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The Perfect Order to Read the Avatar the Last Airbender (ATLA) Comics

by Laquesha Bailey 16 days ago in tv

Dive Further Into the World of Avatar

Photo by Nickelodeon

So you've finished Avatar the Last Airbender and are now looking to dive into the comics but have no idea where to start? Look no further! I present to you the perfect reading order for the graphic novels. Except for Suki, Alone, a standalone graphic novel set to be published on June 22, 2021, I own and have read the graphic novels multiple times. I've also seen the TV series a million and one times.

The order reflected here is not the order of publishing. Instead, it is a reading order based on the chronology of events as they occur in the sphere of the larger story. The reading order I outline does not match the timeline in which the graphic novels were released but the timeline of events of the series. This is particularly important for the Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales anthologies, which present various short stories that occur both during and after the TV series' events. Therefore, I categorized these shorts accordingly.

Book One: Water

  • The Boy in the Iceberg
  • The Avatar Returns
  • The Southern Air Temple
  • The Warriors of Kyoshi
  • The King of Omashu
  • Imprisoned
  • Winter Solstice, Part One: The Spirit World
  • Winter Solstice Part Two: Avatar Roku
  • The Waterbending Scroll
  • Jet
  • The Great Divide
  • The Storm
  • The Blue Spirit
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: Book One: Water!
  • The Fortuneteller
  • Bato of the Water Tribe
  • The Deserter
  • The Northern Air Temple
  • The Waterbending Master
  • The Siege of the North, Part One
  • The Siege of the North Part Two

The collection of shorts in the Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales omnibus covering Book One's adventures is relatively short. It only includes five stories: "Bee Calm," "Water War," "Don't Blow It," "Relics," and "Fruitstand Freestyle." The only prerequisite knowledge that you need entering into these comics shorts is that Aang knows that the Fire Nation committed genocide against his people, Admiral Zhao previously captured Aang, and Katara has gotten reasonably better at Waterbending. For this reason, you can dive into these comics straight after the "Blue Spirit" episode in Book One.

Book Two: Earth

  • The Avatar State
  • The Cave of Two Lovers
  • Return to Omashu
  • The Swamp
  • Avatar Day
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Origami"
  • The Blind Bandit
  • Zuko Alone
  • The Chase
  • Bitter Work
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Sleepbending," "Lessons," "Sokka the Avatar," "Dirty is Only Skin Deep," "Divided We Fall," "Reach for the Toph," "New Recruits," "Gym Time" and "The Scarecrow"
  • Katara and the Pirate's Silver!
  • The Library
  • The Desert
  • The Serpent's Pass
  • The Drill
  • City of Walls and Secrets
  • The Tales of Ba Sing Se
  • Appa's Lost Days
  • Lake Laogai
  • The Earth King
  • The Guru
  • The Crossroads of Destiny
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "It's Only Natural," "Going Home Again," and "The Bridge"

Categorizing the graphic novels in book two was a tad trickier. "Origami," which is a short in the Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales Library Edition, is the only story in Book Two that excludes Toph. Hence, I deduced that it occurred sometime after the GAANG leaves the North Pole (owing to Katara's advanced waterbending) but before they encounter Toph in the "Blind Bandit" episode. The other shorts "Sleepbending," "Lessons," "Sokka the Avatar," "Dirty is Only Skin Deep," "Divided We Fall," "Reach for the Toph," "New Recruits," "Gym Time," and "The Scarecrow" should be read after the "Bitter Work" episode in Book Two. This is because they all include Toph and Appa, which suggests that he had not been captured yet. Likewise, they feature Toph teaching Aang various earthbending skills, so they likely occurred after that episode.

Similarly, it would be best to read the standalone novel Katara and the Pirate's Silver after the "Bitter Work" episode. The graphic novel's content unfolds immediately following that episode where Toph teaches Aang earthbending. After the events of "Bitter Work," owing to an accident, Katara is separated from the rest of the GAANG and has to find her way back to them with the help of some trusty pirates.

Finally, the three shorts "It's Only Natural," "Going Home Again," and "The Bridge" take place directly after the events of the Book Two finale "The Crossroads of Destiny" and follow the aftermath of the coup at Ba Sing Se. Read these after that episode.

Book Three: Fire

  • The Awakening
  • The Headband
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Private Fire," "Night Animals," "Boys' Day Out," and "The Substitute"
  • The Painted Lady
  • Sokka's Master
  • The Beach
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Ember Island Arcade," "Monster Slayers," and "Combustion Man on a Train"
  • The Avatar and the Firelord
  • The Runaway
  • The Puppetmaster
  • Nightmares and Daydreams
  • The Day of Black Sun, Part One: The Invasion
  • The Day of Black Sun, Part Two: The Eclipse
  • The Western Air Temple
  • The Firebending Masters
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Swordbending," "No Benders Allowed," "Love is a Battlefield," and "Dragon Days"
  • Suki, Alone! (Releasing June 22, 2021)
  • The Boiling Rock, Part One
  • The Boiling Rock, Part Two
  • The Southern Raiders
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Game Time"
  • The Ember Island Players
  • Sozin's Comet, Part One: The Phoenix King
  • Sozin's Comet, Part Two: The Old Masters
  • The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Bumi vs Toph"
  • Sozin's Comet, Part Three: Into The Inferno
  • Sozin's Comet, Part Four: Avatar Aang

"Private Fire," "Night Animals," "Boys' Day Out," and "The Substitute" are all shorts whose events unfold after "The Headband" episode of Book Three. They make specific mention of Aang's stint as Kuzon in the Fire Nation School and follow the GAANG's journey through the Fire Nation as they try to remain incognito.

