Thursday, July 5, 2012

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 2 Review

Those who watched the sequel series to Avatar: The Last Airbender, "The Legend of Korra," caught a glimpse into the future of what the Avatar world became after the 100-year war ended in the original series.

However, the series goes so far into the future that a lot of events between the end of the flagship series and the start of its spin-off can only be guessed at. This is what "The Promise" trilogy hopes to help fill in - at least in the immediate year or so after the series ended.

I reviewed the first part of the trilogy in a blog linked here, but this is where I review Part 2, which could be summarized as the part where Tokka fans got beyond a butt-load of cannon fodder.

This story can be taken in three different storyline focuses. The 'A' story appears to be Aang and Katara's trip to the Earth Kingdom, the 'B' story looks like Zuko's interactions with his father and people around him, and the 'C' story is Toph and Sokka's fight for the metalbending academy (AKA the part that all my friends just won't shut up about).

The book opened with more of Kataang shoving their relationship in our fac... uh, being a loving couple. I joke, but this relationship has actually been beautifully done. Goofy pet names in battle aside, this has given the new relationship feel perfectly and, as I'll mention later, is showing natural growth and development as the two go from trusting each other in training and on the battlefield, to trusting on an emotional, spiritual level.

Anyway, the 'oogie-'ness drives Sokka insane and Toph suggests he come with her. The rest of their story focuses on Toph's metalbending students, all of whom are completely insane, trying to keep their school.

The firebenders who once owned the school come back to retake control of the building, but Toph wants to keep it. So Sokka, in his comic-relieving brilliance, creates a contest where the students who knock an opponent on their butt win control of the school. (That Republic City council would be of quite some use here, huh?)

So the three students were selected by Toph because they were all emotional wrecks, which she thought might make bending easier because they were in tune with extreme emotions. This leads to one of the dumbest-yet-still-funny scenes of the book where Sokka tries to spur their fear.

Overall, Toph and Sokka bounce off each other so well and they really match their characters from the series about as perfectly as one could hope. However, it was still only a tangential Tokka story until the end of Zuko's storyline.

The focus on Zuko is his conversations with his father, Ozai. The former Fire Lord tells Zuko a story from when Zuko was young and used it to basically say that morality is relative, not a unified cosmic truth.

This is actually a great discussion that I am so glad was put into the book. Not only is Ozai able to pinpoint exactly how political leaders think and how international politics develop in regard to nations exiting war, but he makes Zuko deal with a choice as to whether he should enforce his will on the situation or not.

Ultimately, this leads to Mai confronting Zuko about his conversations with Ozai and a very weird romantic moment between Zuko and Suki (probably; it's hard to convey tone in written works).

But yeah, if the threat of a Zuki 'ship freeing up Sokka for Toph isn't a way to make Tokka people go absolutely nuts, then writers do a LOT of stuff on accident. Honestly, I don't mind if Tokka did not produce Lin in the sequel series, but at some point in the lifespan of the characters I want that relationship to be canon if only to make "The Serpent's Pass" have more significance than ending Aang's emo arc and setting up Ba Sing Se.

The final major storyline is Kataang reaching Ba Sing Se and meeting with Earth King Kuei - but not before boarding for a night with Aang's fangirl club. At last, there is a bit of testing of the relationship, as Katara feels jealousy at Aang having so much fun with these bunch of obsessive freaks, only to see that Aang only enjoyed their company because they remind him of the Air Nomads.

For the first time in The Promise, this relationship has some growth. I love how the relationship isn't just that honeymoon period, lovey-dovey thing and Katara actually feels some doubt. At the same time, the relationship strengthens because despite all the doubt, the relationship was never in danger, and that realization should make the audience feel more confident that the two are meant to be. Well done.

There is a side story about how the assassin from the first part of the story is dating Sneers from the Freedom Fighters, but it means very little to the plot right now. If Part 3 makes it important, I'll dwell on it more.

Overall, this is a must-read for Avatar fans, and I'd still say it's on par with some of the arcs in the actual series. I would love for this to become an ATLA TV movie at some point.

Feel free to continue the discussion here, and I'll see you for Part 3 in September.

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