The Last Airbender: Prequel: Zuko's Story Paperback – May 18 2010
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About the Author
Dave Roman is the creator of the graphic novel series Astronaut Academy and Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery. He has contributed stories to Comic Squad: Recess!, Explorer: The Lost Islands, and is the co-author of two New York Times bestselling graphic novels, X-Men: Misfits and The Last Airbender: Zuko s Story. He is also the writer of Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden, which he co-created with John Green when they were students at the School of Visual Arts. Dave worked as an editor for the groundbreaking Nickelodeon magazine and lives in New York City with his wife and fellow cartoonist, Raina Telgemeier. See more of Dave s work at www.yaytime.com
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Top Customer Reviews
I have not seen this movie, though I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan movies even when the critics trash them. I have watched the cartoon some years ago when my son was younger, it was one of his favourites but he no longer watches it and while I saw it I must admit to not really paying attention to the overall plot. This is to say I'm coming to the book with very little knowledge, except knowing about the Avatar.
From what I can gather this is simply a very short story of how and why Zuko was banished to find the Avatar and follows him on the first stages of that journey. It is really the story of how he changed from a spoilt, selfish, youngster with no feelings for anyone but himself into a more mature person who is learning to respect others and how his feelings of contempt for his uncle gradually change to honour. It is an interesting, exciting story but definitely aimed at the movie audience. The book ends mid-action with a to-be-continued and there is a follow-up manga of the movie. The book is shorter than the number of pages indicate also as a good portion of the last pages are "Bonus Material" showing a manga writer's script on one page and the artist's sketches from the script on the other.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Zuko's Story centers on the eponymous prince, clarifying parts of his past and answering a few questions. It's cleverly written in a way to make it canonically feasible for both the series and the movie, and you'll even find the character designs mixing between the two. Zuko is written to be just as frustrating and angry as he is for the majority of the series. Azula is an evil little wretch. Iroh is a pleasant combination of his movie and series self - if he had his series design, you probably couldn't tell the difference. If you hate the movie and love the series, don't snub this book.
There are two irritating points though. The artwork is adequate but it's sparse and sketchy, very light on tones, and the artist has some problems rendering fire (or maybe she wasn't paid enough to dedicate time to punching up pages, I don't know). Finally, with a retail price of eleven dollars, the book is entirely too short to cost as much as it does. I would not pay that and recommend buying from Amazon.
Unfortunately, it *is* tied in to the film, which is one of its substantial drawbacks. The film versions of Zuko and Iroh are actually much less of a distraction than I expected, thanks to Nina Matsumoto's fantastic work with expressions and the fact that the writers largely nail the characters' voices. Uncle Iroh works especially well, while Zuko, though rather generic design-wise, thankfully has a visible scar, and does look amusingly close to his season three self on occasion. On the other hand, the need for firebenders to have an outside source of fire to draw on, also a detail from the film, was more annoying than I'd anticipated: Matsumoto does her best to make it look as organic as possible, but there's always the niggling thought that it's just as well there was a lantern or whatever handy.
The other big problem is the length. The manga is largely a character piece, which is all to the good: the interaction between Zuko and his uncle was one of the great pleasures of the original series, and the creative team here manage to do it justice without slipping into sentimentality - no small feat given the subject matter. As such, though, it thrives on more meditative moments, which are just the kind of thing manga is great at providing. So it's a pity that there wasn't room for, say, a few pages of scene-setting, or of Zuko and Iroh drinking tea or eating together - the sort of thing the tv series got a lot of mileage out of whenever it was able to fit it in. As it is, the manga is really a series of brief vignettes, with not enough pauses for breath in between to properly ground the world and the characters.
Having said that, the world is very much that of the animated series - ironically, given the film's racebending, a lot of the Fire Nation incidental characters look even more specifically Japanese than in the original. Matsumoto's work is great - clear, energetic and unfussy, with a lot of solid blacks. Some of it does feel a bit rushed, but I'll definitely be seeking out her other stuff after this. And Matsumoto does a lot to keep the tone from getting too angst-ridden, as well: she has a great line in Zuko's trademark teenage stomping, and her Iroh is often hilarious.
All this adds up to a slightly odd artifact which certainly doesn't stand on its own, but which works very well as a footnote to the animated series - it's got some nice easter eggs for fans, and it does some particularly interesting work with the great villain Azula. There are also some 'making of' pages padding it out at the back, which are fun: it's especially good to get a look at the script. For a movie tie-in which deals with Zuko at his woobiest, it's a really solid piece, very much better than it needed to be. It's a pity that this creative team didn't get a chance to get to grips with this material without space constraints and the need to fit in with the movie holding them back.