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Avatar: The Last Airbender- Smoke and Shadow Part Three Kindle & comiXology
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About the Author
- ASIN : B01BYKDICG
- Publisher : Dark Horse Books (April 12, 2016)
- Publication date : April 12, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 106300 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Not Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print length : 80 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #97,091 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Now for the lengthy part:
In The Promise, we saw Avatar trying to branch out from the adventure storytelling and move into a more political setting, which sort of worked, but it kind of lost the fun adventure which made Avatar Avatar. In The Search they returned to their traditional story telling. It was an excellent story, but it didn't really evolve the world because it was so much like watching the original series.
In Smoke and Shadow, they finally got it right. This series delves into the struggles of restoring the world order while also keeping the spirit of the original tale. When I finished the second book, I felt very iffy about it. I wanted to see them deal with Ursa's fear of Ozai . . . they didn't. I wanted to see the Fire Nation unraveling before Zuko's eyes . . . it sort of did. I wanted them to keep Azula out of it so that she could have an entire trilogy devoted to her . . . the didn't. So, a lot was riding on this book convincing me that everything the did or didn't do in Part 2 was a good idea.
As indicated in my 5 stars, they were very successful.
Azula was handled brilliantly. I dare not give away what happens with her, but by the end I was actually happy that they brought her back. Her motivations are very different than what they were before, and what they do furthers both her character and changes the nature of her relationship with Zuko, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how that develops in subsequent stories. The drawing on her in particular is flawless. Every look she gives, every line she says is just so, Azula.
I also like seeing the political situation escalates. It moves from mild unrest to full out riots, and the way Zuko handles the situation is very interesting. I like seeing this series challenge it's characters with real problems of being in power and trying to find the best way to solve them and struggle to do what is right. It's a great way to evolve the story from the simple adventure we saw in the TV show to young adults trying to rebuild a broken world.
Ursa was also handled very well. In Part 2 she was shoved to the background and mostly a worrying mom, which I didn't like. However, the transition between her worrying about Kiyi to facing her greatest fear - Ozai - is so good that it actual makes me glad she got so little focus in Part 2. Again. this story did a great job of not giving me what I wanted, but instead showing me what I didn't realize I wanted.
I do have two complaints it would be that Ursa's confrontation with Ozai feels rushed. It played out the way it should, but it was only a few panels long. I felt like that really deserved an extra page or two. Even so, it's satisfying, and the ending, which focuses on Ursa, still feels very earned.
The second has to do with the love triangle. Let's just say, I pretty much hate them on principle. I actually like Kei-Lo and Mai together and think Zuko should just get over her, but they have to keep throwing this forced drama in my face. I mean, it's not terrible. It doesn't ever feel like Mai is leading Kei-Lo or Zuko on, it does seem that she is legitimately confused, so it doesn't ruin her character for me, and the fact that Kei-Lo is useful beyond being a plot device is good. I just wish they could move beyond this stupid cliche and quit trying to force us to care about characters we already care about.
In spite of those two complaints, I think this is a wonderful conclusion for the story. It evolves Avatar universe, gives fantastic character development (Ukano is done very well, too), and still has a nice level of humor. If Part 2 left you on the fence, but this, because it certainly makes everything in Part 2 worthwhile.
As we saw in the previous trilogies, Azula became delirious after coming face-to-face with the person who betrayed her more deeply than anyone, her mother, Ursa. Azula combatted her mother's voice in her head, a voice telling her to surrender the endeavor to usurp Zuko from the throne because she had a beautiful destiny to be discovered elsewhere. This apparition that spoke to her begged the important questions of just what this destiny was, and, if the words had any semblance of validity, would this be the redemption of the princess we writers and fans have attempted to crack since her sanity fell on the day of Sozin's Comet.
This final chapter to "Smoke and Shadow" gives us only a fraction of an answer to these inquiries, but in its wake leaves plenty more behind for us to piece together. This trilogy sees Azula taking on the form of vengeful female spirits known as the Kemurikage: women of a forgone age whose own children were taken from them without a trace when they were still physically alive. Building on this role, Azula released several women from an institution (be it the one she herself was held at, or another one, we don't quite know), and had them pilfering children from innocent families, including Mai's little brother, Tom-Tom, and Kiyi, her half-sister. Why did she select these insane women? What individual attributes in them did the princess find exceptional enough to allow them into her plot? A master manipulator, Azula must have had reason to be impressed with the women she chose.
Another aspect of this final chapter is Ukano's role. At first, Ukano followed Azula's orders blindly, placing his own son in danger for the sake of a safer, stronger Fire Nation. His eagerness to someday soon see Ozai back on the throne was enough for him to throw his familial ties away, a coldness to him that attracted substantial use at the hands of the princess. Like all of Azula's relationships, however, they are rooted in her uncanny ability to instill fear as motivation. It is in this very fear that her one unlearned weakness is found: this emotion, even when it is most abundant, can eventually be overcome. Mai and Ty-Lee's betrayal at the Boiling Rock was a showing of them becoming bold and letting their binds of attachment to Azula's fear-mongering be broken. Zuko, who spent his youth cowering in Azula's shadow, found his true self after he came clean to her lies. In truth, Azula did seem to realize that fear's fruitfulness was wearing off on Ukano, but that she used it as a means of manipulation in the first place showed in her a reluctance to let it go, despite what it has done to her in the past.
