Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift (Avatar: The Last Airbender, #3) is a collection of three previously released individual books collected into one book. Gene Luen Yang and others, (such as Gurihiru and Michael Heisler) created a book that has a few surface purposes and a few deeper ones, like all Avatar stories tend to have.
I feel that the first purpose of the book was to have a “next season” after Team Avatar stopped the Fire Nation. As the books came out solo, it might have taken longer than a traditional episode length to finish, but in the collection (which I recommend reading over the individuals) flows more smoothly by having them all one large story and not a “stop and pick up next book” interruption. The second purpose is to promote Toph and her Metal Bending School (which will play a part in other series). While we do not actually see Toph in the school for most of the book, the school and its students are important to the story. And because of this you probably should read The Rift before some of the other books that have just been released.
The third purpose is the less surface one and gets into the deeper thoughts and themes that Avatar is known for. It is to try and show nature and man’s connection to it, but also how man can destroy and the greed of man. Of course, this is also the hope for man and nature. Especially when they work together. Of course, the idea of balance of nature, man, and spirits come together in the climax. This is mixed in with the idea of the past. Sometimes you need to hold onto the past, other times run from it, and sometimes you need to do both to move forward into a future. Also, one must learn from the past, understand it, but know that its lessons are there for the future as well.
And finally, this book is a set up to the more industrial world of the next Avatar. There are more tools, equipment and ideas that would lead to the less “medieval world of Aang and the more “steam punk Victorian age” of the Avatar that will follow (see Legend of Kora TV series).
Maybe this three-book collection is not as strong as some of the other stories in graphic novel format, and maybe it is stronger (as it depends on the readers feelings of themes and the two characters, Aang and Toph, focused on). But, it is an interesting addition to the series and the mythology and legend of the ATLA world.