WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender - Imbalance by Faith Erin Hicks and Peter Wartman
In the decades between Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel series The Legend of Korra, the world went through radical shifts in technology, politics, and culture. The sequel comics to Avatar help bridge the gap between the two shows, and the concluding chapter of Imbalance recently revealed the origins of The Legend of Korra's main setting.
Republic City as a setting was a major part of The Legend of Korra from the series' beginning. While the previous series saw the Avatar and his friends jumping from continent to continent as they explored the world, Korra primarily grounded herself in more urban adventures in a single location. Republic City was made up of people from all Four Nations, both bender and non-bender alike, and it was Korra's job as the Avatar to unite everyone in bringing harmony to the world.
And as Imbalance shows, the city has a long history of strife and disharmony even before it was known as Republic City. The settlement that would eventually become Republic City was originally known as Cranefish Town and was first introduced in The Rift. The story details Aang's attempt to reestablish Air Nomad culture by celebrating a sacred tradition with the acolytes who wish to follow him, but the celebrations are ruined by angered spirits in conflict with the industrializing town.
Cranefish Town stood at the forefront of industrial progress as non-benders mechanized their factories in a way that gave them independence from benders, but the process produced pollution that sullied the rivers nearby. The conflict creates the titular rift between Aang and his friend Toph, who is excited by the progress the industrialization offers. The two manage learn to balance their points of view as they oversee the town's progress, but the start of Imbalance shows that the people of the settlement are not so quick to compromise their beliefs.
Imbalance is where the gap between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra is truly bridged. The political tension the Avatar is forced to reconcile is between a growing bending supremacy group, incensed by the independence industrialization offers non-benders, and the non-benders of the village, who feel defenseless and bullied by their empowered counterparts. The story fleshes out the background behind Amon's revolution that Korra was forced to thwart and shows that the anti-bender sentiments did not just spring up overnight.
In fact, much of the conflict was previously established in The Rift, during conversations about the town's political structure. While a council of local businessmen oversaw much of the town's development, concerns were raised early on about the possible tension between benders and non-benders. The same political tensions would develop into a larger scale in the United Republic Council, housed in Republic City and overseeing the entire United Republic of Nations in The Legend of Korra.
There are plenty more origins provided by the final part of Imbalance as well. The art of chi-blocking, a paralytic fighting style that disables bending, was a major force of power in Amon's revolution and Imbalance explains how the deadly art spread. Since the non-benders of Cranefish Village are all but helpless against the bending supremacy groups, Suki begins training many of their guards in chi-blocking to defend themselves. While Suki's intentions were certainly pure, the ripple effect that led to Amon's revolution shows the moral complexity of such actions.
Of course, non-benders aren't the only ones that learn to adapt to the times. While Toph began her metal-bending academy in previous comics, Imbalance shows the origin of her idea to wield metal chains that would later become the metal benders of Republic City's police force's main weapon of choice. Tearing through a factory amid a fight, Toph realizes how handy a loose metal cord makes as a weapon on her direction. As the founder of Republic City's police force, it's clear that she drew inspiration on how to arm them from such a moment.
While many of the Avatar comics work as standalone adventures, it is Imbalance that truly starts to tie everything together from both shows and all the comics involved. The latest issue ends with Aang deciding to stick around Cranefish Town to oversee some changes, but the first big change he proposes is to the name. It remains to be seen if further insights into Cranefish's evolution into Republic City await, but if there is any overarching lesson to the comics at all it's that evolution is inevitable.