Avatar: The Last Airbender

February 2015 Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk

Book 2: Earth

For those who have been following the series to its completion, you know that the last Legend of Korra season has finished its airing. So for the most part (unless the creators choose to take this animation to another level apart from accompanying graphic novels), we can all wave goodbye to the wonderfulness that is the world of the Avatar.

But no. I refuse to acknowledge this! I shall remain a stalwart fan through and through, and I will talk about this series even when the show has moved on! Yes, yes I will!

Hem hem.

Now that that's over with...

Last issue, I introduced "Book 1: Water." This issue, I will continue onward and discuss the subsequent season, "Book 2: Earth."

"Book 2" continues off from "Book 1", although at this point, Aang has become a master of two elements: air and water. With the help of Katara--who has also become quite adept in Waterbending--Aang has gotten closer to his goal of becoming a fully-realized Avatar. Of course, elemental mastery of two elements is still only halfway, and Aang has to find masters for two of the remaining elements. Unfortunately, what with the Fire Nation close on his heels--and the fact that Fire Lord Ozai has now sent his most competent daughter to find and eliminate the Avatar--, Aang is running out of time, and there's still a great deal of the Earth Kingdom to comb to find the proper Earthbending master.

So imagine Team Avatar's surprise when Aang's fated Earthbending master surfaces as a blind girl no older than Aang.

There's a lot to say about how beastly awesome Toph Beifong is. In fact, one could say she was DiMartino and Konietzko's most masterful addition to Team Avatar. Toph is immediately introduced as a tough girl embroiled in things one would not expect from someone who was pampered and protected all her life. She is part of the powerful and rich Beifong family, though the family itself does not introduce Toph to society, due to her blindness. Instead of having her blindness as a liability, however, Toph overcomes this handicap and turns it into a strength, learning the art of seismic sense and discovering new techniques to bend the earth to her whim (I would say more, but spoilers!). Toph has proclaimed herself as the most powerful Earthbender in the world, and while this can be construed as a prideful boast, I'd argue that it's pretty darn right.

If "Book 2" had solely been about the search for an Earthbending master, it would have been entertaining enough. But the Fire Nation did not remain idle as Team Avatar continued its adventures. Zuko and Iroh still remain at large, though the duo is finding itself also running from the Fire Nation (having been branded as traitors for their clash against Fire Nation soldiers in the previous season). Then there's the matter of Azula, the single-most frightening female Firebender introduced into the show. Azula is a prodigy, a blue Firebender with the ability to shoot lightning from her fingertips. Together with her two friends from the prestigious Fire Academy for Girls, Azula hunts down the Avatar through any means necessary--even if she has to drag her brother Zuko back from banishment.

Once again, the characters grow throughout their journey, and with Toph added into Team Avatar, the character dynamics have altered a bit to include her. There is some hilarity down the road (my particular favorite scenes involve Sokka and his bout of cactus juice), as well as scenes that might make you want to tear up a bit. It is also clear that the Earth Kingdom is a massive place, filled with culture and peoples of varying skills and beliefs. And once Team Avatar makes it to the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se? Well, things shake up quite a bit.

Just don't get too angry about the massive cliffhanger at the end of "Book 2." Actually, maybe you should get angry. It'll speed up the process of your watching "Book 3: Fire."