Although the cartoons are over, the Avatar: The Last Airbender / Legend of Korra universe continues to grow as a new graphic novel titled Suki Alone, set during Book Two: Earth, goes on sale later this month.
Both shows recently hit Netflix with plenty of fans re-binging the show and new viewers discovering it for the first time - which dovetails well into the series of OGNs Dark Horse Comics has published regularly over the 15 years.
Dark Horse Comics first started publishing Avatar comics in 2005 with earlier stories being collected in Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures and even more anthology stories in Avatar: The Last Airbender – Team Avatar Tales. But in 2012, the show's creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, began Avatar narratives with Dark Horse that formally continued their epic.
With the modern-day classic cartoons available now more than ever and the universe expanding in graphic novels, we have done some word bending to come up with the best reading order for all the Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra comics and graphic novels to read.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise
The three-part graphic novel series Avatar The Last Airbender: The Promise is the first major continuation of the cartoon series, orchestrated by the show's creators and carried out by writer Gene Luen Yang and artists Gurihiru.
Picking up right after the cartoon's series finale, Aang and Katara are together, Toph starts a metal bending school, and the Harmony Restoration Movement has been put into motion. Everything should be perfect, right?
Well, early on in The Promise, the book jumps forward a year and things are not-so-perfect. Zuko continues to struggle with the fear of one day becoming just like his father. He makes a pact - "a promise" - that if Aang ever sees him turning to the dark side then Aang should kill him.
On a larger thematic note, Team Avatar quickly learns that years of colonization and tension can't be erased with a simple want for harmony. A new character, Kori, is introduced to the Avatar mythos to showcase these complicated political affairs. Kori is both an earth bender and a citizen of the Fire Nation. She finds loyalty in both, but can harmony be found within this loyalty? That's the question that lingers over her for a while.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search
The cartoon's season finale and the subsequent The Promise graphic novels sets up Zuki in search of his mother - the granddaughter of Avatar Ruko in the aptly titled Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search.
The Search is played out over two concurrent story threads. The first takes place in the past, following Ruko and how the stunning turn of events that led her to leave her children and be banished from the Fire Nation. The second, set in the present, follows Zuko, his sister Azula, and their friends to find out where Ruko went after being banished - and if she survived.
Zuko and Azula's strained sibling relationship makes The Search a story about family on multiple levels, and that's before mentioning the surprises they'll learn along the way to finding their mother.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift
In Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift, Aang reconnects with his Airbender roots by setting out to visit his people's sacred lands, with Katara, Toph, Sokka, and the Air Acolytes in tow. He's in for a shock, however, when he learns that what was once a sanctuary for the Air Nation has now become a factory for the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom. It's only after some time and understanding that Aang comes around to what has happened, and accepting that change is a part of finding harmony.
The Rift not only explores Aang's views on tradition vs. progress, but also Toph's relationship with her father, the person who runs the factory. When they come face-to-face, he renounces his daughter. Throughout the arc, her father sees just how powerful Toph has become and her important role as the preeminent Earth Bender in the world. This helps the father/daughter duo reconnect, allowing Toph to finally be her true self in front of her family.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow
As a direct sequel to The Search, Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow focuses on Zuko and his tenuous grip on the Fire Nation. Although Zuko is now Fire Lord, loyalties towards his father Ozai continue to strengthen - with the New Ozai Society forming to resist and topple him.
At the same time, Zuko's mother Ursa returns to the palace for the first time since she lost her mask in The Search. This is humbling and traumatic for Ursa, if nothing else because when her daughter doesn't know what she looks like without her mask.
As if that wasn't enough, Zuko's longtime love interest Mai learns that her father is working with a shadowy group called the Kemurikage, thought to be malevolent spirits haunting the land.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - North and South
Following similar themes as The Rift, Avatar: The Last Airbender - North and South centers on Katara and Sokka as they return home to the Southern Water Tribe only to discover how much things have changed. What was once a small village is now a bustling industrialized city, with - surprisingly enough - their father Hakoda in charge of it all, with a Northern Water Tribe woman named Malina - a new girlfriend - by his side.
