avatar promise

2

The Avatar State 

Katara: Can we talk about something?
Aang: Sure.
Katar: Do you remember when we were at the air temple and you found Monk Gyatso’s skeleton? It must have been so horrible and traumatic for you. I saw you get so upset that you weren’t even you anymore. I’m not saying the Avatar State doesn’t have incredible and helpful power but, you have to understand .for the people who love you, watching you be in that much rage and pain is really scary.
Aang: I’m really glad you told me that, but I still need to do this.
Katara: I don’t understand.
Aang: No, you don’t. Every day, more and more people die. I’m already one hundred years late. Defeating the Firelord is the only way to stop this war. I have to try it.
Katara: I can’t watch you do this to yourself. I’m not coming tomorrow.

The Promise 

Mai: So the Firelord has returned.
Zuko: Mai! The mob outside Yu Dao is gone. For now, at least, the Fire Nation citizens there are safe.
Mai: You left without saying anything to me! I had to find out where you were from official edicts your soldiers posted around the capital!
Zuko: …
Mai: You’re doing it again, Zuko. If you’re having problems, you’re supposed to talk to me. I’m your girlfriend.
Zuko: You’re right. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.
Mai: You’ve been having trouble sleeping.
Zuko: How …?
Mai: Have you looked in the mirror lately? 

Mai: I know you’ve been secretly meeting with Ozai.
Zuko: Mai! Who did you hear that from?
Mai: Does it matter? Not from you.
Zuko: I know I keep screwing up. But please…I…I love you, Mai.
Mai: I know. But lately I’ve realized that you love your secrets more. You’ll have an easier time keeping them when you’re alone.
Zuko:  What are you telling me?
Mai: Goodbye, Fire Lord.

2

Katara, you have advanced more quickly than any student I have ever trained. You have proven that with fierce determination, passion and hard work you can accomplish anything.

        Can we talk about Mai for a second? For most of Avatar she acts apathetic and nonchalant, sort of fitting into the ‘Emotionless Girl’ trope. Almost all of her plot significance is due to her relationships with the royal family of the fire nation, with both Zuko and Azula. She’s an evil sidekick, then a love interest. Her and Ty Lee have a somewhat comical friendship. We see her apathetic, but then we see her struggle to communicate. She’s the quiet, loyal friend despite her complaining. She’s the one who can deal with Zuko’s moods the best (other than Uncle Iroh who can deal with anything). She’s still self contained, but that she puts extra effort in for people she cares about.

       ‘The Boiling Rock’ is where she really steps out of her apathy. She confronts Azula, and her feelings, head on and is willing to pay the price. Thankfully Ty Lee is around to save the day. While we don’t see either of them until the end of the series, their actions are felt by Azula and are a considerable part of what leads to her eventual breakdown. After rotting in jail for a few episodes Mai and Ty Lee are set free. Mai hooks up with her favourite fire lord, Ty Lee makes friends with the Kyoshi warriors, and all is well in the world of Avatar.

       Very funny. Characters don’t change just because the show’s over so it makes sense for their issues to be showcased in the comics. As we see in ‘The Promise’. Mai’s not always the best with her emotions so she tries to communicate with Zuko but doesn’t always have the emotional prowess to get her point across. Zuko, well, he stews in his own angst. Mai feels like she’s doing all the work in the relationship, and she’s not entirely wrong. She craves the communication they both lack the ability to have. She keeps her air of nonchalance most of the time, but we as an audience know she’s hurt, and at some level so does she. So she stands up for herself and leaves. It hurts her, but she knows she has to do it.

         Then we get ‘Rebound’. Mai is living with her aunt and little brother. She’s not over Zuko, but she’s able to tune her feelings out enough to get through the day. Kei Lo comes along, and she’s willing to try something new. She’s not feeling it, but she knows she needs the distraction. Aaaaand it’s a trap. Her dad’s become a fanatic of the New Ozai society, and they try to kidnap Tom-Tom. It’s every bad memory hitting her at once. What does she do? Rescue her brother and get the hell out of there. More and more we get to see her motivations and mental processes. No matter how upset she is at Zuko, she knows he’s the only fire lord who can save the country from corruption. Even at a high personal cost she believes in him.

        ‘Smoke and Shadows’ came out and Mai is anything but emotionless in it. She charms Kei Lo for information, plans a counter attack agains the New Ozai society and follows through with it, defends Zuko, confronts her father, makes peace with Kei Lo, and protects her family to the best of her ability. She keeps a cool head and is able to compartmentalize. But she cares. She has all along, and now we finally get to see her express it. I hate when people say she has no character development, if anything I’d say she’s growing into a foil for Katara (I’m dying to see those two interact). I honestly cannot wait for the rest of these comics.

The Freedom Fighters are such great characters. In an early draft, I had Jet here alongside Smellerbee, Longshot, and Sneers. I thought his fate was ambiguous enough that he could be brought back. (And Sokka agrees with me. Take a look at “The Ember Island Players.”) Nope. The world of Avatar is not the Marvel universe. Here, dead means dead.
—  Gene Luen Yang, The Promise (commentary)