At the age of 41, I have finally seen Avatar: the Last Airbender, and boy, have I been fangirling out like a tweenager. I am a Zuko girly, a no-arguments Zutarra shipper, I made ATLA my library’s September theme (“Reading is Elemental” was the national theme but ALA went with Pixar… Psshaw), and I immediately dove into the graphic novel series (which I intend to read before continuing the journey in Korra).
I was fairly familiar with these books as I have ordered them for my library in the past. I adore Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru (and them as a team). The editions I read are the special-editions, which are annotated by Yang and Gurihiru, as well as showrunner Michael Dante DiMartino. They are the perfect way for the new ATLA fan to continue living with these lovable characters after binging the fantastic animated series.
Story-wise, I mostly enjoyed all three plots. The first book felt a little bit like the series was just going to trod old plots over and over again, as it centers around a Zuko-Aang conflict. But that ended up being no cause for concern, as their relationship only deepened. And in “The Search” and “The Rift,” we get lots of answers for untold stories, fantastic growth of the individual nations and their relationship with each other, as well as lots of character development for fan favorites like Toph and Azula. I am doing my best to get Aang’s child-like voice out of my head, because otherwise I cannot read Aang/Katarra without getting the oogies.
Speaking of Azula, she’s the only character that just isn’t hitting for me. I find her the most cartoonish and not particularly nuanced. I’ve been hoping these series would deepen her for me a bit. But so far, I’m still finding it hard to connect to her.
The artwork is gorgeous. The annotations are particularly good from Yang and DiMartino with lots of info on the world-building. Gurihiru’s annotations don’t add a ton to the conversation for me, but perhaps they’d mean more to people with an art-focus.
Looking forward to the next batch!