Although Hakoda and Malina seem happy, those of the Southern Water Tribe are upset with the change - with Katara and Sokka not only agreeing with that, but also upset at the idea of their mother being replaced.
These personal issues end up growing to become a major rift between the Southern and Northern Water Tribes, with Katara and Sokka at the center of it.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Imbalance
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Imbalance does well at setting the seeds for the gradual changeover to the Legend of Korra era. Tension is thick between the benders and non-benders of Cranefish, and Team Avatar is there at Earthen Fire Industries to witness it all.
Behind it all is a bender supremacist named Liling, who is leading an underground revolution of benders. Despite being a mother to an Earth bender and a non-bender, Liling sees non-benders as lesser people and wants to establish a hierarchy in their society.
It's up to Team Avatar to stop her, with Aang himself weighing the implications of taking Liling's bending abilities forever - if they can catch her.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Katara and the Pirate's Silver
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Katara and the Pirate's Silver is one of the few graphic novels to take place during the cartoon series itself. This is a 'lost story' set during the events of Book 2: Earth.
In this flashback story, Katara is accused of being soft by Toph and Soka after learning how she's teaching water bending to Aang. Things get serious when she's separated from Team Avatar following a Fire Nation attack, leading to her joining up with a band of former earth bending pirates. This is where Katara puts her "toughness" to the test, as she fights off the Fire Nation all on her lonesome and channels her inner Toph.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Suki, Alone
Part of an unofficial Avatar comics trilogy dubbed 'the awesome ladies of Avatar,' Suki, Alone follows the title character as she's kidnapped by the Fire Nation and imprisoned. Sorta like Cool Hand Luke in the Avatar universe, Suki befriends her fellow prisoners - and finds a new family - as they work towards escape. This OGN is set roughly between the Book Two episodes 'Appa's Lost Days' and 'The Boiling Rock.' Read our interview with series writer Faith Erin Hicks and artist Peter Wartman about Avatar: The Last Airbender - Suki, Alone.
Legend of Korra: Turf Wars
Turf Wars is the first comic set in the Legend of Korra era, and delves right into the big question fans of the cartoon were left with: are Korra and Asami a couple, or what? The answer appears early in the pages of this storyarc: Korrasami (as the couple is called by fans) is real.
Turf Wars opens on a romantic vacation to the spirit world for Korra and Asami. After the vacation ends, Korra is quick to tell the whole world about their love - but while her parents are thrilled for her, they warn that Republic City as a whole isn't ready for this news.
While Korra holds back from sending out a proverbial press release, the rest of the story is her and Asami coming out to the people that are important to them, and learning about the Avatar's queer history along the way.
While all this is happening, Korra is also balancing her duties in keeping the Spirit World's gates open. That's put to the test with a spirit/human hybrid named Tokuga, who makes things difficult for Korra.
Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire
Following Kuvira's defeat in Legend of Korra Season 4, King Wu (with the help of Team Avatar) wants to introduce the same political policies of Republic City to the Earth Kingdom Empire with Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire. But not all of the Earth Kingdom is happy with the new direction of their nation, including one of Kuvira's predecessors - Commander Guan.
Commander Guan builds an army to disrupt the election, creating a brainwashing machine so the kingdom will vote for him. Korra has no choice but to team up with their old enemy, Kuvira, when the rest of Team Avatar (including Asami) become brainwashed.
This tests Korra's relationship with Asami as Asami still hasn't been able to forgive Kuvira for all the destruction she caused, especially killing her father. But Ruins of the Empire becomes a redemption story for Kuvira as she tries to right her wrongs.
Legend of Korra: Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy
Toph gets the spotlight here with Legend of Korra: Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy. Toph is bored by the day-to-day routine of teaching, and is looking for more adventures, which leads her to an underground bending fight ring.
For this standalone OGN, Toph is joined by all her original students (grown up a bit), and also the return of the traveling musicians from the 'Cave of Two Lovers' episode.
This latest Korra OGN not only spotlights Toph, but also her role as a teacher. While she's a bit reluctant to take it on, it's fun to see her rise to the challenge (and excel at it) - even if there's some yelling along the way.
The story continues on June 22 with Legend of Korra: Suki Alone.