North and South Part 1 Review


After a very long wait, North and South Part 1 is finally out. This of course means it is review time. As ever I will split it into non-spoiler and spoiler sections.

North and South Part 1


Written By: Gene Luen Yang

Art and Colours by: Team Gurihiru (Art and inks by Sasaki with Colours by Kawano)

Letters By: Michael Heisler

Published By: Dark Horse Comics

After 6 long months a new comic series has finally begun. While it is very good, the sheer anticipation and hype for so long are always going to lead to an element of overexpectation. Ultimately this is a part 1 and was never going to be utterly mindblowing as it needs to start off a new story and set things up to pay off later on in a big way. North and South Part 1 has excellent art, is overall very well written managing to set up some fascinating character dynamics while also playing off so many elements of nostalgia as we return to the Southern Water Tribe for the first time since Book 1 Episode 2. My only issue is that it ends JUST before it really starts to kick into gear, often these comics promote a lot of speculation, with this one I feel there will not be as much to speculate on in the gap between Part 1 and Part 2. Please don’t get me wrong, this is a solid, solid book, just don’t go in expecting it to completely blow you away.

I want to start with the art this time out, it really stands out throughout this book . Often the art is overlooked as it is always so consistently excellent, but the colouring especially here stands out. So many different shades blue and great blending of blue and white, the standing water, the ice, the snow, the water tribe clothing and nearly everything else is all basically the same colour, but everything stands out on its own and looks great. If I had any issue with the art it would be that there are a few smaller panels where we get some faces that are extremely lacking in detail, the faces are just big enough that it feels like there should be more detail, yet they have been treated like extreme background faces.

This book is packed with nostalgia since we have returned to the Southern Water Tribe for the first time in a very long time. It is amazing to see Katara and Sokka treated like huge celebrities as both southerners and northerners recognise them and their achievements as part of Team Avatar. We see them reunite with new and old family members all the while having to react to their home being so vastly different to the way it was when they left. This is where the key plot points of the series come out, this is about each character and how they feel about how the South has changed. The northerners who have come to live in the south are fully behind making the south as similar to the north as possible, even certain Southerners are happy with the progress. Sokka is delighted to see his home become a huge city, while Katara accepts, but begins to struggle with the changes already present and those planned to happen.

We are introduced to 3 key new characters: Malina, Maliq and Gilak. Malina and Maliq are from the Northern Tribe and are in charge of a group of builders they have working in the south to build new buildings. Malina specifically is working closely with Hakoda to plan the changes. Gilak was one of Hakoda’s men during the war, he is a southern patriot, he is completely against what the northerners are doing to the South and is planning to change things. The book does a great job at presenting a variety of viewpoints on the situation, some are extreme one side or the other, some have perhaps not thought about every angle but think progress is good and then others like Katara gradually begins to dislike what has been done to her home.

Without going into specifics there is really not a lot to talk about. We do get a few action scenes, but none are overly intense, Katara primarily and Sokka to an extent get to shine, their experience from all their travels clearly showing, but as I said earlier the book ends before anything huge can happen. The focus here is mainly the excitement around Sokka and Katara’s return, introducing us to the new characters and the various views on what is happening to the south creating the conflict which is sure to spark as we head into Part 2 and 3.

Final thoughts. Solid character interactions and focus combined with strong nostalgia and great art make for an enjoyable read. The various views on what is happening to the south is far and away the most interesting aspect of this book, I just hope they nail this going forward.

I will now move into the spoiler discussion so I can get into the details.

Spoiler Review

-First up, despite being on the cover, Aang is not in this book. He does not show up in the South during this book, he is mentioned a few times and a few flashback panels have him in them. I don’t mind him not being in the book, but him being the focus character on the cover is just insulting. It highlights the idea that Aang HAS to be on the covers regardless of if he is involved in the story and more than that it to some extent shows a lack of confidence in a series with only Katara and Sokka on the cover. It either, as I said, shows a lack of confidence in some characters and an over-reliance on Aang or when the covers were done the story plan was for Aang to arrive in part 1 and it changed as the writing progressed.

