Friday, July 13, 2012
Graphic Novel Reviews: Avatar the Last Airbender - The Promise Part 2
I've been putting off writing this review, because I like to maintain a professional tone in my reviews. And for the first few weeks after reading this book, I would not have been able to get beyond incoherent rambling. Fortunately I now feel calm and collected enough to be able to discuss why exactly The Promise Part 2 made me so angry.
First of all keep in mind that while I denounce shipping in all its forms, I myself was once a shipper. And one of the series I was most passionate about was Avatar: The Last Airbender. But unlike the mainstream Zutara and Kataang shippers I was the hipster of the shipping scene. I was Maiko all the way.
You hear that sound? That's the sound of everyone who read this book realizing where I'm going with this. For those of you that are trying to back out of this review, don't worry, I'm going to keep this professional. There won't be any fanboy ranting, just reasonable discussion as to why The Promise Part 2 is...not a very good comic.
First of all, let me talk about what I enjoyed. Sokka and Toph's story was entertaining, overall, but felt entirely out of place. With how fast the story moves overall, it feels that the story of how Toph started spreading metalbending just doesn't fit in. It splits the story into three parts. Zuko's part, Aang and Katara's part, and Sokka and Toph's part. Two of those arcs are connected to each other, but Toph's is not. The time could have been spent developing the overall story, rather than spending far too much time distracted from the central conflict.
This would have been less of a problem if not for Toph's students. Now, on their own they are fine, but it's what they mean to the story overall that bothers me. While they are poorly developed and characterized stereotypes, the three students do still get a lot of time in the story.
At the same time, attention is diverted away from the characters readers care about, with a three page scene devoted to Kori, Gene Yang's original character, and Sneers, a character I can safely say nobody in the fandom gave two craps about, because we had no idea who he was! And yet, over the course of two books, Mai, a character I was fond of in the original series, gets about two pages. One of those pages is used on her breaking up with Zuko. The other page was in no way used to foreshadow or develop the idea that she intended to break up with Zuko.
Consider this, Mai, a character from the original series, and one I'm sure there were fans of besides me, gets less time than Yang's OCs, and less time than Sneers. I had to rewatch season one to find out where he came from! Why would anyone think I want to see a romantic scene for him!?
I am offended not just as a fan of Mai and Maiko, but as a fan of the series. I'm reading what is supposed to continue the story of the characters I love, and instead I get to read about how one of my favorites is being horribly represented, and characters that had nothing to do with the show at all. This isn't a continuation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender story, it's a fanfiction I had to pay for! Complete with OCs and Mary Sues. This...is not a faithful representation of what the show was.
While I'm sure many would reject my opinion as the rantings of a sore shipper, but I honestly dislike what's happened here as just a fan of Mai. She was poorly represented, and reduced to a plot point. She's only there to make life harder for Zuko, and without any proper development. It's just not satisfying. Were all the new characters, and the one character nobody, repeat nobody cared about more important than a character that actually showed up for more than two seconds in the original show?
Allow me to end this review with an analogy for how this book treats the fans of Maiko. Imagine, if you would, that a baker gave you the most perfect pastry ever. Soft, light dough, filled with vanilla pudding and topped with whipped cream, raspberries, and white chocolate shavings. Imagine that you eat it, but a few hours later the baker says, "I want my pastry back."
"But," you say. "I can't give it back, I ate it. Our transaction has been concluded."
To which the baker responds by reaching up your behind and pulling the partially digested pastry out. Leaving you with a violated ass, and the baker with shit stained fingers.
That is what this book is like. It took something that was resolved, something fans thought was certain, and would have remained certain if not for this series, and it destroyed it. And for what? A poorly written attempt at drama, that's what.
And that is why I've been upset ever since reading Part 2. I imagine that shippers are just as upset over this as I am, but what do those without an investment in the ship think? Do you think it's fine? What about how Mai, a character from the show, was treated, given less preference than unimportant background characters* that failed to be in the background more than once? What is your opinion?
*I mean, seriously, was putting Sneers in the story so important? What exactly about him impressed you Gene Yang? Was it the way he perhaps did absolutely nothing that left such an impression that you had to expand his story? Did anyone else, literally anyone ever care enough to even remember who he was? I'm honestly intrigued, because it makes no sense!
Normally I'd put a link to Amazon here...but yeah, not doing that this time.