Saturday, February 25, 2017

Graphic Novel Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search Part 3 by Gene Luen Yang

ISBN: 1616551844
Published: October 30th, 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Received: purchased
Read February 16th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Fate of the Fire Lord!
Avatar Aang travels to the spirit world to parlay with an ancient power, bringing Fire Lord Zuko ever closer to discovering the truth about his mother's fate—and his own past. Yet Zuko's sister Azula is becoming increasingly dangerous, threatening to ruin everything that Zuko, Aang, Katara, and Sokka have struggled to achieve on their search!

Note: You might notice that I didn't review Part 2. I read all three parts so quickly that I decided it would be better to wait until after reading Part 3 and review the entire thing.

The story of The Search drew me in much more than The Promise. Maybe that was because it explored a longtime mystery of the Avatar fandom or maybe it had something to do with the writing. I'm really not sure which was the bigger factor. All I know is that I was more eager to pick this one back up each time I set it down because I wanted to know what happened next, and that was in spite of figuring out each plot twist before it happened. I still wanted to see it unfold.

That being said, there were elements of The Search that bothered me. I'm annoyed by how many of the characters treat Azula. I'm not saying they should have trusted her, clearly that's not the case, but there is something very visibly wrong with her, and none of them seem to acknowledge that. She's been in a mental hospital, but all of the characters talk as if she's rational and just evil.

Spoilers for the ending follow:

How things end between Azula and Ursa in this story also left me feeling unsatisfied. Maybe the story was meant to be about Zuko and Ursa more than Ursa and Azula (or even Zuko and Azula), but then why would Azula come along with them in the first place? Azula and Ursa never actually have a conversation. They exchange a handful of words with each other at most before Azula runs off. I would have felt better if they had actually spoken with each other. I'm not saying that all of their problems needed to be solved by the end, but what we got felt like a complete avoidance of anything as far as Ursa and Azula are concerned. That was disappointing.

This story also made me dislike Ursa as a character when I hadn't before. I did wonder in the beginning why Ursa wouldn't have come to see Zuko if she knew he'd become Fire Lord, so I figure that a story had to be developed that would explain that. Seeing Ursa give up her memories of her children still annoyed me. Maybe she was trying to give herself peace of mind, but she left those kids with Ozai after he was about to kill Zuko. She couldn't have possibly believed that they were safe (Zuko especially), and to erase all of her memories of them... It really made me lose respect for her, which is why I'm glad that the "I wish I had loved you more" line was in the story because I think Ursa was exactly right when she said that.

Zuko also seems to accept what Ursa did far too well, and I would have really enjoyed seeing more with Ursa and Zuko that provided more resolution for Zuko. He didn't really seemed bothered by her actions at all, which made no sense to me. I think this story would have benefited from being longer and allowing time for Ursa to actually have a conversation with Zuko and Azula at the end.

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