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I hate to admit it, but Part 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise was something of a mixed bag.
In this issue, Aang and Katara are shunted off to a subplot, leaving Toph and Sokka as the stars. The main story revolves around Toph’s efforts to establish a school for metal-benders. Naturally, her students are a plucky band of misfits, including Ho-Tun, a chronic worrier, Penga, a spoiled brat with a crush on Sokka and ‘the Dark One,’ a boy whose eternal angst is reminiscent of Zuko’s girlfriend Mai.
A group of fire-benders have taken over Toph’s school, and if she wants to get it back, her students must duel against their fire-bending counterparts. Most of the issue is taken up with Toph’s efforts to whip her band of wanna-be metal-benders into shape. Sokka is principally there to provide comic relief, which he does quite nicely.
In the B plot, Aang and Katara (who are now officially an item) must travel to Ba Sing Se to meet with the Earth King. If you are feeling a sense of déjà vu, it is because they had to do the very same thing in season 2 of the TV show. But this time, the circumstances are quite different.
For one thing, the city is now host to a very enthusiastic ‘Official Avatar Aang Fan Club,’ staffed by a bevy of excitable young girls who have the hots for our bald hero. As they squeal in delight over him, Katara puts on her jealous face and the whole thing stirs memories of season 1’s “The Warriors of Kyoshi.”
Eventually, Katara is able to pull Aang away from his female admirers in order to meet the Earth King, Kuei. But he is a much different man from what we saw on the show. On the show, he was little more than a clueless figurehead; a puppet ruled by his ruthless adviser, Long Feng. Years of manipulation seem to have hardened Kuei so that he is now determined to get his way no matter what, even if it means acting against the Avatar’s advice.
The C plot was actually the most interesting part of the issue. Alas, it is also the most brief. Fire Lord Zuko is increasingly frustrated with the state of the world and he grudgingly seeks the counsel of the father he deposed. Their dialogues provide an interesting perspective on the nature of power, and it is cool to see Zuko struggle with his new responsibilities as Fire Lord.
Although the writers and artists have done a great job of capturing the Avatar characters (they did a great job with Sokka in particular), their decision to recycle earlier plot points made the issue feel a bit stale. In addition to the bit that was taken from “The Warriors of Kyoshi,” Penga’s crush on Sokka was similar to Meng’s crush on Aang from “The Fortuneteller.”
Not to mention the fact that the whole ‘plucky band of misfits get their act together and beat the bad guys’ storyline is about as fresh as week-old cantaloupe. The whole thing felt filler, but at least the third and final issue looks promising.