Categories
TV

Legend of Korra, Five Years Later

Five years ago, The Legend of Korra first aired on Nickelodeon in the US, as a sequel series to the much-beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender.  While not the critical smash that A:TLA was, for me Korra stands up well as an amazing piece of storytelling, with gorgeous visuals to boot.

In case you’re not familiar with either series, the world of Avatar takes cues from ancient Indian, Asian and various indigenous cultures around the world.  The twist is, some people are born with the ability to ‘bend’ earth, fire, air or water, and there is always one Avatar that can learn to bend all four.  When the Avatar dies, their spirit is reincarnated to the next nation in a cycle (in the same order of elements above).  As you might guess, A:TLA follow an airbender Avatar (Aang), and The Legend of Korra follows his immediate successor, Korra who is a waterbender.

Right away, the new series made sure to show us how different Korra herself would be from Aang.  Aang had started out as a reluctant hero – he had run away from the Avatar responsibility, she dove in head-first.  Aang had been contemplative and looked to solve problems peacefully first.  Korra would often punch first and ask questions later.  In fact, it’s one of Korra’s central issues she has to overcome, as that sort of personality is diametrically opposed to airbending principles.  Throughout the first season (Book One: Air), Korra struggles to connect with her spiritual self, butting heads with Aang’s son Tenzin as he tries to teach her to airbend.  It’s very parental, and it’s something most tweens and teens can relate to.  In fact, if there’s one thing that seemed to bother some fans that grew up with Aang, it’s that the new show definitely skewed older with the issues that were tackled.

One of my favorite things Legend of Korra did was realistically advance the world from the previous show.  On Avatar: The Last Airbender, we saw the beginnings of industrialization.  There were rudimentary mechanized vehicles and ships, and it would’ve been easy for the show to just stick with that, but they went full industrial revolution in Republic City.  The problems facing the world also matured.  Book One’s villain, Amon, made you take a hard look at how you treat the ‘others’ in your life, especially when you have more power than they do.  Book Three and Four swung the pendulum between chaos and order, showing how bad things can be at both ends of the spectrum.

I am the solution – Amon

Another aspect I love about Legend of Korra is how the relationships grow over time.  Sure, it starts out with typical teen angsty love triangles, but it ends with a some amazing friendships and even a same-sex couple that goes about as far as Nickelodeon would let them.  And that develops over years, by overturning the media tendency to have women be rivals for the affections of whatever men happen to be around.  Korra and Asami have every reason to dislike each other, but end up close friends, and finally more.

Legend of Korra does what any sequel or continuation should do – it deepens the lore, pays homage to the past but isn’t beholden to it, and only serves to improve the Avatar legend.  If you never gave Korra a shot, you owe it to yourself to try it now.  The first three books (seasons) are available on Amazon Prime for free though you do need to buy Book Four (which is totally worth it).

Categories
Comics TV

The First Legend of Korra Comic, “Turf Wars”, Starts June 2017!

It was first announced that Korra’s adventures would continue in comics (much like Aang’s) last New York Comic-Con, but it’s taken until this one to get an update.  The new comic, titled “Turf Wars”, begins June of 2017.  The details:

This three-part graphic novel series is written by Nickelodeon TV series co-creator and executive producer Michael Dante DiMartino, drawn by Irene Koh (Batgirl, 1602, TMNT), with covers by Heather Campbell (Free Comic Book Day 2016: The Legend of Korra), and consultation by TV series co-creator and executive producer Bryan Konietzko.

Turf Wars begins with Korra and Asami leaving the spirit world and returning to Republic City only to find political hijinks and human vs. spirit conflict, as a pompous developer plans to turn the new spirit portal into an amusement park, potentially severing an already tumultuous connection with the spirits. In addition, the triads have realigned and are in a brutal brawl at the city’s borders where hundreds of evacuees have relocated.  In order to get through it all, Korra and Asami vow to look out for each other—but first, they’ve got to get better at being a team.
No information as to why Brittney Williams (who’s been great on Hellcat) isn’t the artist but Koh does great work.  I’m very curious to see if they will be showing more of the Korra/Asami relationship, which would be great to show some LGBTQ representation to younger readers.  The story sounds like classic Avatar, with a mix of serious and fun.  Can’t wait!  I’ll update the post when pre-orders show up at Amazon, or head to your local comics shop and pre-order there!
Categories
Books Review

Book Review – Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

Rebel Genius is a new book from Michael Dante DiMartino (of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra fame), and if you are a fan of either of those shows, you’ll find a lot to love here.  In fact, if there’s one negative to the book it’s that it hems a bit closely both to what DiMartino’s done before and some other classics of the fantasy genre.

The story follows Giacomo, a 12 year old orphan who is also an artist.  In Giacomo’s world, art is outlawed, and artists gain a birdlike companion creature (not unlike the daemon concept in the His Dark Materials series) with special powers tied to the creation of art called a ‘Genius’.  When Giacomo gains his genius, he goes on the run and falls in with a mentor who has a hidden studio where he teaches other children how to use their gifts.  They are opposed by both the Empress Nerezza (styling herself the ‘Supreme Creator’) who hunts down artists and destroys their Geniuses, rendering them zombie-like, and another renegade artist, Ugalino, who has made a Tulpa – basically a homonculus, or a living statue of immense power.  He wants to tear down the world and remake it in his own image, and to do so he seeks the Sacred Tools – said to be the three items God used to make the world.

All of this is well-trod ground for DiMartino – a group of almost-teens or teens with special powers set out on a journey to save the world.  You’ll notice that I said they were opposed by the Empress and Ugalino – as usual for DiMartino, the good/evil aspect of the antagonists is fuzzy.  You may not like what they do, and disagree with their methods, but they have a reason for what they are doing.  The other kids tend to fall into tropes but I trust DiMartino to twist those expectations around (Sokka didn’t stay a misogynist dip for long).  We see some of it by the end of this first book.

The idea that art is magic is kind of precious, considering that DiMartino himself is a creative person.  Sort of like how so many writers write books about writers doing stuff.  But it’s easily forgiven as the Renaissance-inspired world is interesting.  There’s a lot of talk about ‘sacred geometry’, and Zanobius is very obviously Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, which may drive some readers to go investigate classic art, which is never a bad thing.  If you have a kid in the target range, Rebel Genius is a worthy purchase.  Just don’t expect it to stray too far from the formula that DiMartino and Konietzko made (admittedly excellent) use of before.  Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.  It’s currently scheduled for release October 4th.