Avatar The Last Airbender The Search Part 1 Review
Airspeed Prime here, your resident Avatar comic reviewer. Today as you probably all know is the comic store release date of The Search Part 1, Amazon should be shipping the book out during the week and into next week for the retail release date of April 2nd. Â I had huge trouble getting The Promise Part 3 day of release, but no problems today. I have the book in hand and I am ready to review. The aim as always with these reviews is to get you interested in the book, or if you have the book give you some extra insight into events.
Again as I always do, I will emphasise how important this book and other Avatar comics are to the future of Avatar. These deserve the support as they will be out only other way of getting store outside of shows and shows cannot go on indefinitely. If you can, buy a copy of this book.
The review will be split into a non spoiler review and a spoiler review, so do not read the spoiler part if you care about spoilers.
Avatar The Last Airbender The Search Part 1
Written by:Â Gene Yang
Art and Colours by:Â Team GurihiruÂ (Art and inks by Sasaki with Colours by Kawano)
Letters By :Â Michael Heisler
Published By:Â Dark Horse Comics
I will of course begin with my overall thoughts on the book. I really did enjoy it, as an opening part to an important story it set things up perfectly. Â In my opinion it is a stronger opening than Part 1 of The Promise was, because it has such hugely important things to cover. Azula’s mental state and Ursa herself being chief among them. Both are explored well in my opinion and fans who are interested in the book for these reasons will not be disappointed with this opening third of the series. I think another thing to mention in my opening comments is about the preview we got for this book, those 7 pages are not actually pages 1-7, but rather pages 35-41. What happens before the preview really explains Azula’s state of mind better than those 7 pages out of context.
In terms of the focus of this book, it is 23 pages of Ursa flashback and 49 of present day story. Naturally the focus of the flashbacks is on Ursa, but also on people from her hometown of Hira’a as well as members of the Fire Nation Royal Family like Azulon and Ozai. You are introduced to a younger Ursa who is so happy where she is in her home town in a relationship, but as we all know it is Ozai she marries and when Azulon and Ozai arrive in Hira’a her happiness is broken. It is a tragic story, and I really felt for Ursa and what she went through, she will do anything for the people she loves. This book makes that very clear, her sacrifice in the show to save Zuko is not just a one time thing, it is something she has done before. I loved getting to know Ursa more in this book, as she only had a few minutes of screentime in the show. The book covers her life from leaving Hira’a until Zuko is about 4-6 (His age in the scene is not stated in the book) , so I am very excited to hopefully see the flashbacks continue onwards in Part 2 and 3 until we get the answers we have been waiting for, the events that led to her leaving and afterwards.
On the other side of things the focus is around Azula, because of something said to him early on in the book he pledges to treat his family better and so becomes more lenient about Azula’s imprisonment in the mental institution and being bound. In terms of Azula’s mental state, she has definitely regained some clarity, but continues to have visions of her mother to the point where she blames her mother for every single bad thing that has ever happened to her. No one really knows what she is talking about as she always says “her” and “she” never mentioning it as her mother. She is on edge and unstable for a lot of the book, constantly trying to escape. Like Ursa it is sad to see her this way, she like Zuko needs some resolution with her mother, though the way Azula is acting in this book it is almost revenge she wants. Azula is the focus of the present say side of the story, with Zuko getting the most attention among the rest of Team Avatar. That said it is Toph who is the only main character who does not appear in the book, Aang gets some focus when the more spiritual aspect of the book comes into play. Yes, that blue Spirit Wolf is in Part 1. It is the most mysterious part of the book, in that it is not explained in Part 1 at least, why the spirit is present or what it wants. Sokka and Katara do get some great sibling moments, especially Sokka who in a one on one conversation with Zuko talks about his relationship with his sister, the type of relationship Zuko has never had with Azula.
The writing itself is very good, my biggest fear going into this book was that Azula would not be written well. In my opinion Azula is probably the stand-out character in this book, Gene Yang manages to capture a teen who at the same time blames her mother for everything that has happened to her, never loving her, but at the same time a teen who needs to see her mother again. You begin to feel sympathy for her and then she attacks Team Avatar or tries to escape and you realise how dangerous she is. I was left wondering how exactly to feel about her, both respecting and questioning Zuko’s decision to give his sister her freedom and I love that, love that the book is making me wonder how to feel right now about Azula and Zuko. Being a part 1 of 3 it was important to leave these questions hanging which is why I think this as a part 1 is very well written.
In the bigger scheme of things, the formation of United Republic City continues to be explored. It is only a small aspect of the story, but enough to link this series to The Promise and also to Korra. There is a really funny scene with Iroh, as he becomes interim Fire Lord while Zuko is gone. It is scenes like that one that tell me that Gene Yang knows how to write Avatar well, it was not important to the story, but the scene was Iroh through and through.
