|"You know, I vaguely remember hearing that Ursa came back to town years later, looking for Ikem. They say she went after him to Forgetful Valley."|
|— Noriko relaying her gossip-based knowledge of Ursa to Team Avatar.|
The Search Part Two is the second installment in The Search trilogy, a graphic novel continuation of The Promise storyline, which was itself a follow-up to the plot of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was originally released by Dark Horse Comics in collaboration with Nickelodeon on July 10, 2013. It was released with its counterparts in Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Search Library Edition HC on February 5, 2014.
With the revelation that he may not be Ozai's son after all, Zuko feels the need to find his mother more than ever. Despite the Fire Lord's jubilation, Aang knows that the truth of Zuko's paternity could cost him his right to rule the Fire Nation.
Meanwhile, Team Avatar's arrival in Hira'a heeds answers concerning the man mentioned in the letter, Ikem, who is rumored to have retreated into Forgetful Valley after Ursa left. At the same time, the flashbacks to an earlier time in the Royal Family's life continue, revealing further information about Ursa's disappearance and tying ever more into Zuko and Azula's search. Will they find the man they are looking for in Forgetful Valley, or will they discover an entirely different face of the forest?
The morning after Zuko took the letter from her, Azula is awoken by the touch of her mother, who asks that she give up her quest and realize her true destiny. Azula is caught off guard by this plea, grabbing Ursa's arm and telling her that she has proof that she is the rightful heir. In reality, however, it is Katara's arm that Azula takes grip on, compelling Sokka to throw his boomerang at the princess' forearm and breaking her from her hallucination. Realizing the letter is missing from her boot, Azula raises her flame-wielding hands and demands to know where her brother has gone.
Zuko, as it turns out, is sitting with Aang and discussing the letter he stole from his sister. He believes that the letter confirms he is not actually Ozai's son, which to him makes perfect sense as Ozai had no qualms about banishing him and was going to kill him the night before Ursa left the palace. In his theory, it was his mother who kept Ozai from taking his life. Aang does not wish to accept any of this despite Zuko's enthusiasm, bringing to the Fire Lord's attention that if he is not Ozai's son, no one else but Azula may be the rightful heir.
Just as Aang explains his fears about this theory, Azula comes up from the backside of the cliff on which Aang and Zuko sit and slips back into her paranoia, accusing her mother of telling Zuko to steal the letter from her. She begins to shoot fire at her brother and the Avatar, deciding not to let her mother win.
In a flashback to the Royal Family's life before Ursa's banishment, a young Zuko exclaims to his mother that Azula is burning a flower. Her defense is that the flower was not as pretty as the others in the royal garden, firebending at Zuko's behind for tattling. At this, Ursa orders her daughter to her room and comforts Zuko, who wonders why she must be so mean. Ozai witnesses this squabble and, having read the letter that is in the present possessed by Zuko, believes Ursa may be favoring Zuko because he is the son of Ikem. Ozai meets with Vachir of the Yuyan Archers, ordering the bowman to kill Zuko's supposed father at the village of Hira'a. Although Vachir assures that his action will not trace back to the palace, Ozai wants Ikem to know who hired the assassin.
In the present, Zuko and Aang deflect a volley of fire blasts from Azula. Worried about his friends, Aang leaves the battle to check on Sokka and Katara, Zuko insisting that he will handle Azula alone. After an intense hand-to-hand combat, Azula retrieves the letter, but before she can retreat with it, Zuko grabs her by the ankle and smacks her onto the ground, asking her why their relationship has always had to be so volatile. Instead of answering, his sister begins to scream about how Ursa was telling Zuko right now to throw her over the cliff. She suddenly stops speaking of her hallucinations to notice that Zuko has not yet burned the letter to ashes, which would have left her without evidence to prove the Zuko was not an heir to the throne at all, questioning if her brother is, in fact, on her side. Zuko shrugs this off, pleading that they work together to find their mom.
Once the siblings arrive back at the campsite, Aang informs them that Azula set fire to much of the surrounding forest. Zuko tells Aang that they have come to an understanding and that they will not be fighting anymore. Sokka skeptically mentions how they have said this before and that she will surely turn and fight with them again. In the end, the team gets on Appa and begins to fly the rest of the way to Hira'a.
