Avatar The Last Airbender The Search Part 2 Review
Airspeed Prime here with the next Avatar comic review. Out of nowhere Ibooks have released The Search Part 2 early a full week ahead of the July 10th comic store release date. So I will put out my written review today, but the video review and podcast will be after the official release.
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 2
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 begin with the non spoiler section of the review. Â Overall I really enjoyed this part, it did exactly what a part 2 needs to do, continue on what was set up in part 1 and also prepare things for the finale in Part 3. It was a much better part 2 than The Promise Part 2, as that book had a whole other plot that did not play into the main story (Toph and Sokka). While it was good, it took time away from giving the main story and characters more depth. The Search does something similar with new characters and mysteries, but manages to perfectly link them into the overall plot and enhance it. If I had any negative it would be that it did not advance things as much as I thought it would, but with a lot of focus on flashbacks and some new additions I think it ended in a nice place that Part 3 can pick up from.
21 of the 72 pages are Ursa flashbacks. The flashbacks here catch up to the show and expand upon some scenes and we even get some scenes post Ursa leaving. What I like about the flashbacks here is that we get some additional focus on Ursa’s relationship with Azula, it is subtle for the most part, but hints at a better relationship than we have seen before. Â I should also mention that the flashbacks again also give Ozai some spotlight, which show he he deals with the information about Ikem. Including Ozai hiring a known, but unexpected character to take him out. The flashbacks are very emotional as you see the family being to fall apart, we also get some amazing continuity moments that explain certain lines and reactions from the show. I will just say that what happened to Azulon and why Ursa had to leave and all of that is explained and I was happy with the reveal, it may have been obvious to some, but Â the real mystery is “Where is she now?”. We see that she goes in search of Ikem in Hira’ and obviously because we know he left, comes up short which is where the flashbacks end.
The royal family dynamic has always fascinated me and this did not let me down, the interaction between a younger Zuko and Azula is great as is Ursa and Ozai’s scenes where they deal with the Ikem reveal. We got some tender moments and some dramatic moments as well as some big reveals.
Moving on to the present day stuff. Azula once again is a stand-out in this book. Her fragile mental state comes up time and time again, and you begin to feel more and more sorry for her, but her violent outbursts nearly make you not fell for her. Again Zuko tries to have a better relationship with his sister and there appears to be a breakthrough, but it is not quite there yet. There are also hints that she is in some ways liking life in a group, but I think she is hiding these under her usual calculating and cruel exterior. Where exactly the creative team are taking Azula is still up in the air, the key is finding her mother and having a heart to heart. I am really enjoying the unpredictability of Azula, it is not an obvious redemption story or that she will remain evil and serving her father, Team Avatar are having a little influence.
Zuko’s story apart from his interactions with Ursa mainly focus on his reaction to the letter suggesting Ozai is not his father. His reaction is interesting, he feels hope and in a way understands a lot of his past now. Aang plays a role here to help his friend through this reveal. Again it is the middle part of the book so a lot is left in the air, but it is nice set-up, though I do wish it had been covered in more depth here.
Aang, Katara and Sokka play smaller roles, Sokka as usual adds a lot of humour and in a slight ironic twist lectures Azula about not hurting nature, he has clearly learned from The Swamp. Katara is the main one who really argues with Azula and is eager to contain her, definitely referencing her battle with Azula from the ATLA finale. There is also an interesting scene where Aang and Katara are talking to a married couple who married later on in life and you get the sense the two are almost considering getting married very soon, they are awkward when it comes up, but the woman sees how good Aang and Katara are together. Some subtle Kataang, which is always appreciated.
Aang as I mentioned plays a role in other characters stories, but mainly his story revolves around his connection to the faces that the Spirit creatures have. I love pretty much everything spiritual in Avatar so this whole section in the Forgetful Valley was right up my street. A lot of information is revealed about why the creatures have face patterns along with why the valley is a spiritual place, not to mention the big last page reveal of a new spirit.
The writing, in my opinion is improving with each book. What really stood out to me in this book was the way Gene Yang dealt with some of the more intricate continuity moments, including, as I mentioned the inclusion of a minor character from the show out of nowhere and adding to the flashback scenes from the show. Sure you could perhaps criticise the writing of Sokka as only being a comic relief character, but this story is not focused on him, it makes sense for him to be there to protect his sister and help keep Azula in check, but I don’t feel he needs to have a big story arc, that would take away from the focus on Azula and Zuko. Not every character included needs to have a detailed character arc, they can just be there because it makes sense.
One of the big things that stood out to me in the writing in this book was, like part 1, how well the newly introduced non show characters were done. I cannot really defend Toph’s students too much from The Promise as they were underdeveloped, but here we are introduced to a few new character and all of them are interesting and really feel like characters that the show would have introduced.
