A digital copy was provided by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Search Omnibus
Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender Comics, #2
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Release date: October 27, 2020
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Genre: fantasy, graphic novel
My Rating: ★★★★☆
This review is spoiler-free!
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Immediately following the Avatar’s adventures chronicled in The Promise, this remarkable omnibus that collects parts 1-3 of The Search, from Airbender creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko!
For years, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have burned with one question–what happened to Fire Lord Zuko’s mother? Finding a clue at last, Zuko enlists the aid of Team Avatar–and the most unlikely ally of all–to help uncover the biggest secret of his life.
[ This synopsis was taken directly from Goodreads. ]
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know up until recently that there were supplemental graphic novels to the Avatar: The Last Airbender (A:TLA) animated TV show. I always wondered what happened to The Gaang after the events of Book 3, and now I have the answers!
The Search specifically answers the very important question that everyone was dying to know: what happened to Zuko’s mother?
The story was originally published in three parts, and this omnibus (as the name implies) is a collection of all three parts for a smoother, less choppy reading experience.
I’m sorry to say to anyone who is a fan of Toph a.k.a. the Blind Bandit a.k.a. Melon Lord a.k.a. the greatest earthbender in the world (and don’t you two dunderheads ever forget it!), but she does not make an appearance at all in this story. She’s mentioned once in a conversation, but that’s about it. I’m pretty sure she shows up in other graphic novels, but in this one she’s off somewhere teaching kids how to metalbend. However, the rest of the Gaang (and a few side characters) show up at least once.
I like that the overarching theme in this story is family relationships, specifically between sisters and brothers as well as mothers and sons. In the show, it focused more on relationships between friends (and strangers and enemies), but I’m glad they switched it up a bit. You can see the theme not only within the main cast of characters but also those they meet along the way.
The story itself follows Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, and a surprise guest on a quest to find out what happened to Ursa, Zuko’s mother. It switches between the present following the Gaang and the past with Ursa and her life right before and after she meets Firelord Ozai (a prince at the time).
The storytelling feels very similar to that of the show. Of course, it’s not exactly the same since they’re using different mediums (one is a book and the other is animation). However, the essence is there. One thing that I noticed is that there is no narration in the whole entire story, which I kind of love because once again, it is reminiscent of the style of storytelling from the show. If I remember correctly, there is very little to no narration in the show. It relies heavily on the characters’ dialogues, interactions, and settings to tell the story. Similarly, the graphic novel tells its story using the same devices.
For the plot itself, I can say with confidence that it is a dynamic story with multiple layers. It has a wise, growing-pains, adventurous feel. I laughed. I cried. I got angry, and I felt every emotion in between while reading this story. It is clear the Gaang is starting to grow up, maturing, and you can’t help but feel bittersweet that the group that was once young, carefree children are now battle-hardened and ready to continue to save the world despite all they had already sacrificed.
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Much like I’ve mentioned above, the style of this book, including its art, is very similar but not *quite* the same as the TV series. Again, it’s probably because one is meant to be on paper while the other is an animation.
This might not be relevant for many of you guys, but as someone who loves to draw, I’ve been working on making my drawing poses more dynamic. Seeing the Gurihiru Studio’s artwork and how every panel is filled with interesting angles and movement makes for an interesting case study. Despite not having the tool of animation, it is easy to see each element bending move. All the fight scenes are intense and entertaining. People say reading is like watching a movie in your brain, and the art in this book steps it up a notch.
One not-so-small detail that I liked was how the color palette changes when the story shifts between the present and the past. In the present, the colors are vibrant like you’d expect in the animation. When it’s in Ursa’s past, the colors are more neutral with a overall warm color palette (because, you know, the fire nation). The muted colors emphasize that the scene you’re reading is a flashback. In books, authors indicate flashbacks by italicizing their text. In a graphic novel, that doesn’t work. Despite that, the studio did a great job visually conveying to the reader of the switching timeline.
Overall, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search Omnibus was a fantastic read. It brought back my childhood and answered a question I forgot I had. For any fans of the show, this book is a must-read. For the two of you who haven’t watched the show yet, this book will probably not make any sense. I still recommend that you read this book, but only after you do yourself a service and watch the series. Trust me. It is GOOD. Actually, it is better than good. Frankly, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like the show. That’s how good it is. Go watch it. Now.
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What are some questions you had after the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender? Are you a fan of the show? The books? What do you think happened to Zuko’s mother? Let me know what you think down below! (Please keep the comment section spoiler-free for our friends who have yet to read this book!)
I give Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search Omnibus by Gene Luen Yang 4 stars!
Stay awkward and amazing!