"I know this makes me look like a traitor, but I'm only fighting alongside the Yu Dao Resistance so long as they agree to keep both Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation intruders out, because Yu Dao is neither!"
|The Promise Part 3|
The Harmony Restoration Movement has taken a turn for the worst as Earth King Kuei and Fire Lord Zuko lead their armies into battle in order to achieve their opposite intentions for the Yu Dao colony: Kuei wants the colonials to leave for the Fire Nation, and Zuko plans to keep his people where they believe they belong. As the two nations enter conflict once more, Aang and Katara attempt to negotiate peace within the city's walls while Sokka and Toph meet with an old friend at the Metalbending Academy. If war is to be averted, Team Avatar must find a way to resolve the Yu Dao crisis. Aang may be able to do so with his only option: keeping his promise to Fire Lord Zuko.
Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko stand on a cliff in the midst of a driving rainstorm with the specters of Roku and Ozai standing behind them. Below, on the mud-soaked battlefield, Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom troops clash as lightning rends the sky. Zuko shares his doubts about the course of action he has chosen with Aang, saying that while he wants to protect his people, he feels that all he can hear is Ozai's voice, which he blames on Aang's decision to not kill the former Fire Lord. While Ozai's ghost tries to convince Zuko that only the Fire Lord can decide what is right, Roku tells Aang that Zuko has become too unstable, and that he must keep the promise he made to him when the firebender had more clarity of mind. Zuko, overcome with despair, again asks Aang to kill him, who finally agrees and goes into the Avatar State. As he does so, Zuko has a vision of his mother shedding some tears and tells her not to cry. Just as Aang is about to finish him off, both of them awaken from their shared dream. Aang, on Appa hoping for peace, and Zuko, on a ship prepared to fight, both head toward Yu Dao.
The next day, Aang and Katara reach Yu Dao, where the Avatar tries to warn the local civilians to evacuate the city. However, they are immediately attacked by earthbenders, firebenders, and someone throwing axes. Aang chases the axe-thrower into what turns out to be an ax factory and, after knocking him down, he discovers that it is Sneers. Several other resistance fighters break into the room, led by the colonial earthbender Kori Morishita, and try to convince Aang to join them in defending the city against the mob of protesters. Everyone cites their reasons for joining the Yu Dao Resistance, revealing that they all have friends and family of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom ascent, and even Sneers having Kori Morishita, his girlfriend of mixed ancestry, as his girlfriend. However, when Aang tells them that both the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom are sending armies to the city, they are somewhat less confident in their cause.
At that moment, the Yu Dao branch of the Official Avatar Aang Fan Club, led by Xing Ying, enters the factory. Although initially pleased to see them and their costumes, Aang is horrified when he finds out that its members have been tattooing themselves with the traditional and sacred Air Nomad arrows. Feeling that his culture has been immensely disrespected, Aang storms out of the building and hardens his view that the four nations must remain separate to maintain balance — and thus, that all the Fire Nation citizens must be expelled from the city. He leaves for the city gate to wait for General How, who is leading the Earth Kingdom Army to attack Yu Dao.
Zuko meditates on his ship and has a conversation with a portrait of Uncle Iroh. While he feels that his intentions are good and justified in that he is protecting not only people but their relationships with one another, he is worried that his actions are exactly what his father would do if he returned to power, and more specifically questions if his call to battle is justified or not. He wonders if it matters that his reasons are different if from the outside it looks the same. He touches the scroll painting, saying how he wishes Iroh were with him, and how much he misses him. A soldier enters to announce that the ship has arrived at the Earth Kingdom, and Zuko puts on his helmet and leaves the room.
Katara leaves the fan club to search for Aang, and finds him meditating on the roof of the city's front gate. Aang tells Katara that he has figured out why the four nations have to remain separate; the power imbalance means that the stronger nation will always hurt the weaker one, whether by conquest, like the Fire Nation to the Earth Kingdom, or by simply making the culture a joke, like the Air Nomad Fan Club. Katara reminds Aang that Guru Pathik and Huu told him that separation is an illusion, and that the four nations are really all the same, but Aang responds that he does not want them to be the same. He explains that he loves the culture of his people, as everything about it makes the Air Nomads different from everyone else, and as the last Air Nomad, he has to preserve it. He has to restore the separation of the nations to prevent their corruption, even if it means going against his Air Nomad principles and killing Zuko.
