focus on her “metal bending school”. In her replacement however is Princess Azula, fresh from a nice “stay” at a Fire Nation mental institution (It didn’t help). She is brought along to fill in for what can only be described as “psychotic relief”. Add to it two new characters, a brother and sister from the Northern Water Tribe, some Spirit World intrigue, and a setting of a mystical/creepy forest, and you have a decent story that was passed on by the Nickelodeon people for making this into a 90 minute movie. Glad it was able to get some treatment in this medium however rather than being gone forever.
The writing and story itself is good. Gene Luen Yang allows it to flow smoothly and with the exception of a real pedestrian explanation for “the letter” (no spoilers here), I think the overall plot is interesting and satisfying. Art wise however, it can only be described as okay. The Gurihiru studio draw the characters’ look as they should be and there is a Spirit World entity that got the artists paid. She is well done and quite well written. In fact the entire forest sequences of Forgetful Valley are very good from the art and writing standpoint.
I was a little put off however in some of the other characters’ almost generic depictions, especially Azula. Give the girl a little respect. They have her drawn like a raving lunatic, looking like a modern-day Shazaam in full-blown psychosis (lots of bright lightning going on). As a fan boy, I always have found Azula to be a truly fascinating character. Here however, she is the quintessential loose cannon who continually stirs up trouble, gets bopped in the head with Sokka’s boomerang, and is being restrained like some wild animal. Glad to see her wrap up in this tale was good though. It gives me hope for the future that Big A will one day return to be a real threat rather than an annoying inconvenience as she has been written and drawn here.
Overall, I feel that “The Search Part III” will please diehard fans of the series as it fills in some good back story and continues to add strength to the characters (minus Azula). As a casual fan however, I don’t think that this issue will be worth the investment (it is 78 pages long and lists at $10.99). I myself did enjoy the story enough to recommend it. Give it a try.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang Artist: Gurihiru Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $10.99 Release date: 10/30/2013