The art, what can I say about the art that has not been said already, I am pretty sure the one thing the fandom agrees on with regards to the comic is that Team Gurihiru are amazing. I was shocked to see that….they are getting better. Some facial expressions in this book really caught my eye, especially on younger Azula and Zuko. Their art is just so clear, clean and most of all extremely consistent. With the Forgetful Valley they had the opportunity to really express themselves and they went to town on it, the environment itself looks stunning and the creatures with their face patterns are so eye catching. The final page is breathtaking.
Overall this is an exceptional comic, it of course suffers a bit from being the middle part, but it is still very strong. It introduces new things and further explores the established stuff. Most of all, this series had so much to live up to, the story we have been waiting years for. It has not let me down, it has dealt with the story we have been waiting for while also linking it into new and unexpected things. I highly recommend this comic.
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD
Now onto the spoiler review.
Because this is a part 2 there is nothing along the lines of the ending to Part 1 in terms of a huge spoiler, but there are some nice reveals nonetheless.
The details of Azulon’s death. The first part of the mystery of Ursa, what was her involvement in his death ? It is answered here. Simply put, to save Zuko’s life she offers Ozai a way to get the throne an untraceable poison that will kill Azulon in such a way it will look like he passed away in his sleep (major points to the clever use of her mother being a herbalist to explain this). He agrees if she will leave the capital, the reason he gives is that now he knows she can poison anyone he doesn’t want her near him in case it happens to him. She wants to take Azula and Zuko with her which is huge in terms of her relationship with Azula. She is forced to agree to the kids staying and leaves, but not before first visiting Azula in bed and giving her a kiss on the cheek and then visiting Zuko as we see in the show. I loved this explanation as it makes complete sense, I never felt that Ursa had to be the one to kill Azulon, so I was happy either way. The expansion to the show scene with her visiting Azula is perfect, as much as Ursa was concerned with how Azula was turning out she still loved her daughter enough to want to take her with her and kiss her goodbye.
Vachir backstory……yes you did read that correctly, Rough Rhino member Vachir AKA The Archer one gets a backstory. While we do not get his childhood we do get explained why he has the Yu Yan archer tattoo, but is not with them. Here we see what happened. Ozai hired him to kill Ikem and after months of searching he came back unable to find him, Ozai then removed him from the Yu Yan archers under Colonel Shinu’s command. This came out of nowhere, but I loved it. I always enjoy these moments where a character you know pops up in an unexpected place in the past. It makes sense and adds to the character. Vachir backstory, I am still struggling to believe it. What next ?
I suppose next is two new characters introduced in this book. Misu and Rafa, two northern water tribe siblings. Misu is a waterbender while Rafa is never said to be a bender or not. Â We get a short, but detailed backstory on why the two are in the Forgetful Valley. In short she followed the rules while he broke them, he used to prove himself by stealing from powerful people in their tribe. Then one day his luck ran out and his face was horribly disfigured in an accident, no one could heal him so Misu researched all she could for some way to help Rafa ultimately coming across a story about the Forgetful Valley and a spirit who gives people new faces. It is also explained that Rafa does not eat and is caught between life and death, I found this explanation a bit weird, now I will say how he was injured was not explained so it could have been something spiritual to cause such an unusual affliction. They have been trying for years to find the spirit who appears at a certain spirit pool in the valley every so often, they have always been at the wrong pool. That is basically where their story ends, but I was very impressed at their introduction, a nice backstory and an emotional quest, a clever way of giving our heroes a lot of exposition about the valley. I am very interested to see how they are used in Part 3, especially given the final page.
Speaking of that final page, to help the two Aang enters the Spirit World in an effort to get the Spirit Wolf to drink at the pool they are at so that the spirit will appear to them. Aang finds the wolf, but it brings him to another pool where he meets the spirit who calls herself The Mother Of Faces. She has an amazing design and the whole final page is gorgeous, she is surrounded by loads of floating faces. The obvious connection is to Koh The Face Stealer, could the implication be that Koh is perhaps her son (or the father of faces), the mother in her name would suggest that. Â At this stage it is just speculation, but the two have opposite powers, Koh takes faces while The Mother gives people new faces. I think the book heavily suggests that Ikem now has a changed face hence how he evaded Vachir. Or what could either be completely obvious or crazy silly, Misu and Rafa are Ursa and Ikem, 2 characters we know came into the forest, but don’t know where they are now.
There are a few other spoilers also, but I don’t want to completely spoil the whole book.
A podcast review of the book will be coming not this Sunday, but next Sunday after the book comes out in comic stores.
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