"Ember Island Arcade," "Monster Slayers," and "Combustion Man on a Train" should be read after "The Beach" episode because they contain more information about Azula and Zuko's mini-vacation to Ember Island. They also include a second meeting with Combustion Man, whom the GAANG only encounters after that specific episode.

The following comic shorts from the Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales omnibus occur after Zuko officially becomes a member of the GAANG, and they learn proper firebending from the dragons in the "Firebending Masters" episode of Book Three: "Swordbending," "No Benders Allowed," "Love is a Battlefield" and "Dragon Days."

Likewise, the standalone graphic novel Suki, Alone, set to be released in a few months on June 22, 2021, follows Suki's experience in the Boiling Rock prison after Azula captures her. As I have yet to read this comic, I can only guess that this novel's events take place sometime between the "Appa's Lost Days" episode of Book Two and the "Boiling Rock" episodes of Book Three. Still, I recommend reading it (when it comes out) just before the "Boiling Rock" episodes so that your memory is fresh when you watch them.

Moreover, the "Game Time" short from the Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales Library Edition follows the group's stay at the Fire Lord's house while hiding out on Ember Island. Therefore, I suggest reading it directly before the "Ember Island Players" episode. Finally, the exciting comic short "Bumi vs Toph" tells the tale of an earthbending showdown between Bumi and Toph to decide who is truly the world's greatest earthbender. This short immediately precedes some of the more gritty scenes from the series finale and should be read before the penultimate episode "Sozin's Comet, Part Three: Into the Inferno."

The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Shells," "Sokka's Poem," "Toph and the Boulder," and "Sisters"

The above comic shorts from the Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales anthologies occur at the end of the series and should be read immediately after. They are interesting and add more to the development of specific characters, but plot-wise, it's difficult to locate them at any one point in the narrative timeline.

The Promise (Parts 1-3)

The Promise graphic novel volume tells the story of the struggles faced by Aang and Zuko in disbanding the Fire Nation colonies and separating the Four Nations once more. They soon discover that it's a lot more complicated than they had initially thought. It's not as simple as forcibly removing Fire Nation citizens from Earth Kingdom territories. After living together for a century, cultures have merged, and histories have coalesced. The volume covers the rift in Zuko and Aang's friendship due to differing opinions, and Aang is forced to confront a deadly promise that he made to Zuko when he assumed the throne.

The Search (Parts 1 -3)

The Search volume of comics answers the question that has plagued Avatar fans forever: what the hell happened to Zuko's mom? With the help of an unlikely ally, the GAANG searches for Zuko's mother and discovers some uncomfortable truths along the way.

The Rift (Parts 1-3)

During a trip to honour an ancient Airbender ritual, the GAANG discovers a newly-built industrial town sitting on land that the Air Nomads once held sacred. Avatar Yangchen keeps appearing to Aang, almost as if she's warning him of an imminent threat. This graphic novel confronts the opposing ideas of modernity and progress versus tradition. A fascinating read! This volume is my favourite of the bunch, so I highly recommend it.

The Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales: "Rebound Time"

Last short from the Lost Adventures/Team Avatar Tales anthologies! "Rebound Time" is a comic focusing specifically on Mai. I can't say much more without spoiling comics that come before and after this one, but it is an incredibly important short because it introduces some new characters who will come into play in later graphic novels. Read this before Smoke and Shadow!

Smoke and Shadow (Parts 1-3)

Smoke and Shadow outlines the precarious situation of Zuko's reign as Fire Lord. A mysterious resistance called the New Ozai Society crops up, decrying his claim as Fire Lord and hoping to re-install Ozai as the true ruler. At the same time, young children keep disappearing at the hands of the Kemurrikage, a harrowing children's tale that seems to have come alive.

North and South (Parts 1-3)

Katara and Sokka return home for the first time since they left on their journey with Aang, only to discover that their little Southern Water Tribe village has now changed dramatically and now closely resembles life at the North Pole. Their father, Hakoda, is now Chief. They meet Malina, who is from the Northern Water Tribe and has grand plans to further industrialize the Southern Tribe and foster greater unity with the North. Of course, not everyone agrees with this decision and violence, and resistance ensues.

Imbalance (Parts 1-3)

Imbalance sees the GAANG (minus Zuko) visit a little port village called Cranefish Town (which will eventually become Republic City). The central conflict revolves around a quarrel between Benders and Non-benders. The benders feel that they have been replaced with machines, which subsequently causes a division that manifests along political lines: benders on one side, non-benders on the other. Aang is put to the test as he is left to resolve this problem while dealing with an underground bending resistance that begins attacking non-bender businesses.

Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy

Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy is a standalone graphic novel that follows Toph in her role as the leader of her own Metalbending Academy. Although she seemingly has everything she's ever wanted, she is bored and misses the adventure and spontaneity of being on the run with the GAANG. Including some surprising appearances from characters we've encountered in the past, as well as a few interesting new ones, this comic is about Toph's journey to rediscover her purpose and passion for teaching.

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That's it! Do you agree with my proposed reading order? Have you read the graphic novels yourself, or are you planning to? Avatar the Last Airbender was such a massive part of my lived experience growing up, so diving back into the world through the comics was incredible and so refreshing. I hope this helped at least one person, and I will continue to update this article as new comics are released.

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Laquesha Bailey
Laquesha Bailey
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Laquesha Bailey

22 years old literally, about 87 at heart. I write about self care, university life, money, music, books and whatever else that piques my interest.

@laqueshabailey

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