The Rift Part 2 Review

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Listed as: Avatar Comics

The Rift Part 2 is out today in comic book stores and July 29th from Amazon, though I expect people will be getting it earlier than that. Lots of confusion over late previews for this book, no preview copies sent out anywhere and a sudden release date change, but at last the book is here and I am ready to review it.

The Rift Part 2

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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

As usual I will split my review into a spoiler and non-spoiler section, starting with the non-spoiler stuff and finishing with my spoiler thoughts below a warning. So there is something here for you regardless of your views on spoilers.

The middle part of these Avatar comics so far have always been interesting reads, they neither have the new series feel of a part 1 or the epic conclusion of a part 3, they are quite simply the middle part. Because of this it is pretty difficult to really judge just how good a part 2 is, you always have to judge it as a part 2 as opposed to a book that happens to come in the middle. The Rift Part 2 very much is a part 2, but a very well written part 2, probably the best of the middle books so far. I say this because while we get no real resolution to any of the stories going on, we get a lot of interesting progression and reveals as we move into part 3 where the resolutions will hopefully come. I said at the start of my The Rift Part 1 review that it felt the most free of the Avatar comics so far, that continues here. Apart from the obvious Toph and her parents connection, nearly everything else is new and not solely connected to ATLA the show, the comics really now feel like they can tell their own story and not just the stories that were maybe going to be animated, but were not.

The one big positive about this book being the middle part of a series is that much of the pagecount is devoted to explaining things to us and giving us more information about the various plots at work. We get 2 fascinating backstories that thematically tie into stuff we have seen in Korra Book 2 and are seeing in part in Book 3, we get to see that the human-spirit conflict is not just an issue faced by Wan and Korra, that YangChen dealt with this issue and now Aang will have to do the same. This book really lays out a bit of everything that this series is doing, leaving it pretty perfectly in place to get a good conclusion in Part 3 come November. This addition of spirits into things really adds an extra layer to this series, Part 1 was great because of how fresh everything seemed, though it lacked that massive world changing event, and spirits often supply that. Here we get some backstory on Avatar YangChen and one of the biggest challenges she faced as the Avatar, dealing with an angry spirit, we get to meet a pretty young YangChen who has just mastered the 4 elements and is dealing with her first problem as the Avatar, it is nice to finally get some backstory on YangChen. Also through this story we get an explanation for why Aang is struggling to connect with his past lives and as I speculated during my review of Part 1 it is in fact because he severed ties with Roku and the Avatar cycle acts as a chain, sever it at Roku and you will struggle to connect with any avatars who came before him. It was nice to finally get this event from The Promise referenced again and possibly set up a reconnection between Aang and Roku, though Aang still feels he needed to do what he did, at least it is open again.

Given how Part 1 ended the thing most of you I am sure are waiting to read this book for is to see how Toph’s first meeting with her father since she left went down. Well we have to wait a bit in this book to actually get a full on conversation, as seen in the preview, he effectively leaves saying he has no daughter, disowning her effectively. After more earthquake/fight action at the refinery she does go to see him again and we do get a chat. Without spoiling how it went down, it was interesting, emotional, but not a resolution to this relationship, even as we end this book, we have development between Toph and her father, but not a full on reunion. What I do find interesting is that after this scene, the way the two of them handle certain situations that arise are very similar, it is in moments like these that you can see the similarities between the two, it is these moments that also help to make you not hate Lao for being so mean to Toph, he shows you that he is not a bad guy/father at heart, and that he is just upset over everything that has happened with Toph. I do like how even outside of the obvious Toph and Lao scenes, Toph is presented as just as main of a character in this story, her scenes with Satoru, the air acolytes and Aang all serve to advance Toph’s character development. Overall for Toph it seems to be about respect, in part 1 we saw her disrespect many of the traditions that Aang was trying to teach his air acolytes and that continues here, her father demands respect from Toph, Satoru talks about why he shows so much respect to his uncle and of course, her thoughts on air nomad customs shows little respect to the acolytes and Aang. How it is presented does have me a little bit confused as to whether the book is trying to tell me that Toph should be respectful to her father and not speak her mind, or if Lao is trying to demand to much respect from Toph, when what is needed is a father-daughter heart to heart. Same for the Satoru scenes and even the Air Acolyte scenes. Overall I am just a bit confused as to whether I am meant to want Toph to show more respect or stay as she is.