-The big cliffhanger ending of Part 1 is that Katara and Sokka walk in in their father, Hakoda kissing Malina. Which I think is meant to retroactively highlight that the reason Hakoda is making some of his decisions is because of his relationship with Malina. The book presents Malina has a very nice and enthusiastic woman who is just really trying to help the south with all these building projects, nothing really hints at a potential ulterior motive, the only issues would be that she at times ends up insulting certain aspects of southern culture almost by accident. One example is that she calls southern water tribe food, northern food that tastes “off”. Presenting this fascinating idea that the people of the North to some extent don’t treat the south as its own culture, it is just the North off by a few degrees. Going back to Malina and Hakoda, you get a few subtle hints about their being more to their relationship earlier on, but nothing super overt. Katara and Sokka are of course shocked to just walk in on this, how this scene plays out in Part 2 is going to be fascinating, especially because Katara at the start of this book has a dream about her mother and now her father is starting a new relationship. Will she feel like this new relationship is symbolic of what is happening in the south, just moving on and forgetting what came before or will she learn to accept some change. It is definitely one of the big character arcs presented as they even reference Aang from The Rift and the question of if things should just remain the same or progress over time, when it is respecting the past and when is it living in the past. Aang dealt with this in The Rift and now Katara faces the same questions. Aang arriving later in the series will definitely present some interesting conversations between the two.

-We do get to reunite with Gran Gran and Pakku who have officially been married, last we heard in the finale they were engaged. The scene is a little weird as Sokka seems a bit too surprised about them being married despite Pakku having directly told him about the engagement in The Old Masters. I don’t want to immediately say continuity error as the difference of engaged vs marriage is important, but his reaction is a bit odd given what he knows. We do also get to meet their Aunt Ashura and see what her legendary seal jerky is like, just a small moment, but nice continuity.

-Back to Malina and her brother Maliq for a moment. There is a weird statement made about them when they are introduced, they say that they have spend most of their lives in the Earth Kingdom, but that once you are “Of the” NWT you are always part of the NWT. Malina is revealed to be a waterbender later on so the idea seems to be that she and her brother left the NWT a while ago to live in the Earth Kingdom and start what seems to be a construction company/crew. Clearly some more backstory/details are needed for these 2 to explain how they came to be involved in rebuilding the south.

-The main plot of this comic is about the next big project for the south, to build a Southern Palace. Malina and Maliq have the blueprints and they are stolen by kids who support Gilak and are left in his possession by the end of Part 1. The design doesn’t really look like the Palace we see in Korra, so it may be redesigned in the story.

-Gilak is the last major thing to talk about. He hates what is happening to his tribe, he doesn’t seem to like the northerners and has turned on his former commander Hakoda because he dislikes that Hakoda as the new head chief is working with the north. He takes the position that the south is being made into The North 2.0 and that they are losing their southern identity. He has basically created a village of his own with people who agree with him about what the North are doing, they live in the ice caverns under the crashed Fire Nation ship and tell stories to keep the culture of the south alive. The problem is that he seems very extreme in his opposition, he is preparing for war and wants to eradicate the northerners in the south and turn the south into a powerful tribe with a strong leader like the way the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom both have leadership structures with one main leader. He feels so betrayed by Hakoda and the direction he is taking. He seems to think Malina and Maliq have yet unrevealed true intentions that are nefarious, though he says nothing about why he thinks that. I like this character, he feels like a Korra villain, there is something to his opposition of such big changes, but he is taking it to far with building an army and preparing for war. If our heroes fight him the perspective of those loyal to the south will be that they are fighting for the extinction of southern culture. How they handle him going forward will be fascinating. The only issue is that right now his group feel a little bit like the New Ozai Society, cool idea and concept, but they really don’t feel like a threat given that Katara and Sokka managed to escape his attempt to kidnap them even though he had huge numbers advantage. They will have to emphasises the political and ideological position to give him and his group weight.

-Last thing on Gilak is that his second in command, an old man named Thod, Talks to Katara and Sokka as they are escaping and tells them an old SWT story about a snow rat and its interactions with a group of humans near a campfire, it became more and more human like and eventually wanted to be part of the tribal council, the humans had accepted it as entertaining up until this, but took offence to the request and chased the snow rat off, back to the cold where the snow rat shivered and was forever haunted by the memory of the campfire. It feels like it is important and symbolic of the overall North and South story, perhaps the way the south think the North think of them as savages, as animals while the North is refined. The South is the Snow Rat and the humans of the story are the North. I am still thinking about this for sure.

Check out my video review here

The big podcast review/readthrough will be this Sunday, so make sure to check the site Sunday for the podcast.