Meanwhile, at the Beifong Metalbending Academy, Sokka waits with Toph for Aang and Katara to pick him up. However, Suki arrives first, in a Fire Nation war balloon. She explains that she knew where to find them because Master Kunyo had lodged an official complaint about a "dirt girl" and a "snow savage" taking over his school. She says that she needs them both, and they go with her, leaving Toph's students behind. As they reach Yu Dao, Suki shows Toph and Sokka the two armies marching toward the city, revealing to them the reason they have gathered.
Back in Yu Dao, Katara attempts to tell Aang why she has changed her mind about the Harmony Restoration Movement, only to be interrupted by Smellerbee and her protesters. Despite Aang's efforts, Smellerbee initiates a mob to attack Yu Dao with a stone battering ram. When Aang stops her, she reveals that the battering ram was merely distraction in order to prevent Aang from noticing the drill breaking through their walls, subsequently plunging the city into war.
Meanwhile, Sokka has Toph sneak the three of them below into one of the Fire Nation's tundra tanks, and as they attempt to slow down the fleet, Sokka has Toph metalbend the screws on all of the Fire Lord's tanks while the army drives toward Yu Dao.
By this time, Smellerbee and Longshot have confronted Sneers, and after Smellerbee discovers Sneers' relationship with Kori, it almost appears that the Freedom Fighters are going to change their minds about the attacks; however, a protester interrupts the conversation by wreaking havoc on the town, causing Aang's efforts of peaceful resolution to be utterly washed away. Aang attempts to separate the fighting, claiming to be on the side of Smellerbee and Longshot, who want to drive out the Fire Nation, though before anything else can happen, Earth King Kuei's army arrives.
Soon after the Fire Nation Army arrives, led by Zuko, General How implores Aang to kill the Fire Lord, as it would leave the Fire Nation Army devoid of leadership and utterly disabled. After Aang argues with the general, Sokka's plan is put into motion, and Toph dismantles all of their tanks, leaving the warriors on foot to charge into war. Enraged by the upcoming violence, Aang drives himself into the Avatar State, yelling at Zuko. However, Katara snaps him out of it and gets him safely away from the chaos. Here, Katara tells Aang her true feelings regarding the Harmony Restoration Movement, explaining that when she saw Kori and her multicultural family, she also saw her and Aang's own futures as an Air Nomad and Water Tribe family. She implores Aang to clear his head somewhere quiet and figure out what to do, even if that means that they cannot be together. They share a kiss, and Aang flies off.
Aang confines himself far away from the battle and instantly contacts Avatar Roku, who confesses his relationship as great-grandfather to Zuko, and insists that Aang fulfill his promise to Zuko for the benefit of the world.
Meanwhile, the battle rages on as Aang's Yu Dao fan club and the rest of Team Avatar attempts to calm down the troops. Suki and Toph fight off a team of firebending soldiers when Toph's metalbending students arrive to save them in the nick of time. All the while, Katara uses waterbending to propel herself up to Earth King Kuei's war balloon, convincing him to enter Yu Dao so he can see the lives he is trying to change with this battle.
As the fighting intensifies, a bright beam of light erupts in the distance. Avatar Aang flies into the city and separates the earth, stopping the feud and causing Fire Lord Zuko to plummet to his doom; however, Aang grabs his hand and saves him from what would have been a fatal fall. Aang subsequently shows Kuei that the King is fighting not only the Fire Nation, but also the Earth Kingdom itself, the Water Tribe, and the Air Nomads. Aang explains that there is a whole new world to understand and that this world did not need to be separated. Kuei realizes that Aang is right, and Zuko too realizes his fight was not the work of his father's hatred, but the right choice all along, causing the Fire Lord to collapse and the fighting to end.
