Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke & Shadow - Review
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
In today’s all-new action-packed installment of Avatar, we give you Smoke and Shadow written by none other than Gene Luen Yang. Of course, these comics come in three separate books, but I read the omnibus for this review.
There is a lot to unpack with this chapter. There are plots of a coup whispering around town by a group named the New Ozai Society to take down Fire Lord Zuko for his deposed father. And surprise surprise, the leader of this group, is the father of Zuko’s ex-girlfriend, Mai. Whaaaat?! He also appears to be in cahoots with a band of malevolent spirits known as the Kemurikage that likes to kidnap children when they sleep. This all couldn’t have come in the worst time, as Zuko brings his newfound mother and her family to the Fire Nation for the first time since her banishment. With the help of Aang, Zuko tries to solve the mystery behind the missing children, which all comes to heed with an epic plot twist that’s sure to keep you on your toes. This is better than reality tv!
I’m starting to like the transformation of Zuko’s arc in the ATLA series. We see him growing well into his role as Fire Lord. He looks more confident and authoritative than in The Promise. Him being the good guy suites him well. Of course, he has his faults, but he’s human enough to address them to a crowd if he feels he stepped out of bounds.
I’m also starting to enjoy the mother of the Fire Lord, Ursa’s story. After being banished from the Fire Nation and ultimately giving up her life (and face), I’m glad she’s taking the steps towards proper healing. She has had a rough experience, and I see she’s trying to reintroduce herself in Fire Nation society to support her son. Along with trying to reintroduce herself to the new atmosphere, she also has to reintroduce herself to her youngest daughter. Kiyi has been distant ever since her mother came back home with a “new” face and didn’t trust her “new mom.” Ursa had a lot to unpack coping with her trauma, but eventually, she learned to confront its source.
Smoke and Shadow shows the reality of how people cooperate with change. Some people grasp it, and others try to fight it. Mai’s dad is the perfect example of being stubborn to change. One of his gripes was losing power against other nations. At least with Ozai, the country wouldn’t be viewed as weak. Fear was the driving factor behind the Fire Nation’s 100-year long success. I don’t think Papa Mai’s dislike for Zuko stems from his thoughts on him not being strong enough to handle these oppositions, but from the emotion of fear being rejected as a motivation to grow as a nation in the new era. After all, Papa Mai was a high-ranking official that doesn’t have a “lesser nation” to rule over anymore.
What I’m learning from this entire series is that as much as people want change for the better, they still fear the changes that can make it better. We’ll probably see more of this in the latest ATLA edition with the next book North and South.
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