The major comic companies put out enough comics that sometimes it can leave your head spinning and eyes bleeding as you search the new titles each week for something worth reading. To aid in your Geeky endeavors, Speak Geeky To Me on occasion reviews new titles from the major companies to spotlight the best and worst of what’s available at your local comic shop. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a new Comic Review.

 

Avatar Search 3The Info Bit

Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search Part 3

Genre/s: Fantasy/Adventure

Writer: Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints)

Artist: Gurihiru (A-Babies vs. X-Babies, Thor and the Warriors Four)

Letterer: Michael Heisler (Star Wars, Darksiders II)

Publisher: Dark Horse

Number of Issues: 3 (of 3)

Page Count: 72

Price: $10.99

 

The Review Bit

Gene Luen Yang and the art team of Gurihiru have brought Avatar Aang’s friends together once more for the epic tale all Avatar: The Last Airbender fans have been dying for, the mystery of Zuko’s mother! Just last month we learned some amazing new information in volume 2 of The Search, the 3 part tale that answers the question so many fans have long asked. But this epic conclusion in volume 3 not only will surprise fans, it will likely have them in tears! Avatar: The Last Airbender found a great home at Dark Horse, and the comic publisher is in no way letting fans down as their awesome creative team continues to excite.

Where we last left Team Avatar, Zuko found a letter giving him reason to believe he is not Fire Lord Ozai’s son; his potential real father, Ikem, is presumed dead; and we learned his mother, Ursa, left the palace as part of a deal to spare her children’s lives. This all unfolds as the team enters Forgetful Valley, the last place both Ikem and Ursa were supposedly seen, only to have Azula go crazy while they’re attempting to help a pair of aging water benders speak with an ancient spirit that creates faces.

NOTE: Because this volume is still a few months away from release, my recap of the story is going to be very light, to avoid spoiling it for those still interested.

Part 3 of The Search picks up less than a heartbeat from where volume 2 ended. Zuko is still redirecting his sister’s lightning attack while Aang communes with The Mother of Faces in the spirit world. This volume has a fair bit in the spirit world, which coincidentally is where a fair amount of Avatar: The Legend of Korra season 2 (Book 2: Spirits) will take place next month. We also continue the flashback in which Ursa returns to Hira’a and meets Noren, the new director of the Hira’a Acting Troupe. This flashback gives us additional information about the fate of Ikem and where it will bring Ursa in her journey. Eventually, in the present day, Aang exits from the spirit world and stops the battle between Azula and Team Avatar. Furthermore, Aang is not alone, as The Mother of Faces arises from the reflecting pool. The Mother of Faces agrees to grant a wish, as she does once per season, but only one. This leads to the dilemma of who gets their answer, Zuko on his quest to track down his mother in the Forgetful Valley or Rafa, the aging water tribesman, who is looking for a new face to replace his damaged one. While Aang and the rest of Team Avatar hope to do the right thing and allow Rafa his long awaited recovery, Azula pushes past and makes her request, learning the surprising truth about Ursa. While Zuko and Sokka chase after Azula, who has run off to deal with this startling news, Aang attempts to beg the Mother of Faces for one more favor. Sadly, the Mother of Faces does not like to be told what to do by insolent humans, and for a very good reason, causing her to lash out against the benders. As these two surprising twists unfold in present day, more flashbacks to Ursa allow readers to connect her fate to that of where we last left her. It is here I will for the most part cut off my summary, as this fate is exactly what you all have been waiting for…and it certainly will not be as most of you suspect. The best part though? This unfolds only 1/3rd of the way through the book! Yes, The Search takes a huge turn after several twists in where the expected conclusion was to lie. But there is more than just the fate of Zuko’s mother here, as Aang fights the Mother of Faces only to reveal another huge twist about her role in the spirit world and creation itself. Through the great and wise actions of Aang and his friends, most of them reach a happy ending. But don’t let that fool you, as this final volume has some serious tragedy and any one with a bit of heart is sure to close this book having shed at least one tear.

