Our story opens on a ship in a cold sea. A young man with a large mark over his left eye is remembering…
Zuko was a prince of the fire nation. But he was cocky and arrogant. His father challenged him to a duel and showed no mercy, leaving Zuko’s eye horribly scarred. When Zuko lost the duel, he was banished. Vowing to regain his position at court, he leaves to hunt for the Avatar, a being who has been missing these last one hundred years. Coming along for the ride is his Uncle Hiro, also somewhat of a misfit at court. While Hiro tries to help, Zuko fails to learn humility or empathy.
Fans of the Nickelodeon show will know the story already, which tells how Zuko came to be hunting the Avatar, but those who don’t know the story may be a little lost. For example, nowhere is it explained exactly who is the Avatar (besides a person missing for 100 years) and why that person might still exist. Nor does it explain that there are four main tribes corresponding to the four elements who each have a special fighting skill and style. Still, for those new readers, it sets the stage for who the main characters in the Fire Nation are. You meet Zuko’s scheming sister, Azula, you understand that the Fire Lord is merciless, even with his own family, you learn that Hiro was a great fighter and now seems almost a simpleton, albeit with flashes that that image is an act. And you see how tormented Zuko is to have lost everything he knows and how he is struggling to get it all back.
The drawings are manga style in pen and ink. The art seems hurried and a little unfinished. It is a slim book that seems longer because there is a large amount of extra material at the end. This bonus material shows the process of making a book when the artist and the writers are not in the same place. It was interesting to see what the writers send the artist (both dialogue and description) and then the artist’s preliminary sketches confirming they are what the writer wanted.
For Avatar: The Last Airbender fans of all ages.
The Last Airbender: Prequel: Zuko’s Story
by Dave Roman, Alison Wilgus
Art by Nina Matsumoto
Del Rey, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 10 and up