If you’re reading this, you’re probably a big fan of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the greatest animated TV shows of all time. The series itself, along with its sequel The Legend of Korra, is a fairly quick binge, considering how addictive it is. Whether you’re new to the series, or you grew up with it, it’s simply a must-watch TV show before you die.
Netflix is due to drop a live-action version of the TV show, hopefully towards the end of this year, so now’s as good of a time as any to brush up on the comics that have spun off from the animated series. Most of the comics take place following the events of the TV series, with brand new content you’ve never seen before. It extends on all of your favourite characters’ storylines, with a handful of standalones, too.
While we don’t know what exactly the upcoming Avatar animated movies will focus on, it’s highly likely that part of the comics will also be adapted. So if you want to get the jump on all that’s (possibly) to come, read the damn comics, folks.
We want to throw it out there that while you don’t need to watch the entire series before you read some of the comics, there will be a few potential spoilers ahead. We’ve done our best to tiptoe around them, but many are hard not to mention.
If you have finished watching either of the Avatar TV shows and want to pick up these books, let us guide you, like badgermoles through a secret tunnel.
Now buckle up, my little turtleducks, it’s Avatar time – yip, yip!
What are the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics?
The Avatar: The Last Airbender comics expand on many of the heavy themes the TV show tackled including oppression, displacement, trauma and discrimination. It dives deeper into each of the character’s core beliefs, at times challenging your perception of them, and creates entirely new story arcs.
That’s right, the comics are fully fledged stories straight from the minds of Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko themselves a.k.a. the show’s creators. The comics are also co-written with cartoonist Gene Luen Yang, and illustrated by the Japanese artist duo known as Gurihiru.
However, you’ll notice when you get to the Imbalance (more on that later), that the art style takes a turn in a different direction. In 2017, Yang and Gurihiru departed to work on other projects, and they were replaced with writer Faith Erin Hicks and artist Peter Wartman. This new art direction did cause some distress with fans, since many were a fan of how close Gurihiru’s style resembled the art of the original show. But at least both DiMartino and Konietzko are still working closely with the comics.
The comics answer many of the questions you probably had following the Avatar finale, including what happened to Zuko’s mother, what does a relationship between Aang and Katara look like and how does the world rebuild following the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai.
How to read the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics in order
Which Avatar comics to read while watching the TV show
Thankfully, you don’t have to watch the entire Avatar: The Last Airbender series in order to read the comics. In fact, you can read through some of them as you work through each season if you prefer.
Begin with The Lost Adventures anthology, which takes place in-between the season finales of Book One: Water, Book Two: Earth and Book Three: Fire respectively.
These comics were first published in the Nickelodeon Magazine and in the Avatar DVDs. Overall, there’s a whopping 26 stories from a mix of people who worked on the beloved animated series.
Alternatively, you can grab the hardcover Library Edition from Amazon ($44.12) and Booktopia ($67.90), which combines both The Lost Adventures anthology, as well as the Team Avatar Tales collection in a single omnibus.
Once you’ve watched the TV series and finished The Lost Adventures, you can move onto Katara and the Pirate’s Silver. This is a standalone comic consisting of 80 pages and details a missing episode where Katara got separated from the Gaang after a Fire Nation ambush. Unlike in Season One’s ‘The Waterbending Scroll’ ep, Katara is forced to swallow her beliefs and align with pirates if she wants to avoid capture in this riveting, short read.
Next is Suki Alone, which is best read halfway through watching Book 3: Fire. It details Suki’s capture by the Fire Nation, when she’s brought to The Boiling Rock, an inescapable prison located in a dormant volcano. Using all of her charm and wit, Suki builds a community among her fellow prisoners in a bid to survive until Sokka or her beloved Kyoshi warriors come to her rescue.
Lastly, you need to read the Team Avatar Tales anthology. This volume contains a mix of comics and even three short stories that have never been collected before. Inside, you’ll read a bunch of mini-episodes, from Sokka becoming a substitute Fire Nation teacher to Toph reuniting with The Boulder.
Which comics to read after watching the TV show
The next set of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics pick up about a year following Aang’s battle with Fire Lord Ozai. As you can imagine, this is your immediate fix following the show’s ending.
You’re going to start with The Promise, where Aang and Katara attempt to mediate tensions between newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei. With the defeat of the Fire Nation in Book Three, Aang attempts to help each nation redraw its boundaries.
But this becomes problematic when the Avatar meets a group of Fire Nation immigrants, who have set down roots in an Earth Kingdom village. The conflict tests Aang’s judgment, and even his relationship with Katara, as he attempts to maintain the carefully constructed peace following the war.
Meanwhile, Toph takes Sokka to check out her new metalbending school, only to discover that her students have been evicted from their classroom.
