Avatar: the Last Airbender – The Promise Part One

By Michael Dante DiMartino, Brian Konietzko, Gene Luen Yang, and Gurihiru
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format: Paperback, full color, $10.99
ISBN: 978-1-59582-811-8

Reviewed by: Diamond BookShelf

Avatar: the Promise has a lot going for it. The story takes place in between the wildly popular Nickelodeon television series and its currently-airing sequel: The Legend of Korra. The creative team consists of award-winning graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and Gurihiru, the studio behind the adorable Marvel Age Power Pack miniseries.

Fans of the series will be pleased to revisit familiar characters and conflicts, while newcomers should find plenty to intrigue them. The world of Avatar consists of four nations based on the elements of water, earth, fire and air. Benders are people with the power to manipulate their nation's element. This is a gift that requires training, similar to martial arts. Each generation produces one Avatar, a bender capable of manipulating all four elements.

The original series followed the adventures of young avatar Aang and his diverse group of friends as they fought to defeat the corrupt ruler of the Fire nation. The Promise takes place immediately afterwards, as Aang is faced with the task of restoring harmony to the four nations. Aang may be master of all four elements, but mastering the subtle art of diplomacy proves to be a much trickier challenge. He also must deal with a weighty promise made to his friend Zuko, the new leader of the fire nation: to "end" Zuko if he also becomes corrupt and threatens the balance of power between the nations.

Aang is forced to confront this problem sooner than he would like, when Zuko changes his mind and refuses to cooperate with the "Harmony Restoration Movement." His actions are not motivated by greed or ambition, however, but out of a sense of duty to his people, whose long-standing colonies he has been asked to dismantle. Yang does a good job of setting up a conflict with no easy answers. He also provides a nice story balance between drama and fun; the story's weighty premise is lightened with humor, element-bending action and a little bit of romance.

The artwork is vibrant and appealing; it looks very similar to the original animation style while comfortably accommodating the distinct needs of a comic book narrative. With plenty of appeal for fans of both manga and superhero comics, and an attractive story for Avatar fans and newcomers alike, Avatar: the Promise definitely lives up to its promise!