Avatar: Smoke and Shadow picks up not too far from where the previous Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel, The Rift, left off. For those of you unfamiliar with these, the Last Airbender graphic novels take place after the television show. The first three largely served to wrap up unanswered questions from the show but we have largely moved beyond that. A few plotlines that began in the show are still going but now we are moving into a series of new adventures. These new adventures have their roots here in the comics instead of the original television program.
This comic is entertaining to any Avatar fan but does feel like the weakest one so far. The other comics revealed the fates of characters that viewers spent three years watching. This includes the main characters that go from a group of youths to the adults seen in flashbacks in the Legend of Korra follow-up TV show and the minor characters that just were not important enough to get extra screen time on the show. That being said, if you have not read the other three graphic novels you will not understand this one. Each comic has built upon the previous stories and that continues here.
The thing that made this comic the weakest of the set was that it felt like less of an adventure. Yes there is an evil plot and the heroes must save the day, but it does not feel too at the forefront. This story introduces us to some history of the series, such as the how the Fire Nation was founded, and focuses heavily on the political aspect of Zuko’s reign as the new Fire Lord. The other three stories also had the benefit of wrapping up storylines from the TV show. With that more or less done, these new stories feel less important. It is hard to get invested in a story built up through a few hours of reading versus one built up through years of television.
We also get to see the set up of the next story, which will feature Sokka and Katara returning home. For that alone readers should not skip this one. But do not expect it to live up to The Promise, The Search, or The Rift. This review may seem kind of bland, but so was Smoke and Shadow.