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This new three-part adventure follows Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph as they return to Earthen Fire Industries—the factory owned by Toph's father—and Team Avatar find that the once-small town of Cranefish is now booming. Expecting a warm welcome, Aang is surprised when their arrival is met with disinterest and even open hostility. At a business council meeting, the reason for the slight becomes clear: A massive bender versus non-bender conflict has gripped the town's inhabitants, and is threatening to turn violent!
As Team Avatar flies to Yu Dao on Appa, Toph convinces Aang to stop at Earthen Fire Industries on the way so that she can talk to her father, much to the chagrin of Sokka, who is looking forward to seeing Suki. Toph claims that she needs to check on things and that she has a lot of responsibility as an executive partner of the company. She warns the rest of the group that Cranefish Town - the settlement that Earthen Fire Industries is based in - has changed a lot since the group last visited it, with Katara surprised that the settlement is now considered a town. Toph goes on to state that Cranefish is not even so much a town anymore, but got bigger. The group arrive and see that, sure enough, Cranefish Town is now expanded to the size of a city. Aang struggles to believe what he is seeing, and Katara asks if he is okay, knowing that the site used to be important to the Air Nomads. Aang replies that he is not sure, stating that it is like the town just expanded overnight. Sokka spots a place where Appa can land and becomes disappointed when the townspeople are indifferent to the group's arrival, even after Aang greets the townspeople and, at Sokka's urging, performs his airbending marbles trick.
Lao Beifong welcomes the group, and Toph goes to greet him, but Lao merely thanks her for bringing Aang to Cranefish Town in its hour of need. Confused, Toph tells her father that she thought he wanted to see her for business-related reasons, and while Lao assures her that he is always happy to see her, Cranefish Town currently needs Aang's wisdom and guidance. He explains to Aang that as a result of Cranefish Town's expansion, there are now dozens of factories besides the Earthen Fire Refinery there, as well as new challenges to deal with. Aang asks about these challenges, and Lao informs him that since Cranefish Town currently has no official government, he and other business owners have formed a committee known as the "Business Council" to manage the city's growth. After Sokka questions this choice of name, Aang agrees to Lao's suggestion that he attend the council meeting being held that afternoon, in order to hear about Cranefish Town's issues for himself.
After Sokka complains about now having to wait even longer before he can see Suki, he is distracted when he sees a Southern Water Tribe helmet being sold at a market stall. He considers buying it, but before he can do so, the stall owner sees a brawl about to break out between a gang of earthbenders and a gang of firebenders, and hurriedly closes the stall. Aang attempts to peacefully negotiate an end to the fight, only for Toph to forcibly separate the two sides and start attacking the gang members. An earthbender gets knocked into one of the new buildings during the fight, damaging it and forcing Toph to use her bending to keep it from collapsing. She calls on Aang to help her, and Aang flies in on his glider and carries her away, allowing the building to fall down. Toph clarifies that she wanted help holding up the building, but Aang replies that the building was already destroyed, and that whoever built it had done a poor job.
Aang and Toph return to Katara and Sokka, learning from the former that no-one was hurt in the collapse, but that both gangs escaped into the city while she was helping to evacuate the destroyed building. Lao approaches Aang and states that fighting between benders has become a serious problem in the city, and that he needs Aang's authority as the Avatar to deal with it. Aang replies that he thought Lao wanted his "wisdom and guidance", and Lao states that he needs everything Aang can offer. Aang reiterates his agreement to attend the Business Council meeting, though he insists on first helping the people who lost their homes in the building's collapse. He and Toph offer to repair the building, but their help is rejected, one woman telling them that she and the others do not want to have their home repaired by benders after it was destroyed by benders. Aang reluctantly accepts this, and Lao assures him that he is already helping by agreeing to attend the meeting, and that he may have a solution to end the bender violence in the city. Toph declines to attend the meeting, wanting to see if Satoru has come up with any new inventions since her last visit, and Katara agrees to join her. Sokka decides to attend the meeting, wanting to see how the business council works, and Team Avatar go their separate ways.
