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The Last Airbender Prequel: Zuko's Story
Avatar Wikia; Wikipedia

Caution: potential spoilers.

This is a prequel to the movie The Last Airbender (which is itself based on the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender). The movie was rather disappointing, but this manga story wasn't bad. I guess it came out about a month before the movie, but I didn't pick it up til after seeing the movie. I wasn't sure if I should bother, after being disappointed by the movie, but... I couldn't help it, and I'm glad I did get it, after all. It's nothing too special, and I'm not sure if it can be considered canon within either the continuity of the movie or the series, but... it's okay. I should mention that the manga has both Zuko and Azula looking more like they do in the series than in the movie, though it has Iroh looking as he does in the movie.

Basically, the story starts with Zuko's banishment from the Fire Nation. It tells how Iroh joined him (along with Lt. Jee, who had been seen in the series; he's the one who actually put a crew together for Iroh and Zuko). It goes on to show us some of Zuko's search for the Avatar (which lasted nearly three years, so we don't get to see quite everything). There are things that are familiar from the series: a flashback in season 3 showed Zuko and Iroh at the Western Air Temple, and we see that here. We also see the Eastern Air Temple, where they run into Guru Pathik, who Aang met in season 2. And we see them at the Fire Sages' temple, which Aang visited in season 1. Zuko also meets a thief/actor named Hong Shen, who masqueraded as "the Red Spirit" while committing his crimes (which actually were to fight a corrupt Fire Nation commander). He was responsible for Zuko becoming the Blue Spirit (as seen in both season 1 and the movie). This Hong Shen, I think, is a completely new character, and the main element of the story whose potential canonical status I question. Well, I'm leaving out a few minor things which are somewhat interesting, certainly in regard to the movie and possibly the series. But the story ends with Zuko seeing the light as Aang is released from the ice at the start of the movie.

In any event, the story does a much better job of portraying Zuko's character and internal struggle than the movie does, including his complicated relationship with Iroh. I rather suspect that if one read this story before seeing the movie, they might actually like the movie a bit more, or at least better apprciate Zuko's position. And I wonder if there might be other prequels forthcoming... I wouldn't mind seeing one for Aang and one for Sokka & Katara. And I guess that's all I can think to say....


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