For those who don't know me personally, I am a HUGE fan of the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe (known as The Legend of Aang in some countries reading this).
I loved all three Books in the original series. I love the new Legend of Korra series. And I even love parts of the Last Airbender movie (though it is still a plot-based nightmare with bad writing and unnatural-looking bending.)
I am also obviously a fan of comics, as seen by the massive slew of Night of the Owls coverage that has pretty much held this blog hostage for more than a month. So comics of Avatar are a match made in heaven.
From what I've gathered there are a few comics that are considered canon. "Zuko's Story" serves as a canonical prequel to the series (though they make the characters look like the movie, which is lame). Also, there are a collection of Avatar comics that Dark Horse Comics has provided, in which all the comics are ruled canon except the last two.
This is a three-part graphic novel, and I actually just purchased Part 2, which came out yesterday. However, before I open that book and read it, I need to review Part 1 for everybody.
Basically, we begin with the first couple of pages of panels mimicking the introduction monologue. In the early stages, Katara takes on her role as the omniscient narrator, and concludes the normal introduction by saying that "She was right" about Aang being able to save the world.
Before I go any further, let me say that the art in this comic is brilliant and very close to the quality of in-show still shots. There are a few panels where Katara has too square-cut and masculine a face and Sokka's chin looks bizarre, but they can be attributed to the angle, so I don't detract too many points for it.
From the intro, Fire Lord Zuko, Avatar Aang, Earth King Kuei and the other original Team Avatar members make a decision to remove the Fire Nation colonials from the Earth Kingdom in what Sokka dubs the Harmony Restoration Movement.
This scene feels exactly like the series, and with the exception of Zuko referring to Kuei by his full title, I could have seen the voice actors doing a scene like this in the series.
That said, the lovey-dovey stuff felt forced and a little out of place. I can kind of see Aang saying "sweetie" and could see Katara oblige it, but not as frequently as they did it and especially not during a fight scene. It was fan service taken to obscene levels in order to appease Kataang fans upset that the relationship took a backseat for five episodes in Book 3.
The other big plot point is that Fire Nation people who liked what Ozai was doing are livid at Zuko and have tried to assassinate him on six occasions in a year (including the one in this book). When he returns the assassin back to the original Fire Nation colony of Yu Dao, a big problem with the world has been realized: While new colonies were easy to remove, older colonies had no memory of even the early struggles. In even the earthbenders' minds, they are Fire Nation citizens and there is even cross-breeding going on.
(Incidentally, I love how Zuko looks at the cross-marriage in a state of near shock. It shows how segregated the world was and how a unification of families was a game-changer that requires everyone to rethink how to go about peace.)
Also, Zuko's scene with his father was entertaining in that they teased the mother story, but Ozai used it as a bait and switch to mess with Zuko's confidence, something that got to him later on in the story.
Moving on, though, I did find some issues with certain plot points. One is that Aang goes back out of control in the Avatar State. I thought we'd moved past this, and Aang now had control of the State. I get that he is still young and can lose control of himself, but how many times does Katara have to stop a supernatural rage? That's an odd part of a relationship description.
One problem I also have is that Suki is brought in (with Ty Lee) to guard Zuko and yet nothing is raised about her dating Sokka. It's not a major plot point, but that relationship got no acknowledgment whatsoever. (I blame the writer being a Tokka fan.)
I won't be going much further into the plot because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Needless to say, though, this needs to be purchased.
I would be inclined to say that this story is of high enough quality that with proper fleshing out, it could be the first part of a three-part animated special. I will now read Part 2, and give more of my thoughts on the matter very soon!