How well did you think the North and South comics treated the themes of progress? And Katara's character.
think this time, they honestly tried to do justice to both those things. You
can see the effort to restrain Aαng’s
impact on the main plot so that Katara can take center stage. Her moral dilemma is about
her people, instead of her boyfriend, and she is the focal point of the debate
on whether the South should progress and industrialize, as well as whether she can accept a new mother figure into her life.
But the talent just isn’t there.
me preface this by saying, for a comic book geared toward the 9-12 age bracket,
this is definitely above average. As far as quality in relation to the A:TLA
canon, it’s about on par with “The Great Divide”. And I don’t say that as an
insult, because “The Great Divide” is still better in animation, music, and
execution than most of the kids’ fare out there. It just doesn’t make that leap to full complexity that the original show usually took. Let’s take a peek.
no cheating. Please recall the names of the main antagonist, Hakoda’s love interest,
and her brother from “North and South”. Having trouble? My guess is you had
much better luck with Joo Dee and Long Feng when they were introduced. OK, step
two: please name as many character traits for each of these people as you can.
Not physical traits or occupations: personality traits that stood out to you.
My guess is that you can’t name more than one per character. OK, step three:
please name your favorites lines that these characters spoke. I’d be very
surprised if you could even name one! And remember, these are characters that
have been with us through three entire comics.
the problem here? The problem is that these characters are not complex or
memorable, and the dialogue is uninspired. Honestly, the two waterbending girls
are more compelling than any of the adult characters. You can say the same
thing in “The Great Divide” about the Gan Jin and Zhang leaders: they
are restricted to one major character trait, and one motivation.
The nearest we get to a well-rounded character is Malina, but even she’s a wash. Tell me: does anyone feel so inspired by these characters that they want to write fanfic about them? Will there be an outpouring of fanart because they are so beloved? Will people be cosplaying them and looking up to them as role models, or creating intricate backstories for them on tumblr? Will people say, “Oh, I identify so deeply with this character’s struggles because …” ? Compare these characters to Jet, Hama, Koh, Jin … any minor character from the original series. They just don’t have that spark.
characterization. In “The Great Divide”, Sokka is on one side of the struggle;
Katara is on the other. There is no middle ground. The episode just sticks the
characters with the label “Zhang” and “Gan Jin” and every action they take is
defined from there. Likewise, in “North and South” Katara is stuck with the “past”
label, and Sokka is stuck with the “future” label, with no nuance at all until
the very end. And please note that this is the same exact thing that happened
to Toph and Aαng already in “The Rift”, where Aαng
wanted to return to tradition while Toph wanted to forge ahead into the future.
So not only are the themes incredibly binary; they are also redundant within
the comics universe.
what Sokka? In “Jet”, Sokka got his first real taste of leadership
and being taken seriously by the narrative. He grew from comic buffoon to
full-fledged secondary character. But in “The Great Divide”, he regresses to nothing
more than a cardboard cutout whose characterization is left to the whims of the
plot. He has no impact on the overall story.
and South”, while Sokka does take part in the action and helps inform Katara’s
character development, this isn’t his story at all. Because the narrative has
decided that he is “right” and that the South should move forward into the
future, he never has a moment where his worldview gets challenged. He tells
Katara that the idyllic Southern Water Tribe she remembers might not have
actually existed—which is a good point! But why didn’t Katara point out that
the future Sokka envisions might not
exist either? Again, we had three whole comics, and not one of them focused
on Sokka as the protagonist. This isn’t to say that Katara should have less
screentime, figuratively speaking; it’s that Katara and Sokka should never have had to fight for the spotlight in the comics in the first place! The whole A:TLA
saga began with them. Having a comic
centered on Katara and Sokka helps, but does not make up for, their lack of
characterization and agency elsewhere in the series. And the worst part is that
since Katara’s only chance to shine comes when she’s away from Aαng,
this confirms everything anti-shippers have ever told us about the Kαtααng pairing. Aαng’s
presence in Katara’s storyline is detrimental to her characterization and
development, consistently, and this comic does nothing to change that.
Aang is a bit of an enigma for me. He does not eat meat and he barely tries to get his friends to stop too. He goes on about forgiveness but he destroyed the sandbenders gliders and never asks for Toph's forgiveness. He is antiviolence but kills the vulture wasp. He lies to the Zhang and Gan Jin tribe so the peace HE wants occurs. I love this boy but he is severely morally screwed and it's not addressed. He doesn't have strong enough values to change the world, he just wants to be left out of it
Ok, so remember my last post? This time I’m going in the other direction.
Aang isn’t an enigma; Aang is human. As a vegetarian, he isn’t under an obligation to try and get his friends from other cultures to adopt his own; it’s not as if vegetarianism is a religion where you have a mandate to go out and convert the masses. His actions in “The Desert” were harmful, and were shown to be so, because he had just lost one of his only remaining connections to his people. However, they went against the grain of his normal character. When you are consistently against violence in your daily life, the occasional mistake doesn’t mean you are suddenly a violent person. And if he lies to preserve the peace between two warring tribes, well, there are many worse reasons to lie than that.
Aang is no more morally screwed up than your average person—in fact, he’s considerably less so. Now, I personally think that A:TLA could have taken a closer look at Aang’s reluctance to see other points of view on moral issues, and that he could have developed more in that direction, but that doesn’t invalidate the number of times he risked his life to stand up for his beliefs, his nation, and his friends.
And one more thing: his values inarguably did change the world. Even if you think the Lion Turtle was a deus ex machina and that the story excused him from having to kill Ozai, his kindness toward Zuko kept the door open for Zuko to join him and reform the Fire Nation. I’ve said before that I don’t hate Aang, and that’s still true; I just wanted more from his character, especially as the protagonist of the show.