While travelling through the streets to the city hall for the meeting, Aang again notes how much Cranefish Town has grown in such a short time. Lao explains that many people have come to the city to find work, but that the factories are unable to employ everyone, and as a result, some benders have resorted to using their skills to make money through dishonest means, including robbing non-benders. They arrive soon afterward, and Lao repeats that he has a plan to stop the conflict. Entering the meeting room for the Business Council, Sokka quickly notices that the benders and non-benders are sat on separate sides of the room, and points this out to Aang, who wonders why the council would be divided in such a way. As the meeting gets underway, Lao reveals his plan to be a ban of public bending. Aang is taken off guard by this proposal, and one of the bender council members claims that benders should be free to use their abilities however they want, with another accusing Lao of having an anti-bender agenda. In response, one of the non-bender council members asks the benders how they would solve the problem, stating that she is afraid to walk through her own neighborhood at night. As the meeting breaks down into an argument between the two sides, Sokka remarks to Aang that they now know why the council are so divided.
Meanwhile, Toph and Katara arrive at the now larger Earthen Fire Industries factory, where they are greeted by Satoru, who agrees to show them around. As they head inside, Katara notices a pair of people dressed like Lao's bodyguards, whom Satoru explains are guards hired to deal with break-ins at the factory. Katara asks what happened to the old guards, but Satoru merely claims that it is complicated. Satoru shows them the factory's new, far more advanced and efficient production line, but Katara soon notices that there are no more benders working in the factory. Satoru again claims that the reason for this is complicated, prompting Toph to ask for a more detailed explanation. Satoru tells her that as a result of the upgrades, machines and non-benders were able to do all the work in the factory, and some bender employees were subsequently let go in order to save money. The remaining bender employees resigned in protest, believing that they were being replaced by machines, though Satoru assures Katara and Toph that this wasn't his intention; he merely wanted to improve his machines and the factory's productivity. He goes on to say that benders across the city have lost their jobs as other factories installed machines like his, and that some benders now refuse to work for factories owned by non-benders as a result, the earthbender guards who used to work at Earthen Fire Industries being an example. Toph considers the bender dislike of the machines to be "crazy", stating that she loves them despite being a bender, though she tells Satoru not to invent any machines that can metalbend.
Back at the council meeting, Lao invites Aang to speak. Acknowledging the problems caused by bender violence, Aang nevertheless rejects Lao's suggestion of a ban on bending, believing it would punish honest benders as well as criminals. Instead he proposes creating a police force in the city to maintain law and order, a proposal that is seconded by Liling, a waterbender council member. Liling reveals that she has a security team of benders recruited from Cranefish Town's population, whom she suggests could be trained as police officers. Aang asks about the size of her security team, and Liling admits that she does not have enough to police the whole city, but they could pass their training on to others once they themselves were trained. Lao asks that non-benders be included the police force, and Liling agrees to do so once the police force has been established and the violence in the city dealt with. Despite this, Lao has doubts about the idea, but Aang claims that a police force is a logical way to protect the people of Cranefish Town. Liling thanks Aang for his contribution to the meeting, stating that Cranefish Town currently needs true leadership rather than unfair laws that punish honest people. She calls for a vote on Aang's proposal, and the entire council vote in favor of it.
