It’s necessary to get this out of the way: if you’ve seen and enjoyed the animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, upon which this book is based, then you’ll find a lot to like here. If you haven’t experienced the show before (and I strongly urge you to), this book will likely do nothing for you, other than offer the most superficial glimpse of truly deep characters by way of some wonderful eye-candy. This book, subtitled The Lost Adventures, is comprised of a series of potentially unseen vignettes and serves as supplemental material to the show. If you jump into it without being familiar with the universe beforehand, the disjointed nature of these seemingly inconsequential escapades will likely fly over your head. For the uninitiated, The Last Airbender features individuals with the innate ability to manipulate one of the four basic elements of water, earth, fire, and air, with the Avatar being the only one capable of wielding all four. In an effort to achieve their goal of world domination, the despotic Fire Nation slaughters the entire civilization of peaceful Air Nomads, save for one who escaped: a young boy, the last airbender, who also happens to be the Avatar. The main series follows his effort to master all of the elements and stop the Fire Nation’s tyranny.
These short comics were published in the now-defunct Nickelodeon Magazine to coincide with the original airing of the series and, as a run of complementary, miscellaneous side stories, it was necessary for them to not interfere with the main storyline. (Really, the only problem is that, if you have watched the show in its entirety, you’re aware of how events will canonically transpire, and these comics can’t contradict that, making the resolutions here predictable.) To compensate, these particular accounts are high on fan service by allotting cameo appearances to some of the show’s one-off characters, with one even featuring a person often referenced, but never before seen. Consequently, many of them may feel like empty calories. Luckily, that’s hardly the case.
The show is full of time-skips, where days and even weeks at a time aren’t chronicled on-screen and, fortunately, a lot of the forward narrative movement glossed over in certain episodes is detailed here. The meatier stories, at worst, offer minor correlations and references to the main quest and, at best, they actually add deeper layers to character relationships. In a small bit of irony, one character actually plants the seeds of her own downfall in this book, with it coming to fruition in the show’s final episodes.
The final section of the book is dedicated to a small handful of bonus stories and concept art. The former, illustrated in different styles and featuring nonsensical situations, have no bearing on the overall story at all, but function as fun, tongue-in-cheek diversions. The latter serves as a paltry promotion for The Art of the Animated Series (a hefty, involved, and altogether meaningful look into the creation of the universe).
Considering that this collection includes comics published over the span of around three years, and that they feature several different artists, the art and storytelling are surprisingly consistent. A few sections veer away from the norm, like the dialogue-less “Fruit-Stand Freestyle,” but this just emphasizes how well storyboarded the comics are throughout the compilation.
This is what it boils down to: if you’re familiar with the stellar source material to which this book appends and have not read these short comics when they were originally published, you will discover a substantial amount of relevant material to tide you over until this summer’s long-awaited return to the Avatar universe. Otherwise, watch the show, then buy this book. The Lost Adventures is essential reading.
TL;DR: Many of the tales collected here appear to be little more than inconsequential fluff. However, for the knowing fan, these side stories provide a welcome return to simpler moments in the epic series, as well as the opportunity to broaden character understanding.
Avatar: the Last Airbender - The Lost Adventures is a compilation of short tales by various authors and illustrators that supplements the main series created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. Published by Dark Horse, you can ask for it, and many other new Avatar books printed by Dark Horse, at your local comic book shop, or, support Spandexless by purchasing through our Amazon web store.