Four days later, Aang confronts Roku's spirit, explaining that he spared Zuko's life against Roku's will because he cares about him and the people he is close to. Roku insists that Aang has put the world in danger by being indecisive, causing Aang to tell him that there is nothing more he can teach him now since the world has changed so much. He subsequently breaks off his Fire Nation amulet and burns it in his grasp, cutting Roku off as his spiritual mentor, causing him to shed tears as he has now lost a very good friend. Just after, Iroh alerts Aang that Zuko is awake. The two begin to talk and Zuko says that he was wrong to ask Aang to make that promise with him. He says to Aang that in making the promise he had forced Aang to be the person to decide what right and wrong was for Zuko. However, he says that with this whole experience he has discovered that he has to make decisions for himself now, and he is sorry he ever put the pressure on Aang to do so. He also explains to Aang that he thinks it might help him be better at peace if he connects with his mother's side of the family. He says that he wants to attempt yet again to search for her, and Aang encourages him to do so.
Later, Aang holds a meeting with members of both the Yu Dao and Ba Sing Se chapters of the Official Avatar Aang Fan Club. He explains that he wants them to continue the culture of his people and dubs them the first Air Acolytes, as Katara admires from afar.
Zuko visits a mental institution and asks the only remaining person he can think of who is able to coax the whereabouts of his mother out of the imprisoned Ozai. A mentally unstable Azula is wheeled in before the young Fire Lord, guarded by two matronly caregivers and bound in a full-length straitjacket. It is apparent that her year's convalescence at the asylum has done nothing to cure Azula of her mental illness. The Fire Nation Princess appears paler and thinner than before with her long black hair in wild disarray and dark circles under both eyes that still glisten with madness. Upon hearing her brother's request, Azula marvels at the task before her, stating that there has not been one day gone by that she has not wondered what had become of their dear mother, Ursa. Ursa's hallucinated reflection suddenly appears in a corridor mirror beside her, assuring Azula of her unconditional motherly love for her.
Upon release on September 26, The Promise Part 3 reached the top of The New York Times's paperback graphic novel bestseller list. It held this position for a second consecutive week and ended its run on the "top ten" list at number five, five weeks after its initial publication.
Reception to The Promise Part 3 has been a step above that of previous installments in the trilogy, but the critical response can be described as nothing better than mixed.
Similar to how The Promise Part 2 had its earliest preview from Bamfas over a month before the volume's release, Part 3 received the same luxury. The website once again praised the series as well as singled out Part 3's "high quality art and writing", capping off the review with an overall four-out-of-five-stars.
Speak Geeky to Me shared the belief that Part 3 "is everything you would expect in a great continuance of [Avatar: The Last Airbender]," lauding the finale's "art, story, and writing", all of which were of "incredibly high quality". The review panned the abandonment of certain plot threads that seemed like "integral part[s] of the story early on in The Promise," but ends on a high note: "Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 3 is a near perfect comic and more than deserves a near perfect 9 out of 10."
Bookyurt took the role of devil's advocate just as it did in its review of The Promise Part 2; although it preferred part 3's storyline over the previous installment's and confirmed its attachment to the series' "characters, humor, and art", Bookyurt severely criticized the novel's lack of believability and underdevelopment of the central plot. It concluded its written critique with unsatisfied frustration: "[...] I am starting to wonder how much longer my fangirl nostagia [sic] can overpower my story discontent." Curiously, Bookyurt awarded The Promise Part 3 with an "A- / B+" despite its bitter disappointment in the book as well as the series in general.
- On page 20, Katara says, "You once told me that separation was an illusion. Guru Pathik taught you that. The four nations are really one and the same," referring to "The Guru", when Guru Pathik taught Aang about chakras.
- On page 28, Aang breaks a rock with his head, stating, "Sifu Toph would've been proud." This is an allusion to "Bitter Work", in which Toph also broke a rock with her head to demonstrate facing a rock "head on".
- When Sokka doubts his ability to stop an entire army on page 30, Toph states that she, Sokka, and Suki stopped an entire air fleet, referring "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang" when they successfully stopped Ozai's fleet of airships.
