Loyalties and nationalism hang in the balance as the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom are once again bracing for war. But this time, Aang begins to doubt that the side he has chosen represents the type of Avatar he wants to be. Worse, it might not represent the type that the world needs.
Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the nations all lived in harmony. Yet they existed apart. Within the Fire Nation Colony of Yu Dao, both Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko have witnessed the last thing they expected: mixed race families. Of course, this has made removing Fire Nation colonists from Earth Kingdom land very difficult. Yu Dao is neither Fire Nation, nor Earth Kingdom. It is both (or neither, depending on who you ask). Zuko has taken this new discovery as a charge that he must protect the best interest of “his” people, meaning the residents of Yu Dao that could be considered Fire Nation citizens. Avatar Aang has agreed to work with the Earth King Kuei to see the Harmony Restoration Movement through by removing the “invading colonists.” Because in order to keep the four nations in harmony, they must be separate. Right?
Only…what would such a decision mean to the people of Yu Dao who have both Earth and Fire in their blood? And does Aang’s pride in his own heritage as an Air Nomad mean the end of the line for him and his waterbending girlfriend, Katara? And of course, there is the matter of that pesky “promise” — the titular promise that Aang would end Zuko’s life if he begins to behave like his father, the deposed Fire Lord Ozai.
The times, they are a-changing in the Avatar universe, and this last addition to the three-issue series of Avatar: The Promise shows us that Aang might actually have to reconsider what it means to “bring balance to the world.” Writer Gene Luen Yang does a pretty good job of tying up this storyline, while making sure that fan favorite characters such as Toph and Suki get in on the action. While Yang manages to mix some of Avatar’s signature humor into the heavier questions the story raises, artist team Gurihiru once again provides nice artwork that is consistent with that of the animated series.
I also must commend Gurihiru’s ability to illustrate action sequences. The bending and martial arts pop out of each panel. It was basically the next best thing to watching a new episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
A minor quibble is Yang’s use of the word “end” instead of “kill” when referring to the actual promise. While this is no doubt due to the intended age group of the series, I honestly feel that even young readers would be able to take it. We know what Aang and Zuko mean when they talk about “ending”! It just feels a bit condescending, and I don’t think libraries would remove this series from the children’s shelves based on characters using the word “kill.”
Either way, fans of the Avatar series will find much to like in this volume, and it opens the door for the follow-up, The Search.