From there, you’ll want to move on to The Search graphic novel. It’s finally time to find out what happened to Zuko’s mum, Ursa, and his sister, Azula. Bit rude of the Avatar team to keep us waiting this long, but we made it.
In The Search, Zuko finally finds a clue about his mother’s whereabouts, so he enlists the old Gaang and Azula to find her. In these comics, you’ll learn more about Ursa’s past and how she came to be the Fire Lord’s wife, as well as plenty of surprises along the way.
You can also pick up the stunning Library Edition from Booktopia ($46.25) instead.
In The Rift, Aang is keen to resurrect his Air Nomad culture by celebrating one of his favourite holidays. But Aang’s excitement quickly dies as the spirit of Yangchen leads him to a former sacred site that’s been taken over by a Fire and Earth Nation colony.
Tensions rise when Aang’s desire to preserve tradition and uphold ideas from the past conflict with Toph’s values of improving the past to better the future.
You can also grab this hardcover Library Edition here for $53.09.
Smoke and Shadow
Zuko’s rule over the Fire Nation comes into question in Smoke and Shadow when the mysterious reappearance of the Kemurikage, a group of legendary spirits, join forces with the New Ozai society to unseat the young Fire Lord. Following the Kemurikage’s warning, Fire Nation children starts to disappear all over.
If you were a Zuko and Mai shipper, you’ll be pleased to hear that Zuko’s now ex-girlfriend returns to play a pivotal role in these comics. In Smoke and Shadow, she’s coupled up with another young Fire Nation fella, which can only go over so well when she has to work closely with Zuko to help the poor kidnapped Fire Nation children.
North and South
Katara and Sokka are excited to return home to the Southern Water Tribe only to find that much has changed. In good news, their father Hakoda has been elected chief of the Southern Water Tribe. As for the bad news, the South is rapidly changing into a bustling city reminsicent of the Northern Water Tribe.
When Katara begins to fear that the Southern tribe is beginning to lose its cultural identity, she discovers she’s not the only one who resents all of the changes instigated by a dynamic brother-sister duo from the North. Conflict quickly comes to the surface when the South realises that the North is attempting to turn them into a puppet state.
Imbalance is the first in the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics to depart from Gurihiru’s art style in favour of Peter Wartman. It also gives you your first peek into some of the early tensions between benders and non-benders that’s later focused on in The Legend of Korra series.
In these comics, Aang and his friends visit Earthen Fire Industries, the factory owned by Toph’s father. The Gaang are confused when they receive a cold welcome, but quickly learn it’s the result of a rising bender vs non-bender conflict. While you might assume that this is another case of non-benders feeling threatened by benders, you’ll be quite surprised to find that the benders in the area are upset after nonbending-owned companies dismiss them in favour of machines.
Where to buy Imbalance Omnibus Edition: Booktopia ($54.45)
Amazon Australia also stocks the Library Edition if you’re interested for $49.05.
Toph Beifong’s Metalbending Academy
After finishing The Search, it’s the perfect opportunity to jump into the standalone graphic novel, Toph Beifong’s Metalbending Academy. While Toph’s school is thriving and self-sufficient, things feel a little dull compared to her Team Avatar glory days.
But when the academy is visited by Sokka and Suki, the two decide to take the metalbending master to a concert of all places!
How to read The Legend of Korra comics in order
If you thought all the imbalance in the world ended there, you’ll be sorely mistaken. Following the death of Aang, the next Avatar, Korra of the Southern Water Tribe was born. Korra’s the total opposite of Aang, both in terms of temperament and fighting style. While Aang was applauded for being an agent of peace, Korra prefers to let her fists do all the talking. At least at first.
Over the course of her series, Korra slowly matures as she deals with bender vs non-bender conflicts, radicals and anarchic groups. The following comics are best read once you’ve finished watching the LOK series, since it all consists of post-series content.
After enjoying a much-needed vacation in the Spirit World, Korra and Asami return home to Republic City to discover a new set of troubles. While the city is still adjusting to a heavy spiritual presence, plans arise to turn the new spirit portal into an amusement park, angering the spirits. Korra also must help displaced refugees find new homes and find a way to establish peace when Republic City’s local gangs decided to target the Air Nomads.
Ruins of The Empire
Now that the monarchy has been abolished, the Earth Kingdom is about to throw its first-ever democratic election and if you thought you’d seen the last of Kuvira, the antagonist from Book Three: Change in the show, no you didn’t. With Kuvira’s former allies planning to take part in the election and restore the Earth Empire, Korra and her friends attempt to bring old Toph Beifong out of retirement to run against them.
Patterns in Time
To finish off this long, long list of Avatar comics is this anthology of stories from the world of Legend of Korra. Flicking between past, present and future, you’ll hear endearing and humorous tales about your favourite characters, from a young Asami to Meelo and Bumi.
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