Sunday, March 22, 2015

REVIEW: Avatar The Last Airbender - The Rift
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
Original Publication Year: 2014
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender #3
Awards: None
Format: Paperback from Library
Narrated by: NA

NOTE:  This is a review of all three parts within the volume.

I adore the three seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender so much and remember being incredibly disappointed that the show was not based on an existing series of graphic novels.  So my excitement knew no bounds when I finally discovered that the story was being continued in graphic novel form!  This is the third such collection that continues the story of Aang and his friends.

The Rift re-visits some of the themes from the first graphic novel set (the Promise); Aang’s sadness over the loss of the Air Nomad culture and the difficulties of integrating nations that are more used to being rigidly separate.  It also tackles the conflict between progress and honoring tradition (and our natural resources).

When Aang drags along his friends as well as the air acolytes to revive an ancient Air Nomad ritual he is horrified to find that a place sacred to air nomads has had a thriving city built on top of it during the 100 years he was frozen.  The spot is in the Earth Kingdom and Toph is immediately enamored by the lively city and particularly by a highly mechanized factory.  This sets up a conflict between Aang and Toph as it becomes clear that there is more at stake than just Aang’s disappointment at the loss of a sacred site. 

First of all I really like the theme addressed in this one and think it is explored pretty well and with an even hand.  Humans will always strive to better themselves and progress which has its positives and negatives.  Knowing what to embrace and what to be wary of isn’t always clear cut.  Aang represents a clinging to tradition while Toph embraces progress and they BOTH must find a middle ground. 

There are also several interesting developments and other details I really enjoyed; some conflicts from Toph’s past are addressed, Katara is confronted with old friends from the Southern Water Tribe, and the last Air Avatar, Yangchen, makes an appearance and is fleshed out a bit. 

My only complaint is that there was some awkward storytelling midway through the book that I didn’t think made a lot of sense.  Aang takes off in the middle of some fighting to continue the Air ritual with his acolytes without checking in to see if any of his friends are okay.  Which of course they’re not.  It was clumsy conflict set up but that’s my only nit pick.

One final question is whether these Graphic Novels would work for readers who have never watched the show and I’m not sure they would.  One of the best things about them is that they usually address something that wasn’t effectively resolved during the show (like the fate of Zuko’s mother in The Search).  Coming in cold to these relationships would also be a little difficult.  I think these are definitely intended for fans of the show.  Which if you are not a fan of the show, you should be :0)!

Final Verdict:  Another great addition to this “mythos” that continues the character and relationship growth while also telling a fast-paced mystery story.  4 Out of 5 Stars.

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