I haven’t had the opportunity to talk about Avatar: The Last Airbender in a review before now. Generally considered one of the greatest cartoons of all time, The Last Airbender has seen no shortage of success in its brief fourteen-year history. From a popular followup series, to a solid continuation of the narrative in graphic novels like Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search and The Rift, to a universally panned live-action film, The Last Airbender has continued to live long after the show concluded. Which brings us to Avatar: The Last Airbender: Team Avatar Tales.
If you’ve never heard of this show, the opening of each episode perfectly sums up the premise: “Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed, and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang, and although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world.”
Team Avatar Tales is an anthology collection of miscellaneous stories relating to the main cast, lovingly called the Avatar Team, reminiscent of the episode, “Tales of Ba Sing Se,” from the show itself. Most of the tales are cute one-offs, with two, “Shells” and “Origami,” diving into slightly deeper messages. Perhaps for that reason, “Shells” and “Origami” stood out to me as the best stories in the collection. The rest are good, but a bit forgettable. I found myself double checking my notes when trying to remember what happens in them.
On the other hand, each story does a good job of representing the avatar cast. (Although I do feel like writers ignore that Toph is blind until it’s relevant to the plot, and fan favorite, Zuko, is tragically missing from this collection.) Sokka, in particular, gets to shine in shorts like this. Without magical powers like the rest of the team, Sokka often relies on simple solutions and slapstick comedy which fits a short format perfectly.
Visually speaking, the stories vary wildly from each other. Some take on a style similar to the show, while others possess very diverse styles. The Scarecrow, in particular, seems strongly inspired by the work of Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts fame. Whether you like the artwork in each story may be mostly down to personal taste; they’re all perfectly serviceable and retain the saturated, anime-cartoon fusion of the original show.
Team Avatar Tales feels like a victory lap for The Last Airbender. Nothing new is said that we didn’t know or couldn’t infer, but these stories are meant to give us more time with one of the most beloved casts to ever be put to screen. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Team Avatar Tales succeeds in being a fun, upbeat romp with the Avatar gang and possibly even a good way to start introducing The Last Airbender to young audiences who might not be ready for a heavily plot-driven show. I personally recommend “Toph and the Boulder” and “The Scarecrow” for young children.
Creative Team: Gene Luen Yang (Writer/Artist), Dave Scheidt (Writer), Sara Goetter (Writer/Artist), Ron Koertge (Writer), Ron Koertge (Writer), Kiku Hughes (Writer), Faith Erin Hicks (Artist), Ryan Hill (Artist), Carla Speed McNeil (Artist), Johane Matte (Artist), and Sara DuVall (Artist)
Publisher: Dark Horse
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