This review contains spoilers for The Search Part One, the first book in the graphic novel trilogy.
In the second installment of THE SEARCH, a graphic novel series set months after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fire Lord Zuko continues his search for his mother, Ursa, accompanied by the Avatar, his companions Katara and Sokka, and – unfortunately for the rest of the group – Zuko’s unstable sister, Azula. The group reaches Ursa’s hometown, Hira’a, and attempts to discover what happened to Ursa and her lover, Ikem.
It’s important to mention THE SEARCH PART ONE revealed that Zuko was not actually the son of Fire Lord Ozai. The revelation has divided fans, and I’m in the camp that easily accepted the explanation that Zuko was fathered by Ikem. Those who didn’t accept it very well or thought it was detrimental to the characters will find this book less enjoyable than I did.
PART TWO features the writing of Gene Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints) and the art of Gurihiru. The storytelling style of the graphic novel switches from Zuko’s current point of view to flashbacks of what happened to Ursa from her own point of view, which makes for an interesting reader experience. In PART TWO, the flashbacks are used to tell much of the story for the reader to understand, though Zuko and Azula don’t learn the same information.
Gurihiru’s lovely full-color art, which is extremely similar to that of the show, makes the graphic novel great for returning fans. In terms of character design, though, there are some inconsistencies between the art of the graphic novel and the corresponding characters’ designs at the end of A:TLA Book 3, which is a minor but annoying detail to overlook.
THE SEARCH doesn’t address issues of post-colonialism and cultural appropriation the way THE PROMISE did, but the series doesn’t shy away from difficult topics: the flashbacks handle Ursa’s tense relationship with the abusive and manipulative Ozai without reducing her to a victim.
While THE SEARCH trilogy is about Zuko and Azula searching for their mother, PART TWO is about Zuko searching for his true identity and whether he deserves – or even wants – to be the Fire Lord. The external view of Zuko’s internal struggle is apparent from his interactions with Aang, and his struggle with his relationship with Azula contrasts sharply against the loving relationship between Sokka and Katara.
Fans of ATLA will also take note of how this installment continues to address the fan-favorite mystery of what happened to Zuko’s mother, Ursa. Without spoiling anything, I can safely say THE SEARCH PART TWO offers readers an explanation of where Ursa disappeared to – as well as where Zuko and Azula may find her if they connect all the right dots.
Though this volume isn’t as conclusive or question-answering as readers like myself would prefer, it remains interesting enough for readers to get excited about PART THREE, which will be out October 30 this year.
4 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano is the founder and editor in chief of Girls in Capes and writes for all sections of the web magazine. She is an avid fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.