Goodreads: Smoke and Shadow
Series: Smoke and Shadow (3 volumes)
Although it has been awhile since Zuko took control of the Fire Nation, he continues to face opposition from citizens still loyal to Ozai. Then mysterious dark spirits demand Zuko’s death. The price if the people fail to remove him: their children will disappear. Zuko and Aang must address this new threat fast, before everything they worked to build crumbles.
Disclaimer: I checked out all three volumes of the story from the library and read them at once, so my review is focused on discussing the overall story, rather than evaluating each volume for pacing and such individually.
Smoke and Fire is the fourth graphic novel trilogy set after the events of the Avatar TV series. It drops readers into the heart of the Fire Nation, revealing some of the nation’s history while showcasing the threats Zuko continues to face as the new Fire Lord. Like any Avatar story, however, the focus here is often on family and friendship, not just an action-packed plot.
While fans might be skeptical that the graphic novels would have the heart of the show, their fears will be unfounded. One only has to read the characters’ dialogue with their voices and personality quirks from the animated series, and the books immediately come alive. Katara and Sokka make only a brief appearance in this series (though I’m okay with that, considering how mushy Katara and Aang can be together), but just about every other fan favorite character will be back. Iroh particularly is the start of this installment, in my opinion.
Though the graphic novels sometimes seem to rely too heavily on creating conflict between Aang’s and Zuko’s ruling styles, the plot in Smoke and Shadow seems believable to me in a way the plot of The Promise did not. It’s quite reasonable that Zuko would face opposition from citizens who were loyal to Ozai or who simply are resistant to change and feel things must have been better for the Fire Nation before. The conflict here is real, and this time the reasons Zuko and Aang disagree with how to deal with it also seem plausible, rather than a cheap attempt by the writers to create some drama.
I enjoyed learning more about Fire Nation history and seeing some of my favorite characters spring into action once again. These, rather than The Legend of Korra, are the sequels fan of The Last Airbender will want.