Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Promise

Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Promise by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru
218 pages
Published by Dark Horse, 2011
Genre: Fantasy/graphic novel
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I’ll likely re-read this one whenever I need a dose of ATLA

Reviewed by Pete
Spoiler-free review (with some spoilers for the TV series)

I grew up watching Avatar: The Last Airbender with my brother, and I’ve rewatched this timeless series often since. But for some reason, I never got around to the comics, even though they are canon and pick up right where the series left off. 

It took a bit of research to find the right starting point. The Promise is the first in a series of 5 graphic novels (each a collection of individually published issues) that follow the end of the show’s final season.

After defeating Firelord Ozai, Team Avatar struggles to liberate Fire Nation colonies—in particular because they are opposed by Prince Zuko. Meanwhile, Toph has founded the first metalbending academy, but her students aren’t picking up the new skill as easily as she’d hoped. 

This book was a delight. It reads like an 8-episode arc, complete with side-plots and filler episodes and topped off with a satisfying resolution to a surprisingly complex problem. Returning colonies to their home countries is not a simple matter, and Aang and Zuko grapple with this conflict in two very different ways. 

If you’ve seen the show, you won’t be able to help hearing the characters’ voices as you read, and the tone and style of every scene rings true. 

Though I was initially excited about the Netflix live-action show, I lost hope when the original creators of ATLA left due to creative disagreements with Netflix. This comic (and the knowledge that there are more comics to explore) fills a bit of that void, and I’m hopeful for Nickelodeon’s new Avatar Studios. 

This is a must-read for ATLA fans and is an excellent graphic novel in its own right. 

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