Gene Luen Yang put together an absolutely powerful and moving story in The Search and the conclusion beautifully wraps it up and ties a tragically wonderful bow atop it. I mean, sure, it’s a bummer there is no Toph in this story arc, but Yang does a fun bit of character development for everyone else. Zuko and Azula obviously get quite a bit of depth added to their character, with some truly emotional strings being pulled. Also, while Ursa was obviously a character in the original series, it is in The Search that Yang really develops her and brings to life several new characters. Plus, there are the stunning plot twists that continued to surprise me and will undoubtedly surprise you in subtly unexpected ways (small spoiler hint, some of what you’ll discover in volume 3 was planted far earlier in volumes 1 and 2). For those of you worried about it, Yang ties up all the hanging plot threads of this storyline and does very directly give us an answer to the question of where Zuko’s mother has been. There’s no cop out or delay, waiting for it to be dealt with in Korra or a future comic, we finally find the answers we as fans have been looking for. For some volume 3 specific notes on his writing, I do want to draw attention to the fact that Aang hasn’t been the kindest or strongest protagonist in volumes 1 and 2 of The Search, but Yang brings him back to true Avatar form as a strong and kind leader for volume 3. I personally was a little worried when Aang had asked Zuko to burn Azula’s letter in volume 2, even if it was within character, but it’s nice to see Aang back and proving why he is the Avatar (the “Great Bridge Guy” as Sokka puts it). But I also want to stress Yang doesn’t just write the characters straight forward as we know them and give us a few twists, as he really tugs at our heart strings. When Zuko comes to full understanding about his parents and what he must do, I was on the edge of tears, the moment was so wonderfully written and drawn. There are several powerful moments like that in this volume alone and it’s not easy to put that much emotion in a comic book. Yet finding out the fate of Ursa, Zuko’s mother, is not the end of this tale. In fact, it barely is half of volume 3, as Azula still has a lot of problems to resolve. While Zuko can come to terms with what he has discovered, Azula’s weak mental state isn’t as prepared. Azula quickly becomes the antagonist for the latter half of this volume, which brings Sokka and Zuko’s fighting skills heavily into frame. Yes, Sokka gets to show off his stuff, as he helps Zuko restrain his sister. Sure, there is a lot of emotion and drama in this volume, but Yang manages to pack that in there along with quite a bit of intense action that the art team of Gurihiru really stands out with.

The art team of Gurihiru are at their absolute best in this volume of The Search. They manage to bring Yang’s emotional script, with many talking head moments, into a beautiful life of its own that truly grabs at the heart strings. In the same, they provide some visually stunning action sequences between multiple benders on various back drops. Yang and Gurihiru also design a whole menagerie of new animals that appear in the Forgotten Valley and are sure to be fan favourites up there with fire ferrets, air bison, and platypus bears. But it is their coloring that absolutely floors me, with some of the scenes in the Forgotten Valley and involving The Mother of Faces just glowing on the page. Honestly, the art is so beautiful, with such epic panels, that this is a comic where I can’t wait for the Dark Horse Library Edition, with its oversized pages. I truly want to mount posters of these panels throughout my house.

Finally, Michael Heisler does a lovely job on lettering the lengthy comic. His word bubbles are clean and yet still have a sense of action in font style choices. The sound effects are quite enjoyable and perfectly placed. I’m only bummed we didn’t get to see him include more of the Chinese hanzi characters that Gene Yang included in the scripts for volumes 1 and 2 (which I must also point out, that Gene used actual Chinese language in the previous Avatar comic volumes, which was a nice treat for those who understand Chinese or appreciate such accuracy in their comics).

 

The Rating Bit

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search Part 3 was an absolutely amazing comic and by far the best of the Avatar comics released so far. Yang and Gurihiru simply hit the ball right out of the park in a stunning piece of perfection I can’t give anything less than a full 10 out of 10 to. If you are a fan of Avatar you must pick up this comic, and if you just like good sequential art and haven’t heard of Avatar, I still recommend picking up all 3 volumes of The Search. So now I’m sure you’re all asking how does it all end? Just what happened to Zuko’s mother and what’s her final fate? You’ll have to go grab The Search volume 3 this October 30th to find out!