We are knee deep in Too Much Avatar Week here at Toy-TMA, and while Gus began things on a high note with his list of the 5 darkest episodes of the cartoon, I’m going to change directions and look not at the show, but at the comic, specifically the graphic novel series called The Promise. Not too long ago, Gus dove into the first part to see if it lived up to the show’s greatness and continued the spirit well. I was able to look into Part 2, thanks to Dark Horse Comics sending me an advance PDF to look through, and so I can tell you whether this is a great new story from the universe, or a broken promise. Ugh, GameTrailer-style puns, but it fits with the theme. Need more explained? Let’s take a look at Avatar The Last Airbender: The Promise Part 2.
When we last left off in Part 1, Aang was securely the new Avatar, Katara and he were a romantic interest, Toph had her own Metalbending school, Sokka was…around, and Zuko was fulfilling his duties as the new Firelord. The central conflict revolves around Zuko and Aang deciding it would be best for the Fire Nation to withdraw all troops and citizens from Fire Nation colonies established in the Earth Kingdom, a decision that angers a great deal of people, specifically members of the Fire Nation (oddly, how strange). When presented with the idea that he was betraying his people, Zuko suddenly did a 180 and decided that the fire Nation should be able to keep their colonies and blah blah blah.
Look, the titular promise is made between Aang and Zuko where Zuko asks Aang to take him out if he ever starts to become like his father, with the end of Part 1 showing Zuko asking his imprisoned father for advice on how to lead his people. Part 2 picks up where we left off…and then promptly does nothing for about 70 pages. Part 2 is the clear in-between chapter, though instead of getting darker and more serious, nothing happens. We have three plots happening, with the first revolving around Toph and Sokka training Metalbenders, the second with Aang and Katara dealing with a new Avatar fanclub, and the third being Zuko wrestling with his responsibilities as the new Firelord.
Of the three plots, the only one with any real depth is Zuko’s as it shows him talking with his father, trying to gain perspective on the situation, and showing real character development. With Toph and Sokka, it’s just a bunch of silliness revolving around Toph’s three incompetent students, each with unbelievably stock personalities (one fears doom, one loves shoes, and one is an emo kid). There’s nothing really at stake, and the three new characters are annoying, making it difficult to care what happens to them.
With Aang and Katara though, we’re forced to go through the most pointless cliché of “fan club of girls devoted to the hero makes the girlfriend jealous while he doesn’t understand what’s happening.” I enjoyed the dynamic between these two characters particularly in the third season of the show, and I was very happy to see them become an item in the end, so now that we have to sit through the “jealous girlfriend/clueless boyfriend” arc, I can’t help but scroll through their pages faster.
Since the story is somewhat lacking, and doesn’t have either a true beginning or an end, it’s hard to judge Part 2’s overall plot solely based on its own merits. I have no clue how Part 3 is going to wrap things up, but it does seem like there’s a nice big conflict building. Instead though, we don’t really see a new perspective in the middle chapter, there’s hardly any action, and it feels like things are just stalling for time. Avatar was always so good about not wasting time with filler, but now we’re getting said filler and then some.
Perhaps a lot of the difficulty is spawning from the difficult transition from the screen to the page, where the usual corny jokes and silly attitudes fall flat when read alone, but could very well be amazing when given full visual performances with blocking and such. Here it just feels a bit too juvenile, and yes, I realize I’m talking about a story meant for kids.
But at the end of the day, The Promise Part 2 is safe. It doesn’t make you think too hard; it doesn’t do anything that’s really offensive or world shattering or anything like that. We just get to see a few characters have a night or two to kind of work out some little problems in their lives, and just the fact that these are characters from Avatar gives them more weight since we know them well enough to actually care. When someone walks away feeling hurt from someone else for seemingly no reason, we still understand the weight behind this action. There’s definite power there.
If I were to sum up Part 2, it’d be that it’s comfortable. It’s a very quick read and sadly doesn’t require a second look to find deeper truths or anything. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and Avatar fans will be sure to scoop up any chance to consume more of the universe. The sad part is, with Legend of Korra coming out so very soon, The Promise Part 2 is going to feel not just dull by comparison, but unnecessary.
Don’t let me dissuade you though. I’m just calling this as I see it. I’m still very interested to see where Part 3 is going to take us, but I’m so disappointed that we’ll have to wait until September to get there. I really wish this were just a two-part story, but sometimes I suppose it just requires more thought. You can look into ordering The Promise Part 2 from Dark Horse Comics and Things From Another World today.