Same applies somewhat to Aang and trying to hold onto the past too much. He is doing a good thing by teaching his acolytes about the culture of the Air Nomads, it even helps him at points here, but at the same time Toph and later YangChen say he is holding onto the past too much. I am just not sure if it is a good thing that I am unsure about if one extreme or the other is the right thing or if it is a negative on the book that the character development is kind of sitting on the fence not going either way. I can see good stuff potentially from Aang and Toph learning from this, but I don’t know where the book is really trying to hint ¬†me towards.

Despite Aang and Toph getting the majority of the story here, Sokka and Katara do get time to shine too. This book of all of them so far gives the water tribe siblings their biggest plot yet. It is nothing huge, but because Katara and especially Sokka have been in the background a bit of late this is very nice to see. It continues on from Katara meeting two girls from her tribe in part 1. Here the siblings run into them again, here we get a very interesting dynamic brought up. Basically we get presented to us that Sokka and Katara leaving the southern water tribe to help Aang was great for the world, but also left the tribe in a bad situation, things got worse and now Sokka and Katara have goals in life ready made for them helping Aang, while many of the other people of the south have had to leave to find any sort of work. They do not delve to deep here, but it is nice to see the other side of things, that two important people leaving the tribe had an effect and the southern water tribe is not doing well even with the war over.

All in all, this is a very good book. Just go in expecting a middle part, expect to end the book desperate to have part 3 right now, but that is the fun of a part 2. The art continues to be basically flawless, with a big mention going to the spirit flashback story which has a gorgeous traditional style to it and the writing is maintaining its high standard. Despite some mixed messages over what way the character development is going for Aang and Toph I think the potential is very high going into part 3 for some big growth, especially for Toph, with her issues with her father still unresolved as of the end of this book. In short buy this book, it is definitely worth your time and money.

SPOILER SECTION РWARNING MAJOR SPOILERS 

I think the first thing to mention is that while this is a spoiler review from here on out, there are no massive earth shattering reveals or events in this book that would potentially ruin the book for you if you knew before reading the book. Any spoilers are just what happens in the book, the biggest spoiler IMO is more fun than big.

-That being the Cabbage Merchant making his debut in the comics. He is now running a restaurant where of course everything on the menu is cabbage related with cabbage cookies his speciality. Aang and the acolytes decided that they may as well celebrate the YangChen festival while they are there despite the town being built over the sacred ground, so they go into his restaurant. I love that he is terrified of Aang breaking something, but Aang has no idea who he is. What I really like is that it is not just a reference for the sake of it, they actually use this location well. Aang finally connects with YangChen and this is where the backstories come into play, in the middle of the cabbage merchant’s restaurant, who would have thought it.

-The part 1 cliffhanger of Toph meeting her father ends up being an ongoing issue throughout this book. At the start he effectively disowns Toph as his daughter not wanting to talk to her, but then when Toph comes to speak with him later, we see him looking at a picture of his family. He does care, he like Toph is just very stubborn and won’t be the first to admit he is wrong, at least that is part of it I think. The book does a good job at getting over that Lao does care, without him ever showing this to Toph really, but also showing that he still sees her in the same way he saw her in “The Blind Bandit” his obedient little girl in need of protection. Toph even gives an impassioned an emotional speech to her father about how she was never that person, that was always an act to get her parents off her back and that who she is is the person who trained the Avatar and helped to save the world, she asks what he has to say about this and gets no reply. This is a key point, he doesn’t dismiss it, he just does not answer, I cannot wait to see what his real reaction is ¬†to everything that Toph has accomplished and especially if he finds out about how Toph has become somewhat of a businesswoman of late with her school, will his mind change.