Following the meeting, Sokka and Aang talk about Liling's willingness to help, and Sokka decides to send a messenger hawk to Suki asking her to join them, accepting that Team Avatar will not be leaving Cranefish Town for a while. As they walk through the streets, Aang expresses a wish that the people of Cranefish Town had been more mindful of the environment when they expanded, to which Sokka repeats a saying that progress is like a lion-turtle; far too large to stop. The pair is met by Katara, who informs them that Lao has sorted out a house for them to stay at. Sokka eagerly heads over, but Aang decides to go for a ride on Appa first, asking Katara to join him. They land on a small island close to the city, and Katara notes that Aang has his "Avatar look" on his face. Aang admits that he is thinking of Lady Tienhai, and her belief that humanity could learn from its mistakes and create a civilization that could preserve and protect as it expanded. Katara asks if he feels he is let Tienhai down, but Aang replies that his return to Cranefish Town has reminded him of when he woke up from the iceberg and saw how much the world had changed in the last century. Katara assures him that the present situation is not the same, as the Hundred Year War is over, and Aang has his friends to help him. She notes that they are seeing more development and large cities everywhere they go, and wonders if that is just how the world is now. She doubts that Cranefish Town's current state was deliberate, putting it down to different people trying to live their lives and have their own piece of the place, and expresses a belief that they can still fix things. Aang says that something about the city feels off, as if its growth is more akin to chaos rather than progress, but holds onto the hope that it can be helped to grow in a way that preserves and protects.
Elsewhere in the town, two girls, Ru and Yaling, forcibly enter the hideout of a firebender gang, and inform the members that they have a job opportunity for them, as part of a movement seeking to benefit benders and their families worldwide. The leader of the gang rejects their offer, prompting Yaling to defeat the entire gang with her earthbending, at which point the gang leader agrees to do as they say.
The next morning, Team Avatar head over to the beach to clean up the garbage there, Aang wanting to do something to help out no matter how small. As they work, Aang is approached by two firebender boys named Lian and Shen, whom he excites with his airbending, as well as by talking about his friendship with Fire Lord Zuko. Sokka comments on the two when Aang returns to cleaning up the beach, Aang glad to see someone in the city who can still be impressed by bending, though Sokka wonders if they would still be fans of his if they were non-benders. Aang awkwardly replies that he hopes they would, and Sokka agrees, jokingly claiming that he only hangs out with Aang to impress strangers.
That night, Toph is woken from her sleep by a clanking sound coming from the Earthen Fire Industries factory, and she goes to investigate, discovering one of the machines to have been deliberately jammed. The machine explodes seconds later, alerting Satoru and the rest of Team Avatar. Toph survives the explosion with her metalbending, and senses two people running away, guessing that they were responsible for the sabotage. She and Aang pursue them, but are attacked by one of them, who turns out to be one of the firebender gang members threatened by Ru and Yaling earlier. Leaving Toph to take care of the current attacker, Aang uses his glider to pursue the other saboteur, the leader of the gang, and corners him on the edge of a cliff. Easily trapping the gang leader with his earthbending, Aang demands to know why he attacked Earthen Fire Industries. Yaling, hiding nearby with Ru, uses her own earthbending to collapse the part of the cliff the gang leader is trapped on and send him falling toward the ocean, in order to ensure his silence, but Aang manages to save him and flies away with him.
Ru and Yaling report the events to an unseen individual, who is revealed to be Liling, and the girls' mother. After seeing the two of them argue, Liling warns them that she does not want them fighting with each other, as there are more important things at stake. Both girls apologize, and Liling tells them that their actions were for the sake of their family and their home, and that they must remain united. Ru and Yaling agree, and Liling, smiling in a sinister manner, declares that plans are now in motion, and that not even the Avatar can stop them.
- Imbalance Part One is the first Avatar: The Last Airbender comic written by Faith Erin Hicks and the first to have art by Peter Wartman. Former trilogies were co-written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Gurihiru.
- The landscape in the beginning is the same one in the opening of The Legend of Korra which is used as a foreshadowing of the evolution of Cranefish Town into Republic City.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Avatar: The Last Airbender--Imbalance Part One TPB. Dark Horse. Retrieved on June 21, 2018.
- ↑ ECCC 2018: DARK HORSE CONTINUES TO EXPAND THE AVATARVERSE WITH NEW TITLES FALL 2018. Dark Horse (2018-02-26). Retrieved on February 27, 2018.