The Fire Nation is undergoing a crisis: the Kemurikage and the New Ozai Society wants to overthrow Fire Lord Zuko. Zuko and Aang have discovered the secret of the Kemurikage , and the truth is worse than the legend. Meanwhile, the New Ozai Society under Mai’s father Ukano rebels in the streets, and Zuko decides to use the military to enforce order. As chaos threatens to engulf the Fire Nation capital, Aang and the others must find the kidnapped children before it is too late.
The final installment in this most recent Avatar adventure is a satisfying one. The story picks up immediately where Part II’s cliffhanger left off, and the book moves along at a quick pace to reach the conclusion. At this point, it’s a race against time, and the practically non-stop action sells the urgency. Smoke and Shadow, Part III also continues to explore themes of family and the definition of true strength, and the story delivers on the stakes that were laid in the earlier volumes. Gurihiru’s artwork brings the action to life effectively, and the excellent use of color evokes a dramatic feel to key panels; the artist also uses different sized panels to to emphasize key moments in the story—a fact that really makes certain moments especially powerful. Gurihiru’s renditions of character expressions are especially effective in drawing in the reader. As a result, Smoke and Shadow, Part III packs a strong emotional punch with the climax of the main conflict and the side stories (Ursa’s confrontation with Ozai being a prime example).
Readers will likely find themselves satisfied by the answers offered, but the Fire Nation’s uncertain future under Zuko will have readers demanding more stories about these characters. Smoke and Shadow’s villain will likely continue to make appearances, and that fact, paired with Zuko’s personal struggles, will make for interesting future stories.
Readers who enjoyed the first two volumes will want to get their hands on the final one. Given the immense popularity of the Avatar series, this story will appeal to fans age eight and up. Libraries with Avatar fans among their patrons should be aware that the next Avatar graphic novel is expected to come out in September of this year.
Avatar the Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow, Part III
by Gene Luen Yang
Art by Gurihiru
Dark Horse, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 8+