Once more in the flashback, Ozai, Ursa, and their children are sitting around the dinner table. Azula is discussing with her father that her firebending teacher Kunyo is a "dumb" master and does not fulfill his role adequately, prompting Ozai to send him to the colonies when he gets the chance. When Zuko defends Kunyo's firebending teaching style, Ozai becomes infuriated, scolding his son for his inexperience in the art. Ozai continues to recount how when Zuko was born, he was unsure if Zuko was a bender and would have been content with removing him from the palace if his wife and the Fire Sages had not persuaded him to wait. "She was born lucky," Ozai says of Azula. "You were lucky to be born." Although Ursa expresses her utter disbelief at this statement, Ozai leaves the table to have an audience with a Yuyan Archer.
Ozai arrives on a balcony to find Vachir kneeling to him and sputtering his findings about Ikem's whereabouts. Although the locals of Hira'a knew that the man had retreated into a nearby forest years earlier, Vachir scoured that valley for months without finding Ikem. He details how the forest itself is a predator that attacks those who enter it, believing Ikem to have died without the need for an assassin. Ozai does not accept this speculation of death and orders Vachir back to the Pohuai Stronghold where he is to tender his resignation from the Yuyan Archers where he no longer belongs.
Back in the Royal Palace interior, Ozai tells the servants who are tending to Ursa to leave the room as he must speak to his wife alone. Ozai yells at her that any communication between her and anyone of her old life – "especially past infatuations" – is treason, since he told her that she would have no more contact with them. Ozai continues his speech, telling Ursa that proof of her treason is living within the palace, referring to Zuko, who he believes to be Ikem's son using the letter as his evidence for this claim, to which Ursa reveals that her assumptions of Ozai intercepting her letters is correct. Although Ozai assures his wife that Zuko may remain in the palace, he tells her that Ikem deserved the fate that befell him, lying to her that Ikem has been killed by his command.
In the present again, the gang has landed just outside of Hira'a. Zuko warns everyone to disguise well, as a party that includes the Avatar and the Fire Lord may cause a disturbance. Katara asks why the village is considered a small town if it is so crowded, but they quickly see that a play is going on and join the audience. Upon realizing the troupe is performing Love amongst the Dragons, Zuko and Azula reminisce on their days of watching this same play with Mother and reenacting the final scene afterward, Zuko always being the evil Water Spirit and Azula taking the role of Dragon Emperor. They are shushed by an elderly couple in front of them, infuriating Azula, but Zuko calms her down in time to watch the final kiss scene. As the crowd disperses with the play's end, Zuko asks the couple if they recognize the name Ursa. Before they can give a full answer, the man who played the Water Spirit comes from behind and takes off his mask, introducing himself as Noren and inviting them to come to his home, where they can discuss privately.
At Noren's home, his wife Noriko makes small talk with Aang and Katara about their love lives while their daughter Kiyi asks Zuko and Azula if they would like to meet her doll, to which Zuko agrees despite Azula's declination. Kiyi explains that her name was such a good one that she gave it to her doll. Zuko notes its odd haircut, which prompts Kiyi to mention how she gave it that haircut and it did not turn out well. Azula mentions how instead of cutting hair from her dolls, she cut off their heads and offers to demonstrate. Meanwhile, Noren and Noriko tell the others about Ursa, who was once a famous member of the Hira'a Acting Troupe before she was taken from the village to the Fire Nation capital on "official business". The general rumor about the town is that she married into the Royal Family. When Zuko asks about Ikem, they tell him of how he fled into Forgetful Valley after Ursa left for the capital; another rumor, they mention, is that Ursa came back years later and went into the Forgetful Valley to look for her lost love. Noren worries that, if this is true, both of those individuals may not have ended up okay, as the Forgetful Valley is not an easy place in which to live.
After leaving Noren and Noriko's home, Aang apologizes to Zuko for exploding that morning, as he does not know what Zuko must be going through. Even so, he continues, they should not continue to search for Ikem for the fact that learning his whereabouts could be a detriment to his nation. Although Aang wants to burn the letter at their next chance, Zuko reveals that he returned the letter to Azula earlier that day, promising the Avatar that the number one priority right now is to find his mother, and that finding out who he is "supposed to be" will come later. Aang does not accept this response, telling Zuko that when his citizens bow to him in the throne room, they bow to what he represents, not to just him. Sokka interrupts their conversation to tell Zuko that Katara and Azula will be fighting with their bending momentarily if something is not done. Zuko confides that there is one place left to visit: Forgetful Valley.
