It's been a fantastic year for fans of "Avatar: The Last Airbender." Not only did the "Legend of Korra" animated series debuted to near-universal critical and fan acclaim, but Dark Horse continued to up the "Avatar" ante with its graphic novel series "The Promise," which helps fill in the gap between the end of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and "Legend of Korra." Written by "American Born Chinese" creator Gene Luen Yang with art by Gurihiru Studios, the three-part graphic novel series wraps in September -- but that doesn't mean it's the end of Avatar Aang's adventures.
This weekend at the American Library Association, Dark Horse announced Yang and Gurihiru will return for a second "Avatar: The Last Airbender" graphic novel series called "The Search," which explores the biggest unsolved mystery in "Avatar" lore: what happened to Prince Zuko's mother?
CBR News spoke with Yang, a longtime "Avatar: The Last Airbender" fan, about his work on "The Search," wrapping up "The Promise, his feelings about "Legend of Korra," the challenge of linking the two shows and their characters together and the return of Princess Azula.
CBR News: Gene, the last time you spoke with CBR, "The Promise: Part One" hadn't been released yet and "Avatar" fans were still chomping at the bit for "Legend of Korra." Now, "The Promise: Part Two" has just dropped and "Legend of Korra" just aired its season finale. First off, as a fan of the series, how have you been enjoying "Legend of Korra?"
Gene Luen Yang: I've loved every episode of "Legend of Korra" so far. The animation in the original show was great, but the Korra stuff is really in a league of its own. The bending fights are nothing short of spectacular. And also there's this dynamic -- all our old friends from the first show are now legends. So far, we've seen statues of Aang, Zuko and Toph. It reminds us of something that's true in the real world, too -- the actions of a few, even a few teenagers, can have big consequences down the road.
Of all the Korra characters, my favorite is probably Tenzin. I appreciate how different he is from his dad. I like that he's so uptight. And with kids of my own, I really relate to what he has to deal with.
This weekend, you announced "The Search" as the next miniseries in the "Avatar" series of Dark Horse's graphic novels. As a fan of the original "Avatar: The Last Airbender" series, I'd really love that title to refer to Zuko's long-lost mother -- what can you tell us about the significance of the title?
I'm not totally sure how much I'm allowed to say -- but you're right! It's really, really surreal. Like every other "Airbender" fan out there, I gasped at the end of that scene in the last episode, where Zuko confronts Ozai. How could Mike and Bryan just leave us hanging like that?! In the last episode, with no immediate plans for resolution! And now, for me to have a hand in answering some of those questions -- like I said, surreal.
Beyond the title of the book, is there anything you can tell fans about the storyline of "The Search" and where it'll take Team Avatar?
I've always loved the supernatural elements of the Avatarverse. TheSeason 1 finale was one of my favorite sequences in the series. We didn't really do much supernatural in "The Promise" since that story was focused on the political ramifications of the War's end. But I'm happy to say, writing "The Search" is giving me the chance to explore that side of Aang and his world.
"The Promise" has been a continuation of the "Avatar: The Last Airbender" story, featuring a closer look at the politics that are involved in the world's reconstruction. Will "The Search" continue to explore the political side of the Avatar's world or will you be taking it in a slightly different direction?
The politics will be there -- they're difficult to avoid when one of your main characters is the leader of a large nation. However, we'll be shifting our focus from the nation to the family. Within Confucian thought, there's a connection between nation and family -- the family is a microcosm of the nation. I actually reference that in "The Search."
One of the great things about "The Promise" is how faithful to the source material the book has been. As you've been building this story, how challenging has it been to continue developing the characters in your own way while still staying true to their core?
This project is different from my other projects. With "American BornChinese," "Prime Baby" and my other books, I was really trying to express something about me. I wanted what was on paper to match what was in my head. With the "Airbender" project, I'm trying to mimic someone else's storytelling voice. I don't want the characters to grow in a direction that suits me or expresses something about me -- I want them to grow in a direction that fits their world and their established history.
Now, that's not to say that there isn't room for self-expression, but the self-expression occurs where my passions overlap with the Avatarverse. For instance, a recurring theme in many of my stories is culture. That's also a deeply important part of the Avatarverse, and the basis for a lot of what happens in "The Promise."