- On page 31, Suki says, "It's so dark down here. I can hardly see anything!" Sokka promptly shushes her and says that Toph is sensitive to such exclamations, referring to "The Drill", wherein Sokka went into a hole Toph earthbent and remarked, "It's so dark down here, I can't see a thing!" Toph responded sarcastically, "Oh no! What a nightmare!"
- Aang discovers that Zuko is Roku's great-grandson, a fact that Iroh revealed to his nephew in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord".
- After Toph metalbends all the screws and bolts loose from the Fire Nation tanks' wheels, she earthbends the ground under the tanks so all the screws and bolts fall out. This is similar to the "final blow" theory Team Avatar came up with in "The Drill", which they had used to take down the Fire Nation drill attacking Ba Sing Se.
- On page 51, the members of the Official Avatar Aang Fan Club tell the combatants to "Let your grievances depart from you, like leaves in the wind!", similar to the philosophy that Tenzin would later try to teach Avatar Korra in "A Leaf in the Wind" when he told her to "be like the leaf".
- On page 56, Earth King Kuei says, "Up until a year ago, I'd never even visited my own city's outer ring", which refers to when Aang brought him there in "The Earth King".
- Aang forms the Air Acolytes from the members of The Official Avatar Aang Fan Club, who ensure the survival of Air Nomad culture and eventually play a role in Avatar Korra's life.
- On page three, when Zuko wakes up from his dream, the scar he received from Azula in the Comet-Enhanced Agni Kai in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang" does not appear. This is corrected in the collected Library Edition.
- On page seven, the higher flame of Ursa's headpiece is on her right. However, in the mirrored image on page 76, the higher flame of her headpiece would be on her left. In the preview poster of The Search Part 1, her headpiece is again on her left.
- Sneers is normally drawn with an extra line on his upper lip, but on page 14, his upper lip is just one line.
- On page 18, when the soldier hands Zuko his helmet, the helmet clearly has a frame, but also a line of decorative flames above where the eyes should be. However, on all other pages, the helmet is shown with just the frame.
- Katara's water skin disappears on the lower left panel on page 14, the upper right panel on page 20, the second to last panel on page 36, the bottom panel on page 46, and the first two panels on page 64.
- On page 21, the red part and the gray part of the chest of the metal flying boar is in an upside down V line. On page 23, however, the red part becomes a curved semi-circle.
- On page 28, part of Katara's hair is colored green when she erects an ice barrier to deflect incoming debris.
- On page 34, Longshot's arrows disappear when they should be visible on the third panel.
- On page 41, the Earth Kingdom Army is shown to have only three flags. However, on all previous pages, the army is shown to have at least five flags.
- On page 45, the circle that is normally seen on the front of Zuko's cape disappears.
- On page 51, "Earth Kingdom" is spelled "Earth Kingdem".
- On page 73 in the first panel, there are curtains tied back to the left of Iroh. However, on all other panels, no curtain like that is seen.
- On page 74 in the second panel, the guards behind Zuko seem to be directly behind his chair. However, in the next panel, the guards are several feet apart.
- Gene Yang stated prior to the novel's publication that Azula's fate was going to be addressed in the third installment. He has also stated in an interview with Comics Alliance that the comics were going to conclude showing a gradual transition between the two animated series. Only one of these was fulfilled; the second was when the United Republic of Nations was gradually formed and thought of in Yu Dao.
- Iroh's new tea is made of balls of tapioca cooked until they are soft and tender, similar to "boba", or pearls. It is a common ingredient in Asian desserts and drinks, and bears resemblance to real life bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea.
- General How's army is barefoot. As Toph has demonstrated, earthbending is like seeing with the feet.
- Aang teaching the Air Acolytes from underneath a tree is reminiscent Gautama Buddha attaining enlightenment underneath the Bodhi tree.
- On the cover of the comic as well as in his dream, when Aang goes into the Avatar State, the air sphere and rings of water, earth, and fire look just like that of when he fought Ozai in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang".
- The members of the Official Avatar Aang Fan Club do not have arrows on their hands like the real Air Nomads did.
- A running gag in the comic is that people are surprised to see that Sneers and Kori are in a relationship. All of his male friends congratulate him with the same thumbs up gesture.
