The Avatar: The Last Airbender comics have helped us weather the wait for The Legend of Korra season 2 and given us insight into the original cast post-series. In honor of SeptBender, we look at five things we’ve learned from the comics.
The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the end of Avatar, and the world has changed a lot in that time. Thankfully, the Avatar comics help bridge the gap from the end of the Hundred Year War to Korra entering Republic City.
So far, we have The Promise trilogy, two parts of The Search trilogy, and the single issue Rebound, which was released as a part of Free Comic Book Day 2013. Part three of The Promise is slated for release on October 30. A new series centered around Toph, titled The Rift, has also been announced for 2014.
So, what are our biggest takeaways from the comics so far?
The Foundations of Republic City
The Promise trilogy starts the ball rolling toward the founding of Republic City. By the time The Legend of Korra begins benders and non-benders from all four nations have been living together in Republic City.
This unprecedented unity has its roots in The Harmony Restoration Movement, which was an attempt after the end of the Hundred Year War to move Fire Nation residents out of Earth Kingdom colonies back to the Fire Nation.
However, Fire Lord Zuko withdrew his support for the movement after discovering that within the older colonies, Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation citizens had intermarried and had children who had never lived in the Fire Nation. Sending those people to the Fire Nation would rob them of their homes.
Zuko’s withdrawn support for the movement led to conflict with the Earth Kingdom, as Earth King Kuei — along with numerous Fire Nations citizens — believed that there could only be peace in the wake of the war by completely segregating the four nations again. When Aang helped abort the armed conflict, the seeds were planted for the intermingling of people from the various nations.
Toph’s Metalbending School
Metalbending is a variation of earthbending, created by Toph in Avatar season 2 when she used her unique abilities as an earthbender to target the trace amounts of unrefined earth within a piece of metal and use that to bend the entire refined piece of metal.
Once The Hundred Year War ended, Toph founded the Beifong Metalbending Academy. She traveled around the Earth Kingdom looking for students with the capability to metalbend, using her meteorite bracelet as a litmus test. Her first students were Ho Tun, Penga, and The Dark One.
Clearly her teachings expanded beyond three students, as by The Legend of Korra, Republic City’s police force consisted primarily of metalbenders — and, fittingly, was headed by Toph’s daughter, Lin Beifong. No doubt this will be further explored in The Rift.
Azula’s Post-Agni Kai Fate
Azula was never the most balanced of characters, but she completely spiraled into madness by the end of the series as her friends betrayed her and her family abandoned her.
After her defeat at the hands of Zuko and Katara during the series finale, we learned in The Search that newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko had her admitted to a Fire National mental hospital where she continued to suffer from hallucinations of her mother. She was restrained and under constant supervision while in the institution.
When Zuko decided to search for his mother, Azula blackmailed her way onto the team, joining Aang, Katara, and Sokka. However, she planned to use the opportunity to betray Zuko and his friends and take the Fire Nation throne for herself. Though this was obviously unsuccessful, her fate remains open as we wait for The Search part 3.
Aang’s Growth as Avatar
We watched Aang grow from a boy whose fear of his destiny led to him being frozen in an iceberg for a hundred years to a fully-realized Avatar who saved the world over the course of three seasons in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The comics have since given us greater insight into the kind of Avatar that Aang was to become once the Hundred Year War ended.
Aang had already started forging his own path separate from his past lives when he refused to kill Fire Lord Ozai in the series finale. But he truly came into his own as Avatar in The Promise when he turned from Avatar Roku’s advice by refusing to kill Zuko.
Zuko, shortly after becoming Fire Lord, made Aang promise to kill him if he started on a path similar to his father’s. When Zuko rejected The Harmony Restoration Movement, there was concern that Zuko was going down the wrong path. Upon meditation, Aang realized that Zuko had been right all along and cut himself off from his spiritual guide, Roku, telling him that the world had changed too much for him to give relevant advice any longer.
In making this decision Aang had proven that he could make the right decisions for keeping balance and peace in the world on his own. No longer was he just a child with a destiny thrust onto him, but a truly great Avatar.
Perhaps the biggest reveal thus far in the comics has been that of Zuko’s parentage. The Search series focuses on Zuko and Azula’s search for their mother, Ursa, who disappeared when Zuko and Azula were young. In exchange for Zuko’s life, she poisoned Fire Lord Azulon, leaving Ozai to take the throne, but was banished for her actions in return.
However, the comics have revealed that Zuko is actually the illegitimate son of Ursa and Ikem, Ursa’s lover and ex-fiance from her home village of Hira’a. Zuko uncovered a letter from Ursa to Ikem that Ozai intercepted:
My dearest Ikem,
It’s taken me a long time to admit it, but you were right. I belong with you, and nothing is worth this pain. My one consolation is our son Zuko. When I look into his eyes, it’s as if I’m looking into yours. My thoughts are with you always.
This shocking development does help explain Ozai’s disdain for his son and his willingness to kill him as a child and to later severely scar and banish him. And while Zuko was relieved to not share Ozai’s blood, the reveal also opens up more questions about Zuko, Ursa, and the legacy of the Fire Nation Royal Family.
Check back with Hypable’s SeptBender coverage later this month as we explore the controversy more in-depth.
The Legend of Korra season 2 premieres on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 pm on Nickelodeon.