The final admittance Azula made at the trilogy's conclusion reveals the weightiest detail in her possible path at redemption. In coming to terms with the fact that she will never have physical access to the Fire Nation crown, the princess admitted that her mother's voice left her, and in her own self, she felt weightless and free. Is this the way Mike and Bryan want her story to be told? That observing the throne from a distance and molding it through the manifestation of her brother's anger and staggered leadership is her one path to redemption? The writer in me tells me that this cannot be. I am going to say this has to be some kind of ruse to place a haze on the focus of Azula so the next trilogy (which focuses instead on Sokka and Katara's visit to their homeland) can be anchored in without complaint from the fans. The writers of the comic basically stated in her declaration: "Here, fans, she's redeemed. Now let's put the spotlight back on the Water Tribe siblings!" It's a trite and mocking move on their part when the only mystery the Avatar series has yet to solve is Azula's salvation.
Think about it. This voice that racked her was Ursa's and the face of the apparition attached to it belonged to Ursa as well. The meaning behind its appearance was never wholly about Azula seizing the throne and stealing Zuko's destiny; it was about rectifying the shattered relationship between mother and daughter. The princess was visibly shaken when she saw Ursa in the plain face of Noriko in "The Search" trilogy. Her subsequent disappearance following this meeting for such a period of time could not have concluded with the princess just blatantly siding with the voice's ideology without her first forgiving the person the voice represented. Azula, by character definition, does not trust easily; to hand her trust to the inane voice of reason in her mind seems horribly played and out of character by the writers, so there has to be more to it than what this trilogy has given us.
So, if there is more, it will have to wait until at least late 2017 or early 2018, since "North and South" is next on the comic series' forecast. There is still much to be revealed about Azula's absence in Forgetful Valley. Obviously her actions there lead to those we saw in the comics. Despite this aching cliffhanger about the greatest Avatar character ever, the comic itself was groundbreaking and well-written: a treasure trove for all the fan fiction writers out there, myself included. With this comic series now entering its third year of existence, the art has greatly improved. The subject lines are deep, pushing boundaries with issues like child abuse, spousal cheating, murder, and even minute ones like deformity and other handicaps.
I cherish this comic book series and pray it never ceases. I always wait anxiously for each one to arrive onto my Kindle, so anxious am I that I make it my mission to stay up past midnight on the night before a release and read it as soon as it syncs to my device! Thank you, Mike and Bryan, for adding this series as a window to the best cartoon ever created. Let's just hope Azula's future makes for a grand story in the next trilogy.
I am eager to buy the next installment.
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All that being said, as I mentioned, there are some issues that I will address in this review. Some of the characters voices still do not feel quite right, and some of the dialogue is a little clunky. Certainly, the writer, Gene Luen Yang, has improved since The Promise (the first of the Avatar comics), but the original TV series left such a high standard of characterisation, that it would be hard for anyone to live up to it.
The story is one of political intrigue, insurrection, and even bordering on terrorism. Fire Lord Zuko faces an opponent of apparently spiritual origins, but not all is as it seems. There is an interesting commentary going on here where Zuko’s character and actions are brought into question; faced with difficult decisions, will be cave in and slip into his old ways, the violent and totalitarian methods of his father, or will he pursue the new way he has learned as a friend of Avatar Aang?
Seeing Zuko struggle with his identity has been a common theme of the comic series. It has been shown not only in how he rules the Fire Nation, but also in his personal relationships. His friendships are strained almost to breaking point at times, his trust of Aang wavers, and his romance with Mai is falling apart, or so it seems.Desperate to be a better person, Zuko tries to stick to Avatar Aang’s advice. But as his enemies push harder and harder, causing more and more chaos, he hears the tempting call of his old self again.
This causes some interesting confrontations, and moral quandaries for Zuko, and many of the conversations give the characters pause, which is nice to see. The fulfilment of the issues, however, is somewhat swifter than I would have liked, but it is left on more of an ambiguous note, leaving the reader to determine just how much Zuko has been changed by the events, and how it may not all be over at all.
A concern I’ve had in a number of these comics is how some of the characters have become slight caricatures of their former selves. Uncle Iroh, for example, has always had an obsession with tea, but it has been made slightly clownish in these issues. Rather than being a thing of quiet dignity and a slight quirk, his love of tea is made into his defining characteristic. This is redeemed somewhat by a short conversation he has in this issue, revealing some of his own worries and fears. So, I was pleased to see him given more space as a character, rather than just having him be a punchline.
The ending is abrupt, it must be said, despite being something of an ‘open’ ending in many respects. The romance subplot is given a rather bizarre runaround, and then for seemingly no reason is twisted back again in the last few pages. Again, it seems that events are being set up for future adventures, but for the time being, it just seems a bit odd.
All criticisms aside, this volume is definitely worth a read, and the whole Smoke and Shadow saga is well worth having on your shelves if you’re an Avatar fan.