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Comments - 23 Posts

  1. doratchi Said: Comment by doratchi on September 15, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Finally! Great review as always


  2. doratchi Said: Comment by doratchi on September 15, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    1. You are right, you can’t like the first 2 parts for themself. Only after part 3 you can get the whole story.
    2. The art is great, but they often make mistakes like drawing Aang’s tattoos wrong or not drawing them at all, Zuko’s scar, etc.
    But Guruhiru still making excellent job, after all it’s a comics, and he is making it look alive much more than other comics I saw.
    3. I think that the real deal would happen in part 3, as usual. Probaly we would see team avatar reuinting at part 2, as well as Aang dillema about the situation- he is very traditional as we saw at the promise and at the rift, and he may take his girlfriend point of view.
    Or maybe what happend changed is mind, and he will support the progress, Im waiting to see that


  3. doratchi Said: Comment by doratchi on September 16, 2016 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Are they rich at the south pole or they are still need to go fishing like before?


  4. Dony Said: Comment by Dony on September 16, 2016 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    is Gilak anger only directed to the north water tribe?


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    Them and anyone who sides with the idea of the north’s building projects. Given how he talks about some of the other nations, he seems to respect the power they have on the world stage and wishes the south could have that level of power. It is the North he is full on against and later Sokka and Katara when they go against him.


  5. ThePreciseClimber Said: Comment by ThePreciseClimber on September 16, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    A very long wait?

    When it comes to the Wakfu manga (a canon story, just like the ATLA comics), I’ve been waiting almost two years for Tome 4. Tome 3 came out in November 2014.
    I have no idea what’s going on at Ankama. They don’t appear to have any major issues with anything else, but for some reason this particular manga takes an insane amount of time to come out.


  6. Vito Said: Comment by Vito on September 16, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    what do you think about Maliq


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    Not a lot right now, he just hasn’t had enough page time to come across all that well. I can perhaps see him being more important as time goes on, a lot depends on if Malina and Maliq are up to no good and if they are is it just one of them planning something while the other thinks they are doing good. Perhaps Malina is good and Maliq has the bad intentions down the line.


    Vito Reply:

    there some rumors that Maliq cares so much for his sister that Sokka thought Malina was Maliq wife ?


    doratchi Reply:

    Thats true

    Zev Reply:

    I would not be surprised if it turns out that Malina is Maliq stepsister and not his biological sister

    Justin Reply:

    I think it’s more likely Maliq to be a villain than Malina.

    The back cover wants you to think suspiciously of Malina but there wasn’t anything really to support she has bad intentions.


  7. Pit Said: Comment by Pit on September 17, 2016 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Gilak is a nationalistic extremism


  8. Droc Plug Said: Comment by Droc Plug on September 17, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I loved the book, then again I may have just been so happy to finally get some ATLA content back in my life. The whole Southern water tribe getting rebuilt is really interesting and I can’t wait for Aang to get down here and start spouting some wisdom and balance on the subject of change. Good book!!


  9. JON Said: Comment by JON on September 19, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    i wonder if they’ll be some interesting annotations in Smoke and Shadow Library Edition on Wednesday


  10. doratchi Said: Comment by doratchi on September 20, 2016 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    About the cover…he is not saying anything. Every cover had less/more characters than the comics itself

    Maybe Aang here beacause Sokka and Katara are still connected to him


  11. Justin Said: Comment by Justin on September 23, 2016 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    How many more comics will there most likely be after North and South? Will they still be making them alongside the Korra comics?


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    As far as we know right now there is no plan to stop Avatar comics, but they have also not announced what is next. NYCC in just over 2 weeks should tell us.


  12. Justin Said: Comment by Justin on September 23, 2016 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Will Aang arrive at the south in part 2?


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    The preview for Part 2 in the comic says “Team Avatar reunites in North and South Part 2”, so I guess he and Toph show up at the same time.


    doratchi Reply:

    Not at the same time, but shortly after Aang is back. He would help handle the situation, and then they said Malina announcing partnership with Toph’s father, so she come for a visit. Im still not sure how she’s going too see but we will find out.


  13. avataraang Said: Comment by avataraang on October 4, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    The first book was amazing! I’d never expected pakku & gran gran to be married in the novel like pakku said in the last episode of book one. The sad part was they hardly showed aang in the first book. I’d expected more aang then what i predicted in the first place. But still , the book was really good! I can’t wait for part 2!


    doratchi Reply:

    When should the preview pages come out?



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