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I was going through some user comments and review of The Promise trilogy when considering buying the collected library edition, and came across a complaint that got me thinking. The comment claimed that the story should have been released before The Legend of Korra, because of the details about the future such as Zuko's survival into Korra's era, the eventual fate of Yu Dao lessening from the story's sense of urgency and mystery surrounding its conclusion. So, should have The Promise been released before Korra?
I see it this way: It depends if you look at the graphic novel series as a sequel to the original Avatar or a prequel to Korra. I know that, as a bridge between the two series, it's a bit of both, but it does make a difference which series you have in mind at the moment when reading it.
If you consider The Promise as a sequel to Avatar, then its timing isn't that much of a problem because you'll always wonder what happened next. Seventy years is still a relatively long time - practically a generation's worth - leaving room for many exciting adventures to have taken place.
If you consider The Promise as a prequel to Korra, well, the issue is one common to most prequels: the story-teller is trying to add back-story to objects, people, issues and/or concepts which were taken as a given in the original story as part of the status quo and thus did not warrant much elaborate explanation. Indeed, Tenzin's opening narration in the first Korra episode (See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLLyJtI-ZeM&list=LLWp7UeHklY6ZY37Ck337WRg) provides much of the information we need to know to bridge the series with its predecessor. While prequels expand the original story, a major part of their appeal is reading/seeing how things you're already familiar with got there. Going through a story linearly is great, but with prequels I feel it would take the punch out of seeing something and immediately realising its significance because you know where it's headed in the original story. Would you have read about the lamp-post in Narnia with the same sense of wonder if you had previously read The Magician's Nephew beforehand?
With The Promise being a bridge between two series, part sequel and part prequel, there is no one single 'correct' viewpoint to approach the graphic novels with. Personally, I'm not that bothered that they released The Promise when they did. I was already familiar enough with Republic City and the Metalbending Police to appreciate how significant their beginnings were in the graphic novels. Moreover, these beginnings contained not much more than inklings of what they would evolve to by the end of The Promise, with the exception of the Air Acolytes. I didn't feel much was lost by way of my knowledge of the history of Republic City and the Metalbending Police by having seen Korra first. So what if I know Zuko survives, that doesn't remove the mystery of other characters' fates. What happens to Azula? Who's Lin's father? And there are still other questions that need to be answered still; I'm sure the great tease of having Katara almost answering the persistent question "Where's Zuko's mother?" can only add to the joy and expectation leading up to The Search (which wouldn't be possible if we had known the story already). Who knows, the new trilogy - which deals with the supernatural, much like Korra's Book 2 deals with spirits and their world (A coincidence? Maybe, maybe not) - could also have repercussions we may not know at present. Either way, I look forward to finding out!
That's my two cents then. What do you think? Did you enjoy watching Korra more after reading the The Promise or vice-versa? Any thoughts on The Search and possible links it may have to Korra? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
PS: If you want to see my thoughts on The Promise itself, check out my review here: