Inspired by Nickelodeon’s television series Avatar: the Last Airbender, which ran from 2005-2008, The Lost Adventures is clearly aimed at fans of the series. A few sentences on the title page relay the basic premise of the show, but aren’t likely to prove sufficient for new readers. Each of the twenty-eight comics is a self-contained short story or vignette meant to fit between episodes of the series. Since the comics span the length of the series, the characters are presented in a wide variety of locations and circumstances with no explanation of what’s changed between comics. Fans of the show shouldn’t have any trouble with this, but, again, new readers are left out in the cold. Most of this material was previously published elsewhere and may be familiar to die-hard fans, but the book does include some new comics.
Some of the comics are very short, just one gag delivered over a couple pages, like Aang being attacked by scorpion-bees or Momo trying to steal fruit from a warthog-dog. Others are longer and more involved, like Sokka trying to learn about the Fire Nation by slapping on a fake beard and joining their army. Either way, these comics remain true to the show, which happily moved between goofy gags and more serious plotting. Overall, I was quite impressed with how the comics captured the spirit of the show and each individual character. One comic strayed off course with a story about Zuko and Azula playing Avatar-themed Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots in a Fire Nation arcade, but I won’t begrudge a good collection one stinker. Two “Bonus Stories” at the end of the book are clearly non-canonical. The first sees the gang auditioning new members (including a kid who bends cookie dough) and the second sets up a game of dodgeball between chibi versions of all the main characters.
Almost all of the comics strive to match the visual look of the show. The result isn’t breathtaking or revelatory, but it is comfortable and familiar. The show looked good, so a comic that looks like the show looks good, too. The character designs are interesting and distinctive and the action is dynamic. The endless stream of weird hybrid animals sounds stupid (“armadillo-bear”), but looks great. The few comics that aim for a more distinct visual style are a mixed bag, but none of them are too bad. They’re just not the Avatar I’m used to.
I came to The Lost Adventures having recently watched and enjoyed the entire television series, which is definitely the ideal position from which to approach this book. I got to spend a little more time with some well-loved characters — just a little taste to ease my Avatar withdrawal until Legend of Korra airs. On the other hand, readers who aren’t already familiar with these characters and the events of the series are sure to be confused. Luckily, it’s hard to imagine a school or public library that won’t have enough Avatar fans around to guarantee this book an audience.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures
Stories by Aaron Ehasz, Josh Hamilton, Tim Hedrick, Dave Roman, J. Torres
Artist by Joaquim Dos Santos, Elsa Garagarza, Gurihiru, Corey Lewis, Johane Matte, Ethan Spaulding and others
Dark Horse, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 8