- The element symbols on the pendants of Aang's spiritual necklace are in the order of the Avatar Cycle going clockwise: air, water, earth, and fire.
Library Edition reveals
The Promise Library Edition compiles all three parts of The Promise trilogy as well as interjects trivia- and production-based notes in the sidebar of many pages. These notes were written by Gene Yang and the Gurihiru team. The following are notable points from the Library Edition that pertain to The Promise Part 3's early production phase and trivialities as attested by the aforementioned crew members.
- Gene Yang (author-perspective, storytelling trivia):
- The first page of Part 3 puts four panels beside one another to focus on how "all four elements are in chaos." (p. 155)
- The shared dream-vision of Aang and Zuko recalls the important plot usage of visions featured in "The Swamp" and Zuko's dream-vision in "The Earth King" (p. 158).
- Since Sneers did not travel outside the ideological world of the Freedom Fighters in the original series, he did not develop like his counterparts. People like Smellerbee and Longshot began to understand a more "nuanced" world than their ideologies had allowed them to consider, but Sneers, having appeared in only one episode, did not undergo this metamorphosis. "Sneers's relationship with Kori is what happens when ideology comes up against flesh-and-blood human beings," Yang concludes. "Often, the ideology has to give way."
- The subplot about Aang taking offense by the fan club's tattoos was developed while the STARS racial controversy erupted in concern to insensitive Halloween costumes (p. 166).
- A kylin is a mythic animal of Chinese legend often portrayed in statue form in front of houses and buildings, providing "mystic protection" to all who live under the buildings' roofs. By placing the metallic flying boar in front of her academy, Toph has erected a kylin of her own (p. 171).
- The Earth Kingdom citizens who made the motorized drill was influenced by the larger drill used to penetrate the walls of Ba Sing Se (p. 179).
- Yang asked Gurihiru to illustrate pages 40 and 41 (190 and 191 in The Promise Library Edition) based on "Japanese battle prints from the 1800s."
- "Like imperial [sic] Japan's army," Yang comments, "the Fire Nation army relies heavily on Western-style technology," pointing to the Japanese influence on Fire Nation culture. This military decision makes the army's artillery vulnerable to metalbenders. (p. 194)
- Yang had great expectations for Gurihiru's artistry on the kiss panel of page 48 (p. 198 of The Promise Library Edition), writing in the script, "This is an important one. It has to be sweet and heartfelt and sad." He was extremely pleased with their work (p. 198).
- The Dark One was becoming an uncomfortably similar character to Mai by Part 2's end. To remedy this, Yang has The Dark One take a position that "is all his own" while keeping with his goth nature: "bad poetry." (p. 204)
- Gurihiru (stylistic and artistic trivia):
- Gurihiru was pleased to work on The Promise Part 3 because it gave them their first opportunity to draw rain in a comic (p. 155).
- The team noticed its mistake in not drawing the scar on Zuko's chest from his duel with Azula, so they corrected it here (p. 158).
- A handheld drill was originally going to be used to break down the Yu Dao wall, but Gurihiru realized that a weapon of such stature would not be adequate to threaten the wall and drew a vehicle drill instead (p. 179).
- The reason that the insides of tundra tanks look different in Part 3 from their appearances in the series is because Gurihiru was not given reference material for that part of the design, so they had to create the new design themselves (p. 183).
- The overhead shot of the battlefield on pages 40 and 41 (190 and 191 of The Promise Library Edition) were drawn last. A Japanese storybook from the 1800s (Yang 191) was used for reference (p. 191).
- Gurihiru considered drawing adult Aang with a beard on page 47 (197 in The Promise Library Edition), but since it was Katara's imagination, they realized that Katara would not know or think of his exact future facial features at that moment (p. 197).
- The servants who had accompanied Kuei on his airship are not there when Katara joins him. Gurihiru quips, "... Maybe they got off somewhere?" (p. 206)
- On page 70 (220 in The Promise Library Edition), Zuko is drawn with "a softer and slightly younger expression" in order to convey his relief at being away from the conflict (p. 220).
- It was purposeful that Gurihiru portrayed Azula's appearance divergently from her looks in the series (p. 226).