Published: March 21, 2013
So yesterday I picked up Part 1 of The Search at a local comic book store, intrigued like everyone else about where Zuko's mother was and what ended up happening to Azula. I'm going to give some general thoughts/ramblings about what I think, now that I've read it.
WARNING: This does contain SPOILERS, so if have not read The Search: Part 1 yet, DON'T READ THIS!!! You have been warned....
So anyway, the story shows continuous flashbacks throughout about how Ursa came to be with Ozai. At the time, her romantic interests were with another man, named Ikem. It was discovered by Fire Lord Azulon that Ursa is a descendant of Avatar Roku, and decides to pay her & her family a visit. Someone (not sure if it was Azulon or Ozai) came up with the idea of having Ursa marry then Prince Ozai, thus creating a "powerful bloodline" that would be on the throne for many years to come. Ursa accepts, and we see an emotional goodbye between Ursa & Ikem, under the gaze of the Fire Lord.
Back in the present, we pick up where the end of The Promise left off, as Zuko is using Azula to get information from Ozai so he can find Ursa. If you are wondering, yes, Azula even a year later, is still crazy. I know author Gene Yang had mentioned long before it's release that we would see what some time in a mental institution does to a person, and I didn't realize how right he was. I actually really enjoyed Azula's crazy dialogue & tendencies, still seeing images of Ursa much like in the Sozin's Comet Finale (and showing that she's still having great internal struggle). The thing I liked most about this comic was actually Azula's artwork. I thought it was fantastic, and really drove home the point that she's still has a few screws loose. Now with the story, Azula escapes captivity and obtains information that forces Zuko to compromise. Interestingly enough, the seven preview pages which had been leaked online, where the Gaang finds out about Zuko's plans and Azula, is actually around the middle of the comic.
Then we get into some interesting stuff. Azula's craziness is shown off with more visions of Ursa, and Azula's plans are revealed in more detail (She want's to, I can presume, destroy Ursa since she views her as the reason for all the bad things that have befallen her). We also saw the Spirit Wolf that was very prominent on the cover of Part II. But the big news that everyone who's read it seems to be talking about, is the "revelation" that was revealed, or not. Back in the past, Ursa is comforting a young Zuko, who had a bad dream involving Azula. She gives a letter to a servant/maid, which she's apparently been doing for awhile. The nosy maid then looks at the letter, and is very surprised by what she sees. She then takes it straight to Ozai, who is also surprised as well as mad. This letter was carried by Azula throughout the journey thus far, as she plans to use it to put herself on the throne. After the encounter with the Spirit Wolf and while they're camping out, Zuko notices the letter that Azula has, and takes it while she was sleeping. Here's the important part...
"My dearest Ikem. It's taken me a long time to admit it, but you were right, I belong with you, and nothing is worth this pain. My one consolation is our son Zuko. When I look into his eyes, it's as if I'm looking into yours. My thoughts are with your always. Love, Ursa"
Now this had been rumored, but this sort of confirmation that it's in here has a lot of people upset. But let me put your minds at ease...
Firstly, I think people are reading WAY TOO MUCH into this who thing. We know Zuko turns out fine, since he's spends another half-century on the throne (pulling a Benedict XVI and abdicating a position that is normally held until death, in favor of his daughter) so we know based on Legend of Korra that everything turns out fine not just for Zuko, but for the rest of the Gaang. So we know this story won't affect things greatly. Plus, Zuko too closely resembles Ozai (and Azulon to an extent) to not be his son.
Another thing to keep in mind to, is the wording of what was read from the letter. You can tell that's it's clearly meant to be misleading, and I think that was the author's intent. Given that's it's a cliffhanger at the end of Part 1 (of a 3 Part Series), you can tell that they're going to explore this further. I also think you need to look at the wording itself. By "consolation", I think Ursa means that Zuko is the only good thing that's come out of here marriage to Ozai, and remarks that he reminds her so much of Ikem. I also think that the use of the word "our" is referring to her & Ozai, not Ursa, and because of all these shady elements, the maid, Ozai, Azula & Zuko are reading the letter differently from what it actually means. But again, that contributes to the plot, and adds a lot of turmoil. The whole way the letter is written is meant to be misleading.
So overall, I would say that Part 1 of The Search was a pretty solid comic. To put in perspective, this is definitely the best Avatar Comic done by Gene Yang thus far (certainly better than the entirety of The Promise). There was a lot of turmoil, some good bending action, and some comedy (Iroh's Tea Appreciation Day....or whatever it's called). It clearly set things up for the other 2/3's of the story. But as I mentioned above, I think people are reading WAY TOO MUCH into the cliffhanger ending. Don't.....everything's going to fine. You just have to think about it before flying off the wall in a fit of rage.
That's all I got....for now. Have a good one!
P.S. Azula is still awesome!!!