In another flashback, Zuko and Azula are arguing on Zuko's bed. Ursa overhears them and pulls Azula aside, asking her what it is that they were in such heated discussion about. She explains that she eavesdropped on Azulon scolding Ozai in the throne room. When her father asked for Iroh's birthright so soon following Lu Ten's death, Azulon ordered Ozai to feel the pain of losing his firstborn by killing Zuko. She tells Azula to go to bed and walks off down the hall in search of her husband.
Ursa finds Ozai, who tells her that he will not refuse the Fire Lord's command lest he commit treason. Unwilling to allow the murder of her son, Ursa offers that she create a colorless, odorless poison, insinuating that it be used on Azulon so Ozai can ascend the throne and Zuko can live. He agrees to this conspiracy on one condition: that she leave the city and never return, never to see her children again. In the end, Ursa accepts these terms. After creating the poison and giving it to Ozai, she goes to Azula, who is asleep, to give her a goodbye kiss, and visits Zuko's room to do the same. However, her son wakes up and asks what is going on, prompting Ursa to tell him that she has done everything to protect him and that he must not forget who he is. After this she leaves the palace grounds forever.
Back in the present, the team leaves Appa at the foot of the forest upon entering Forgetful Valley. Although there does not appear to be a path, Azula simply burns through the foliage in her way, angering her traveling companions. Aang is quickly distracted, however, by an involuntary change in his facial expression, akin to when he felt the presence of the wolf spirit. Sokka points out that the nature of the forest looks like it has faces on the trees and on a flutter bat's wings. Aang chases the flutter bat and finds a lake. Although he warns his friends to be respectful as the area is unusually spiritual, Azula erupts with fury upon seeing a reflection of her mother in the water and shoots it with lightning. Just as suddenly, a barrage of hardened flowers is thrown at the team, and Katara theorizes that they have been frozen and that someone is bending the water within the plants of the jungle to attack them. To counter their offenses, she manipulates the vines into neutral and calls them out, whoever they are. Shortly after this, an elderly woman and a mask-wearing man show themselves.
In a flashback to when she has left the palace, Ursa arrives at Hira'a and asks a young girl where Jinzuk and Rina, her parents, are located, but the girl informs her that they passed away. Noren, the man who invited Team Avatar into his home, finds her crying on the stage and after some small talk realizes she is Ursa. Instead of letting her cry alone some more, he invites her into his home as well.
In Forgetful Valley, Misu, the woman who came out of the brush, apologizes for attacking as she and her brother are not used to human visitors and were fearful that the pond was being disturbed. She also mentions how there are three pools identical to it that must also remain undisturbed. When Katara asks how two people from the Northern Water Tribe are living in a Fire Nation jungle, Misu goes into their background. When they were young, Rafa's face became horribly damaged, and no healer in the North could heal him. So, she went to the library and learned about a spirit who can give faces to anyone and anything, including her brother, and sneaked into the country with him, having had to learn offensive waterbending secretly beforehand. Ever since, she has searched without success for the spirit, with Katara agreeing she would do the same for Sokka while Zuko and Azula glance away.
After this, Azula asks if they know Ursa's whereabouts, but Misu tells her everything was quiet until they arrived. She continues, although the animals and trees are exhibiting signs of the spirit's presence with the faces that appear on their bodies, they do not seem to be at the correct pool of water, as the wolf spirit has not appeared and neither has the face spirit. Aang decides to enter the Spirit World in an attempt to contact the wolf spirit and make it come to the lake by which they are seated. When Azula goes off on her own, annoyed that they are stopping to help those who are irrelevant to her cause of finding Ursa, she has another breakdown, believing her mother to have sent Rafa and Misu to slow her down. Just as she shoots a blinding ray of lightning at Misu, Aang enters the Spirit World.
In spirit form, Aang meets the flutter bat again. He tells Aang to come with him and that he will lead the Avatar to what he seeks. The two land from their flight next to the wolf spirit, who Aang tries to convince to drink at the other pool of water nearer to Rafa and Misu. He looks at his earnest facial expression for a moment and begins to run away, but Aang grabs onto his side before he can get away. Upon the ride's end, a booming voice questions Aang's decision to ride the wolf spirit like it was a "beast of burden". Aang responds with his own question of her name, to which she responds that she is the Mother of Faces.
The Search Part Two took the top spot on the New York Times' graphic novel bestseller list upon release against such praised competition as The Walking Dead and the Saga series. It remained the reigning bestseller for three consecutive weeks before falling to fifth place the following week.
Unlike The Promise trilogy, The Search Part One and Part 2 did not receive much media coverage despite the extremely strong sales of both installments. Even so, some reviewers did put out critiques of Part 2. Bamfas enjoyed the pacing and believed Gurihiru's artistry to complement the work considerably, citing the scenes that focus on Azula as especially noteworthy. Its overall judgement for The Search Part Two was that it is a five star novel.
- Main article: Transcript:The Search Part Two
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
- Ozai hires Vachir, at the time a member of the Yuyan Archers, to kill Ikem. During the series, Vachir wore his Yuyan markings despite his resignation from the organization while working with the Rough Rhinos as seen in the "Sokka the Avatar" comic, "Avatar Day", "The Desert", and "Lake Laogai".
- Ozai's claim that the Yuyan Archers can pin a fly to a tree one hundred yards away without killing it is identical to the one made by Zhao in "The Blue Spirit".
- Azula and Ozai make conversation about Master Kunyo, who Ozai promises to send to the colonies, alluding to the plot of The Promise trilogy.
- Ozai tells Zuko that "Azula was born lucky. You were lucky to be born." This event of Zuko's life was directly referenced in "The Siege of the North, Part 2".
- Katara tells Aang that his headband disguise was much more convincing when he had hair, an allusion to much of the first half of Book Three: Fire, wherein Aang grew his hair out and hid his Avatar identity.
- While creating his disguise, Sokka mentions that the fake beard made of sky bison fur is a "classic", referring to the Wang Fire attire he wore in the "Private Fire" comic and "The Headband".
- Zuko and Azula reminisce about watching Love amongst the Dragons with their mother. Zuko also mentioned this to Team Avatar in "The Ember Island Players".
- Zuko and Azula arguing on Zuko's bed about the order of murder Azulon gave to Ozai is a scene from "Zuko Alone". The rest of the flashback is interwoven with other moments of that episode, including Ursa's visit to Zuko's room to say goodbye. Although Ursa's line of "Everything I've done, I've done to protect you" in "Zuko Alone" was ambiguous as to what she had done, The Search Part Two elaborates with the previous few pages, which show that she concocted a poison that killed his grandfather.
- Aang says that the lake reminds him of Tui and La's pool in the Northern Water Tribe, which he first saw in "The Siege of the North, Part 1".
- In Misu's flashback, Rafa is seen holding a helmet in the shape of a wolf's head, similar to those worn by Hakoda and his men during the invasion of the Fire Nation in the episodes "The Day of Black Sun, Part 1: The Invasion" and "Part 2: The Eclipse".
- The fire started by Azula in the forest that the group was attempting to extinguish should have been burning a standard orange color, as Azula was not bending it at the time.
- Love amongst the Dragons is mistakenly called Love amongst Dragons by Zuko. This is corrected in the Library Edition.
- On page 20, Ozai's goatee is missing in one of the panels.
- On page 39, in one panel, Ursa's top knot is not there.
- On page 46, Azula's top knot holder has a yellow line going around its top.
- This comic was accidentally leaked about a week before it was supposed to have been released.
- During the play, the Dark Water Spirit's mask is shown to bear resemblance to the Blue Spirit's.
- This comic marks the third time that Team Avatar has encountered waterbenders while in the wilderness, the first being the members of the Foggy Swamp Tribe in "The Swamp", followed by Hama in "The Puppetmaster".
Library Edition reveals
The Search Library Edition compiles all three parts of The Search 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, with further contributions by Michael Dante DiMartino; the series co-creator's additions are a notable distinction for this Library Edition, having not been included in The Promise Library Edition. The following are notable points from the Library Edition that pertain to The Search Part Two's early production phase and trivialities as attested by the aforementioned crew members.
- Michael DiMartino (author-perspective, storytelling trivia):
- DiMartino was at first worried about how Azula's psychotic mental state would appear on paper as opposed to on a television screen, but he now feels that Yang and Gurihiru "[make] it very clear when Azula is becoming unhinged" (p. 82).