The Art, what can I say that has not already been said about Team Gurihiru’s amazing art. I always consider just leaving comments on the art out as I will just repeat myself over and over again, but it is such high quality work that it needs to be mentioned. I feel a bit sorry for Ryan Hill who is on art duties for the Mai free comic in May, as we have had 4 books of stunning Gurihiru art that everyone loved and then he has to come in and try and live up to them. I have full faith that it will be great, but it is a tough ask for him. Team Gurihiru’s art as ever is clear, full of expression, vibrant and shows that Avatar can work in the comic medium.
As ever it is difficult to discuss the book without getting into the details of what happened and the reveals, but this book is certainly worth your time and money. The creative team as stepped things up from The Promise and are firing on all cylinders in this story that is hugely important to the Avatar Universe and also explores things we have been waiting around 5 years for. Ursa, Zuko’s Mom is being explored in this book. Wait, Azula is also being explored and spirit world shenanigans too. What is not to like?
If I had one negative about the book it would probably be that The Search does not really get that far in this part, it allows for more character development which is great and probably allows the story to be better told in part 2, but it does leave you wanting more. Which I suppose is a good thing.
I highly recommend this book, I think even those who were not to happy with The Promise will enjoy this book.
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD
Now into my spoiler review, which will mainly be my thoughts on the events of the book in detail.
I will begin with Azula, as mentioned above I was very pleased with how she is written here. To get straight into it she believes that her mother is responsible for everything bad that has happened to her. According to Azula, Ursa made Mai and Ty Lee not fear her any more, Ursa told Katara how to defeat her. In short Azula believes Ursa got Team Avatar to ruin her life. It is interesting because she is not like this all the time, she is her usual calculating self most of the time and then she will suddenly just burst out with the crazy accusations and violent attempts to escape. She is confused and conflicted also, we see part of her meeting with Ozai at the start, but not the 30 minutes they had alone together. So she is not sure what exactly she wants to do, sometimes she feels she wants to see her mother and other times she wants to use the knowledge Ozai told her to get the throne. She proves herself a valuable member of the group at points in the story, so she will be very interesting as the story progresses in Parts 2 and 3.
Ursa is utterly fascinating in this book. We get it revealed to us that she was in a committed relationship with a man from her hometown of Hira’a, Ikem, she is happy and even happier when Ikem proposes. All is going perfectly for Ursa until Azulon arrives with Ozai, it turns out Azulon had actually been searching for Roku’s descendants for years in order to make the royal bloodline even more powerful, which is interesting in itself. Further showing how much the fire lords since Sozin crave power. Ursa is forced to accept Ozai’s proposal as she knows Ikem will fight to win her back, you get the sense that she loves him so much that she does not want him to get himself killed trying to get her back. She is forced to break his heart and lie to him saying she accepted Ozai’s proposal willingly, the only way he will not continue to pursue her. This shows us who Ursa is as a character, someone who will do anything to protect those she loves even if it means she cannot be happy.
Continuing on Ursa, the big reveal that is sure to be the big talking point among fans. Zuko’s biological father is actually Ikem, not Ozai. I will say that in my opinion it does not really change the way we see the show, Ozai was still Zuko’s father, the man who raised him, Ikem had no influence on his life. It does play into the story in that this is the information that Azula is planning to use to gain the throne herself. My main question is how Zuko keeps the throne if this information is correct, we know from Korra that Zuko remained the Fire Lord and that his daughter becomes the next Fire Lord, so what happens. It is a reveal that I am not going to jump the gun on and say if I love it or hate it, I am really eager to see how it plays out and it most certainly is a huge cliffhanger to end part 1 with Zuko finding out his father is actually Ikem.
I really do not want to just spoil the whole book so I will end with some talk on the Spirit Wolf. Based on the design I do not think it is the same wolf from 120 that we see in the Spirit World. With this wolf we get probably the biggest mystery of the story, because the wolf first appears to Ikem after he leaves Hira’a to live in the woods, the woods we assume this wolf protects. Aang as the Avatar is the first of Team Avatar to sense it, his face taking on an evil grin every time it appears nearby, caused by face markings the wolf has on it’s belly. The wolf then attacks team Avatar, I assume because Azula had, seconds earlier, shot lightning into the stream that the wolf also protects. Bending seems to be useless on it and only Appa’s strength hurts it. Then in the most odd moment of the book the wolf shoots (out of it’s mouth) a whole swarm of moth-wasps at them. Aang calls them spirit creatures and everyone struggles to fend them off until Azula uses an amazing lightning ball attack to scare them and the wolf off. Why did it appear before Ikem and so many other questions are raised by this wolf.
My final thoughts are that this book is excellent, the cliffhanger shock ending may outrage a lot of fans, but there is a lot still to be revealed in this story of mysteries.
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