Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift Part 1 Review
Pros:Feels just like an episode of the show; Characters are true to what you expect; You can truly feel Aang's dilemma about continuing his people's legacy and Toph's pain about her past; Aang/Katara and Toph/Satoru <3; Art is absolutely fantastic
Cons:Sokka and Katara didn't have much of anything to do the entire book; Missing alot of meat in the middle, motivation to keep reading was the cliffhanger at the end; Aang is kinda a jerk at times; Not alot of danger for them yet, more drama, but not a big deal.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift Part 1 is a continuation of the sequel comics series that has been filling in the gaps between the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender series and the Legend of Korra series. It continues the story from where the previous arcs “The Promise” and “The Search” left off, with the city of Yu Dao as a new beacon of hope for the balance of power between the nations (and the prototype for Republic City from Legend of Korra) and Zuko completing his search for his mother. This arc focuses on Toph and Aang’s struggles with their pasts. Overall, this first part of the arc was a lot of fun, and felt exactly like an episode of the series, which is pretty unbelievable since Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko crafted such a masterwork, but we can clearly see they chose a writer who understood their vision and voice.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift Part 1 is a continuation of the sequel comics series that has been filling in the gaps between the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender series and the Legend of Korra series. It continues the story from where the previous arcs “The Promise” and “The Search” left off, with the city of Yu Dao as a new beacon of hope for the balance of power between the nations (and the prototype for Republic City from Legend of Korra) and Zuko completing his search for his mother.
At the start, Aang is confronted by a mysterious figure at the celebration of the election of a new mixed government to lead Yu Dao. He finds the figure and sees its former Avatar Yangchen, the previous Airbender Avatar, but cannot hear what she is saying before she disappears. He cannot reach her during meditation, but its then he is reminded that the next day is one of the most important Airbender holidays that hasn’t been celebrated since the war began, the Yangchen’s Festival. He takes everyone, including the group of former Avatar fangirls that he has whipped into shape as Acolytes to carry the Airbender traditions, to the site where the festival was once held. During the spiritual ceremony, Toph finds it objectionable that Aang wants everyone to bow and show respect to a spirit that he doesn’t remember the significance of just because “That’s just how it’s done”. She flashes back to her days as an Earth Kingdom noble, being extremely isolated to protect her from harm because of her disability. We learn that her brash personality is a reaction to her resistance to ever do things “because that’s just how it’s done”, and forge her own path in life. She has a harsh reaction to Aang’s traditions and insults him, calling them backwards. He holds on to his peaceful training and doesn’t do anything about it, but resents the statement.
On their way to the ancient festival grounds, they discover it is now home to a refinery town, full of pollution and smog. Aang is horrified by the destruction of his people’s sacred land and when Avatar Yangchen show’s up again, they go to investigate what happened. They meet the refinery’s owner Satoru, and inquire about how the situation has changed. He informs them that his uncle, a Fire Nation citizen, found an Earth Kingdom business partner here and started the refinery to mine the natural resources of the land, using Benders of all types to great harmony. It seems like a great example of the type of unity Aang is looking for. Before they can ask about the pollution, Satoru has a star-struck moment about Toph, and can’t believe he is meeting her. He goes off about how amazing she is, and Toph doesn’t seem to be too interested in it, but agrees to a tour of the refinery. After looking around for a while at the bending methods used in the factory, Satoru reveals that he is working on a wing of the refinery that uses machines to do the work of the benders, so non-benders can work too, and the training takes a few days compared to years. This is obviously laying the groundwork for the advent of bender resentment and industrialization we see in the Legend of Korra, but he does admit the machines aren’t as efficient as benders, yet.
When Sokka breaks a prototype forklift Satoru designed, Toph impresses him with her ability to pinpoint the tiny problem and fix it with her Metalbending and she is impressed with his attention to detail and skill. They begin to set up a partnership between the factory and her Metalbending school, where the students get experience ein the shop and the refinery sponsors the building of a larger school for them (it got very popular after the events of the “The Promise” arc). At the same time, we can clearly see the budding of a romance between Toph and Satoru, in mutual admiration of the other’s talents and mindset; I liked getting this hint at who Toph will probably eventually end up with and I liked the subtlety the writers handled it with. Aang see’s Yangchen’s form and a terrible vision of some monster attacking something. He insists Satoru explain to him why the refinery was built on former sacred land, and if he knows the consequences, this upsets Toph again and she calls his suspicions simply superstitious and dumb. She asks Satoru to state whether he thinks the pollution is a result of the factory’s operations, and he insists they are not, and her earthbending abilities can tell he is being truthful.
Aang and Toph continue to argue, but in the middle of their argument, earthquakes rock the entire facility and begin to take it apart. Satoru believes it’s their emotions activating their earthbending causing the quakes but they continue with persistence. In their efforts to save everyone in the facility that’s coming down, Aang and Toph work together and reconcile their differences, but not before Toph destroys a very expensive machine in a show-offy display. When Satoru’s uncle and his business partner return in the aftermath of the quake, they blame his for the damage. Satoru was telling him that group there are his guests and are just about to leave, when Toph recognizes the Earth Kingdom business partner as her estranged father.
Writer Gene Luen Yang does a fantastic job keeping the tone and voice that made Avatar: TLA such a fantastic series, and everyone feels like themselves. I like seeing the natural feel that Aang and Katara’s relationship has taken, and Aang’s uncertainty about his place in the world as The Avatar. Also, his pain and steadfastness in trying to rebuild the airbender legacy is heartbreaking, as you can tell that he feels the entire weight of his people on his shoulders. I really enjoyed this arc’s delving into Toph’s backstory, as the last two arc’s dealt with Zuko’s past and his relationship with Aang. Toph is somewhat of an enigma but a fun riddle to unravel, especially with her ambitions of teaching Metalbending as an art seem so daunting. While I understand the necessity of regarding Sokka and Katara to background characters since the arc is focused on Aang and Toph, I hope they have more to do in the next part and aren’t relegated to one-liners. Also, this issue was a little light in the middle of actual plot movements, mostly just action sequences against some guards mostly meant for setting up the cliffhanger ending, I’m sure they next part will have plenty of meat to fill up on. Overall, this first part of the arc was a lot of fun, and felt exactly like an episode of the series, which is pretty unbelievable since Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko crafted such a masterwork, but we can clearly see they chose a writer who understands their vision and voice.