- The scene in which Aang and Zuko are talking to each other about Zuko's paternity on pages eight and nine (84 and 85 in The Search Library Edition) are notable to DiMartino because of the "rare role reversal" between the two characters, where Zuko is acting cool and calm while Aang berates him for not looking at the bigger picture. (p. 85)
- Tying scenes of the graphic novels into previously revealed facts from the show (as was done during Ozai's dinner conversation in The Search Part Two) contribute to the feeling of these stories being direct continuations of the source material's storyline (p. 97).
- The parallels between "Zuko Alone" and The Search are some of DiMartino's favorites of the trilogy (p. 116).
- After much discussion as to "how complicit Ursa was in Azulon's death," Yang and DiMartino came to the conclusion that the testimony Ozai gave to Zuko in "The Day of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse" was true: Ursa did, in fact, partake in treasonous actions. However, they also revealed that Ozai left one piece of the truth out of his explanation – that Ozai was the person who delivered the poison. (p. 116)
- Gene Yang (author-perspective, storytelling trivia):
- Yang's favorite illustration of Azula throughout The Search is the one on the fourth panel of page 16 (92 in The Search Library Edition), which, despite being immediately after a lunatic rant at Zuko, shows a suddenly blank, revelatory stare. "You can almost hear the clicking gears of nuttiness in Azula's head." (p. 92)
- Sokka's line on page 18 (94 in The Search Library Edition), "Nature hates you!", are the same words that Yang's friend said to him when they were in college; the sentence was prompted by Yang's request from a cashier for a plastic bag having only bought a single onion (p. 94).
- The corridor shown on page 39 (115 in The Search Library Edition) has significance in two ways: it is a nod to the original series in that it is the same one that was shown in "Zuko Alone", and the scene the features this corridor demonstrates early signs of Azula's malevolence (p. 115).
- Rafa and Misu were inspired by the relationship between Sokka and Katara, "only with more years and more tragedy." (p. 140)
- "Faces and masks—fake faces—are such an important theme in Zuko's life story," Yang concludes upon the reveal of the Mother of Faces. "His scarred face is a physical manifestation of his internal struggle between good and evil. He spent much of book 1 [sic] of the show behind the mask of the Blue Spirit. And one of the few things we know about his mother from the original series is that she was a fan of the theater, the art form where actors take on fake faces and fake identities. Since The Search is all about Zuko and his family, we wanted to continue that theme." (p. 152)
- Gurihiru (stylistic and artistic trivia):
- Unlike the previous graphic novels wherein the artists used pencils and ink as well as computers, The Search Part Two is the first installment in the Avatar graphic novel series to be illustrated in full digital, which lends greater efficiency to their work. It does have one downside, being that they must be more diligent about noticing any mistakes since they can no longer see the full image while drawing. (p. 81)
- "We had fun drawing young Zuko and Azula." (p. 86)
- Since the tense discussion between Ursa and Ozai did not call for any violent action or movement, the panel design was instead used to give the scene a dramatic, dynamic appearance (p. 116).
- The detail of the flowers on page 42 (118 in The Search Library Edition) is important; the petals used in the poison invoke dramatic irony in that they are of the same flowers Azulon admired in the greenhouse of Part 1.
- The large round boulder at the foot of Forgetful Valley has four circular indentations on the front and a line connecting each of them; two of the circles make up the eyes, one the nose, and one the mouth, completing a face-like appearance. However, though Team Avatar does not notice it, the true reason for this format is to act as a map that shows the location of each lake in the woods. (p. 122)
- The Gurihiru team consulted DiMartino, Konietzko, and Yang multiple times in order to come up with a design for the Mother of Faces, who was a particular challenge for the artists (p. 152).
- ↑ Dimalanta, Zelda (2013-07-31). "Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Search, Part 2 tops NY Times best seller list". News. The Comixverse. Retrieved on August 13, 2012.
- ↑ Best Sellers - The New York Times (1). Best Sellers> Paperback Graphic Books. The New York Times (2013-08-11 [for documentation purposes]). Retrieved on August 13, 2013.
- ↑ Best Sellers - The New York Times (2). Best Sellers> Paperback Graphic Books. The New York Times (2013-08-18 [for documentation purposes]). Retrieved on August 13, 2013.
- ↑ Tech2K (2013-07-10). "Review- Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search Part Two". Bamfas. Retrieved on August 13, 2013.