Diehard fans of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender would know that the franchise also yielded a successful comic series – including eight full miniseries along with many other one-shots and specials. These stories functioned as official sequels and spinoffs along with alternative storylines between particular episodes. Some even served as the intervening chapter between the show and The Legend of Korra.

These comics are still in publication and some of them are even authored by showrunners Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. As the franchise is finally getting a live-action adaptation on Netflix, it only makes sense for fans to revisit the Avatar mythos by reading such graphic novels.

10 Imbalance

The Imbalance trilogy is set in Earthen Fire Industries which is riddled with a clash between the Benders and non-Benders. Before the situation escalates into a violent conflict, main characters like Aang, Sokka, Katara, and Toph must devise a strategy.

What makes Imbalance great is its introspective discourses on industrialization and modernization as such intellectual debates set the stage for the spin-off series The Legend of Korra. Another notable aspect is that it marked the debut of writer Faith Erin Hicks and illustrator Peter Wartman, a collaboration that would result in three more Avatar comics.

9 The Promise

The three-part storyline The Promise takes place after the final episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender and serves as the prequel to The Legend of Korra. Even after the One Hundred Year War has ended, tensions still run high in a Fire Colony that Aang plans to visit.

The socio-political tensions aside, the standout element of the comic is Aang’s fame as a local celebrity with an “Aang Fan Movement” supporting him. These fans tend to act and live like the air nomads, an act that Aang goes on to condemn as he finds it to be disrespectful to his ancestors. While Aang was introduced as an overenthusiastic youngster in the show, The Promise‘s Aang shows significant growth and maturity.

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8 The Search

Much like its predecessor, The Search is also divided into three chapters and illustrated by Studio Gurihiru. It’s an integral comic when it comes to adding more backstory for Avatar‘s Fire Prince Zuko. Assisted by Aang, Sokka, and Katara, the Fire Nation siblings Zuko and Azula search for this long-lost mother. This “search” brings them closer to darker secrets that reveal their mother’s troubled mental history.

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It provides definitely one of the most emotional arcs when it comes to Zuko, an antagonistic character with many grey areas. Rather than reducing the Fire Nation dwellers as just one-dimensional villains, The Search added more context behind Zuko and Azula’s personalities, humanizing them further.

7 Katara And The Pirate’s Silver

A standalone graphic novel from 2020, this one-shot is solely focused on Katara and offers a glimpse at her mastery of survival skills. The basic plot deals with the Waterbender getting separated from Team Avatar after an attack by the Fire Army. She later goes on to ally with pirates of the Earth Kingdom.

With the spotlight being on Katara’s tougher side, this Dark Horse Comics original would be a treat for fans of the character. While Kara has still not got her solo series, this one-shot is perhaps the closes that fans can get to a Kara-centric storyline (other than North and South). The artwork is similar to the Imbalance trilogy as both incorporate the talent of fan-favorite illustrator Peter Wartman.

6 The Lost Adventures

The first-ever Avatar anthology is an interesting compilation of mini-comics and one-shot stories collected from 2005 to 2009. A particularly important storyline deals with the reasons behind Joo Dee’s appointment as Ba Sing Se’s Grand Secretariat. At the same time, other aspects of the franchise are also interpreted.

So, what’s interesting about the anthology is that readers can expect a fair share of lighter elements too. For instance, one story entirely revolves around Aang and Katara’s relationship as they discuss the awkward kiss that the two shared during the Day of the Black Sun. This balance of tones is what makes The Lost Adventures worth a read.

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5 The Rift

Aang revisits his roots with the masters of Airbending techniques, the Air Nation. In this journey, he also realizes that his culture should be preserved but not the extent to which it prevents any scope for modern progress. A subplot also touches upon Toph’s strained relationship with her father as she reunites with him after two years.

While Imbalance asked the reader questions on the limits of modernization, The Rift asks to what extent is traditionalism justified. By the third act, Toph and Aang also engage in a debate around the destruction of a settlement. Hence, this comic only bears further testimony to how unique every Avatar character is in their moral stands.

4 Smoke And Shadow

Set right after The Search, Smoke and Shadow is another storyline that looks deeper into Zuko’s life. His insecurities on being a Fire Lord as well as his family history are fleshed out in great detail, while also offering more developments in his changing relationship with Aang. Once arch enemies, the two powerful beings now join forces to restore balance in both the physical and spiritual realms.

While The Search revolved around the mystery around Azula, Smoke and Shadow is important in showing how Zuko’s mother always desired him to be a ruthless Fire Lord. This contrasts with all the best things that Zuko did with his newfound compassion. The constant clash of values makes this arc all the more profound.

3 North And South

Sokka and Katara’s roots with the Southern Water Tribe form the premise of North and South. As they visit their native village after years, they are surprised to find how much the settlement has progressed as a new city. As the North and South sides merge under the ominous figure known as Malina, the Waterbenders seek to unravel a deeper mystery.

Much like its preceding series Smoke and Shadow, the trilogy was written by Gene Luen Yung and illustrated by Gurihiru, the duo behind most of Avatar’s initial comics. However, this marked Gurihiru’s final work for the franchise as they progressed to other projects. Another major reason for reading is that the spotlight lies on Water Tribe and the duo of Sokka and Katara rather than the usual arcs around Aang and Zuko.

2 Team Avatar Tales

Team Avatar Tales is the quintessential Avatar anthology collecting eight original stories that include both exclusives and previously published specials for Free Comic Book Day. Ranging from Mai and Zuko’s issues as a couple to Sokka being mistaken as a Fire Nation teacher, the anthology provides a lighter side of the franchise.

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Rather than incorporating heavy action or history-changing events, Team Avatar Tales focuses on the emotional sides of each character. Much like the aforementioned The Lost Adventures, multiple tones of comedy, coming-of-age, and slice-of-life genres make it a good addition to the pantheon of Avatar comics.

1 Toph Beifong’s Metalbending Academy

In this 80-page Dark Horse publication, the focus is on the Earthbender teacher Toph Beifong. Even though she runs her own academy, she seems to find her once-adventurous life mundane. But with Sokka and Suki paying her a visit, Toph recounts her tumultuous past.

What’s notable about the standalone comics in the Avatar universe is that each of them highlights the individual skills of the supporting characters rather than just focusing on Aang. Toph Beifong’s Metalbending Academy is no exception and is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the general nature of Toph (instead of just her powers).

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