Later on in the book when the iron mine is discovered, they ask Lao about it as it is what is polluting the river, but he honestly has no idea about it and never wanted to mine the iron as it would be too dangerous. He was in fact lied to by Satoru’s uncle, his business partner who has been mining Iron behind his back all this time. When the mine begins to collapse he like Toph puts the worker’s safety above all else, while Satoru’s uncle demands his workers to keep working despite the danger. I thought this was an interesting moment of similarity between Toph and Lao, despite what Lao has been presented as he is not a cruel businessman, he cares about the people he employs. I wonder why he doesn’t show how much he cares about Toph.

With how the book ends I think there is a clear path to a better relationship for the two. The mine does fully collapse and Toph, Lao, Katara, Satoru, his uncle and many workers and others are apparently buried underground. Katara shouts up saying they are ok, but that they are only alive thanks to Toph metalbending the iron-laced earth around them, to keep the collapse from crushing them all. This is Lao getting a full on view of how powerful Toph is, this is Lao now depending on his “little helpless girl” to keep him and others alive, if this does not change his mind, nothing will. When we start part 3 we could get an amazing opening dialogue between the two.

No real advancement of the Toph x Satoru relationship here.

-For me the real meat of this book are the two backstories that we get. YangChen’s involvement with the spirit which explains the origin of the YangChen festival and then why the spirit is mad in YangChen’s time and now in Aang’s time. The spirit backstory reveals that our earth/metal spirit is a spirit called General Old Iron and that the earth/metal is just the armour he wears when he fights, his normal form is human like apart from his huge size, he had a friend, a spirit called Lady Tienhai (The Statue from Part 1). He was her protector and she developed an interest in the humans they lived near and began to help them, he knew what other humans had done to spirits and so he planned to kill the humans she helped, but she stopped him, leading to the end of their friendship. With her help the humans developed their city into the most powerful in the world (located right where the YangChen festival takes place.

Where YangChen’s backstory comes into play is that she is called to help with a town which has predicted it will be hit by a great tragedy soon. She waits and General Old Iroh arrives and after a fight reveals that the humans like he predicted killed Lady Tienhai (Now I will say they never specifically say how she was killed or why). The towns leader reveals he caused her death and he is about to be killed by Old Iron when YangChen activates the Avatar State fighting him off and saying that peace and balance are still possible, she does not want the border between the humans and spirits to form into a rift. She creates an agreement with Old Iron where her people (Air nomads) would celebrate Lady Tienhai ¬†at a festival and as long as this took place he would never take up his armour against humans. We end not knowing what the exact terms of the agreement are, as the mine collapse jolts Aang out of his connection to Yangchen. We obviously still have a lot more to come from these backstories, what exactly led to Tienhai’s death, what were the terms of the agreement and now we wonder is the iron mine actually General Old Iron’s armour which was never meant to be touched and that is what is causing the earthquakes. Very interesting, especially that this is presenting us the humans vs spirits conflict in a more ATLA style, I can’t wait for Part 3 now.

I think I will end it here, I will have a video review up tomorrow and we will be doing a podcast review once Book 3 of Korra ends.

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My name is Morgan Bannon, I am a 22 Year old Male from Ireland and I am the Site Super Moderator. I have watched and been a fan of Avatar since it premiered. I am also a news post writer for the site and host the site's podcast, The Avatar Online Podcast. My strength as an Avatar fan would be just a good knowledge of Avatar Canon and characters.

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Comments - 2 Posts

  1. Troy Said: Comment by Troy on July 9, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
     
  2. Avatar Wan Said: Comment by Avatar Wan on July 11, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink
     

    I’m just waiting for the library edition so I can have all 3 in 1 copy instead of buying them separately.

    Reply

 

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