The legacy of Avatar: The Last Airbender has continued in comics long after the cartoon has ended, and this week's Avatar: The Last Airbender - Suki Alone presents a 'lost episode' type of story delving into the fan-favorite character Suki and her time in prison at Boiling Rock.
Set between the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender's season two episodes 'Appa's Lost Days and 'The Boiling Rock,' Suki Alone finds the Kyoshi Warriors leader separated from Team Avatar. Suki is captured by the Fire Nation and brought to the Boiling Rock, a grim prison in the middle of a dormant volcano. She decides to build her own community among other prisoners, but it's going to take more than an encouraging word to build trust among so many frightened people.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Suki Alone reunites franchise writer Faith Erin Hicks with artist Peter Wartman and colorist Adele Matera. Before the release of the OGN this week, Newsarama spoke with Hicks and Wartman about revisiting a classic era of the show, how this expands on the Suki character's journey, and how this fits within the comics and the TV series.
Newsarama: Faith, let's jump right in, what was it like tackling an Avatar: The Last Airbender story that took place between episodes of the show instead of following the finale like previous volumes?
Faith Erin Hicks: I really enjoyed furthering the Gaang's story in Imbalance, the post-show trilogy that Peter and I did a couple of years ago, but writing comics set during the show's run is also a lot of fun. I don't have to wrangle all the disparate consequences of Aang defeating the Fire Lord and saving the world into a brand-new story.
Basically, there is less pressure writing stories set during the show's run, so it allows me to experiment and try new things.
Newsarama: What did you enjoy the most about working on Suki as the central character?
Hicks: I enjoyed expanding her character, digging into her past, and spotlighting her strength and resilience.
Peter Wartman: Suki is just a normal person in a setting full of people with superhero-like powers, which is always my favorite kind of character.
It's the same reason that Sokka is one of my other favorite characters, although Suki deals with her lack of powers in a very different way. While Sokka is all about using his wits to solve things, Suki fights benders on their own terms. She doesn't throw earth or water around, she can't use fire or air bending to fly – she's just good at what she does.
Newsarama: Were there any layers you were able to add to Suki's character that wasn't in the show?
Hicks: Suki's probably the member of Team Avatar we know the least about. We see her as a fighter and leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, but we don't know much about her childhood or what her quirks are.
That was something that was really fun to do in our previous graphic novel, Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy: Suki is a total fangirl for this band made up of the nomads from the Secret Tunnel episode. We'd never seen that side of her before, this badass warrior girl who also loves music.
In Suki Alone we see her at her lowest point, struggling to survive the Boiling Rock prison without compromising herself. We also get a peek into her childhood and the losses she experienced growing up, which was really wonderful to write. I loved digging into her character.
Newsarama: The graphic novels, just like the show, always does a good job at adding a political undertone. Do you have this as well in Suki, Alone?
Hicks: There's a subplot involving the cost of small acts of rebellion while being held captive that I feel is quite poignant. The ability to hold on to one's self while having it broken down by prison life. Suki goes into the Boiling Rock strong and defiant, but experiences great hardship. We know she escapes because of what happens in the show, but what happens to her before that? What is she forced to face in order to survive?
Newsarama: What can you tell us about this prison? How does Suki adapt to her new surroundings?
Hicks: Suki's a fighter, so she goes into the prison ready to cause all kinds of trouble, rally the other prisoners to her cause, fight back against the Fire Nation. But what she discovers is that might not be the best way to survive this brutal environment.
Wartman: The Boiling Rock has always been one of my favorite settings (and story arcs) in Avatar, and it's fun to get another look at it. Suki makes the best of it – she's adaptable and tough, which come in handy – but prison is a terrible place (especially the food), and it'll wear down even the strongest people eventually.
Newsarama: Playing off of episode titles like 'Korra Alone' and 'Zuko Alone', is this story reminiscent of those episodes?
Hicks: That was my intention! Hopefully Suki's story can stand alongside Zuko and Korra's.
Newsarama: Besides Suki, are there any other familiar faces that appear?
Hicks: A few. Since this story takes place in the Boiling Rock, we see the jerky prison warden, who continues to be a giant jerk. That guy sucks.
Newsarama: On the flip side, were there any new characters you were able to create?
Hicks: Yes, we see a new character from Suki's childhood, as well as an ally she makes while in the Boiling Rock.
Wartman: A few! Mingxia is my favorite new character, for reasons I (sorry!) don't want to give away.
Newsarama: Peter, Suki is well known for her martial arts skills. Were you able to add this layer into Suki, Alone?
Wartman: Without giving too much away, a lot of the story is about what those skills mean to Suki – and not always in ways that are about overcoming an opponent.
Although she gets to do that too.
Newsarama: What was your favorite action sequence?
Wartman: It's hard to get into it without huge spoilers, but there are a few sequences in the book that are some of my favorite I've drawn for Avatar. They're not action sequences, exactly, but they're very much about motion and martial arts and, well, some other cool stuff.
Newsarama: What do you think Avatar fans will enjoy about this graphic novel?
Hicks: I hope Avatar fans will enjoy Peter's gorgeous artwork, and after reading the comic I hope they'll feel like they know Suki better as a person.
Wartman: I mean, it's Suki! Everyone wants more Suki stories, right? We get to see a lot more of her character and even some of her past before she met Aang, which I hope people will enjoy reading.
Newsarama: Do you have any more Avatar stories following this?
Hicks: Nothing to announce at the moment, sorry!
Wartman: We'll see!
Dive into the rich comics of this franchise with our Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legenda of Korra reading order.