Avatar: The Last Airbender --- Returns in July!

Trailer --- allegedly from the New York Comic Con.

**** sorry I can't embed, I can't even view the trailer where I'm at, so this is taking things on faith 

Good news but why am I unsurprised that they're bringing it back while I will be out of the country? Thank goodness for Tivo!


"The website [Toon Zone] reports that the trailer for the second half of Book 3 ends with the words, "The Journey Concludes July 2008," "at which time all remaining new episodes of Avatar will air. Privately, a Nickelodeon PR representative confirmed that the release date for the third DVD of the season will not change from May 6, 2008, meaning that several episodes of the show will be available on DVD well before they air on television."

Source: Newsarama's blog


SPOILERS to follow from the ARTICLE






by Steve Fritz

WARNING: Oh yeah…there’s going to be spoilers, but probably nothing a dedicated Avatar fan doesn’t already know.

Have to admit, being a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender is getting to be akin to being a young monk in certain ways. Just when you think you’re about to reach the nirvana with the series conclusion, animation masters Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, along with network Nickelodeon, have this habit of smacking us in the back of the head. In K&D’s case, it’s usually in the form of a major plot twist or bit of art you never see coming. In Nick’s case, it’s been in holding off airing any new episodes since last November – frustratingly so for fans young and old.

Well, some sort of satisfaction is finally going to arrive on May 6th. That’s when Book 3 Volume 3 of the DVD series will hit the market. Here’s the slap in the head: It contains four never-aired episodes.

Yes, I realize fans of the Avatar forum are by now very well aware of this. If that isn’t enough, Paramount Home Entertainment announced Volume 4, which should include the final five episodes of the series, comes out this July. In fact, the site I prefer to order from when I’m in the buying mood, has put that release date as July 29.

As to when Nick itself will ever air these last nine episodes? I have no idea. The highlights I receive from the might N go only to the end of May, and anyone who gets these releases know they always come with the proviso; that schedules can be changed at the drop of a whirlwind kick.

Just why Nick/Paramount have gone this rather unorthodox way has led me to speculation. I’ll admit the temptation is to say it’s to drive DVD sales. Then again, anyone I’ve ever known in the home entertainment industry has usually told me that sales of the shiny little silver disks usually spikes considerably after something has been televised. Familiarity, in this case, doesn’t create contempt, it creates better sales.

From what I gather from the forum here as well as other places, the series is pretty much done and over with as far as production is concerned. DiMartino and Konietzko are helping M. Night Shyamalan on the live action feature film version of the series. They also aren’t finished with their incredibly unique universe, with more animated stories to come.

So why the DVD release? I personally believe it has something to do with the release schedule that was already pre-set with Paramount Home Entertainment. Many of these contracts contain very rigid release dates, and the penalties for not following them can be brutal.

Personally, I’m not minding. If this release is any indicator, the much anticipated conclusion to this three season work is going to be explosive. What I watched over and over again over this weekend sure brought the series to the boiling point.

As expected, the DVD starts off with the episode “The Day of the Black Sun Part 2: The Eclipse.” It holds up remarkably well.









  The key scenes here are Aang, Sokka and Toph’s confrontation with Azula and Prince Zuko finally standing up to his father, the Fire Lord Ozai. What truly sets these confrontations though is how DiMartino, who’s the main story editor of the series, uses parallel construction during this twin sequences. As DiMartino says in the commentary, Azula uses acrobatics to avoid the attacks of her opponents while Ozai does pretty much the same thing, verbally, with his son. While Azula’s battle with our heroes is outstanding from an action timing point of view, the real standout is Zuko v. Ozai. If you want to see how two voice actors at the top of their game can be, the acting that comes from Mark Hammill (Ozai) and Dante Basco (Zuko) should be made text book.

As DiMartino and Konietzko more or less admit in the commentary tracks here, they have a master plan for their ultimate story line. If it frustrates certain fans, well the fans can send over several hundred thousand dollars and they’d be glad to do a reshoot. In the meantime, what everyone who watched this episode last November knows, Azula and Ozai use their respective stalling actions to hold off our heroes long enough for the long anticipated solar eclipse to end. When it does, they quickly recharge and the “Gaang” has to beat a hasty retreat, losing all the adult members of their army in the process. What they don’t realize is as they make their escape on Appa, Zuko is quietly following them in a small war balloon.

For once, DiMartino and Konietzko don’t dawdle. The first two new episodes, “Western Air Temple” and “The Firebending Masters,” is all about Zuko teaching Aang how to fire bend. Not that this will be easy.

“Western Air Temple” is about the Gaang and Zuko coming to terms to each other. Personally, I found it the weakest of these four new episodes. Not that it is a bad episode. More so I found it just a bit too pat. I mean c’mon


fans, we all just KNEW Zuko was going to end up being Aang’s teacher, especially after Azula was introduced. The way the various kids react to Zuko is also highly predictable, although how he finally wins them over has its moments.

On the other hand, what truly is outstanding is Konietzko’s art design. The Temple itself is admittedly one of the best bits of background work the man has ever done. It’s a site that if it was designed by MC Escher, the great artist would have called it one of his masterworks.

Still, if we didn’t have “Western Air Temple,” it would have made the next episode, “Firebending Masters” rather clumsy to execute. It kicks off with a small twist, that Zuko’s fire bending ability was triggered by the years upon years of rage that had built up in him throughout his life. With his finally being accepted by the Gaang, the rage level drops to virtually nothing and his ability with it.

This sends Aang and Zuko on a one episode quest to meet the original fire benders, a race that is rumored to be extinct. As forumites know all too well, that certainly isn’t the case. More important, it introduces an interesting twist that harkens back to the wisdom of Zuko’s Uncle Iroh. Long term, I found this episode exceedingly satisfying because of DiMartino’s ability to weave in the unexpected in a truly logical way. We have always accepted Iroh as much wiser than he makes himself out to be. With this episode, his wisdom borders on being truly enlightened, as an action he performed way before the kids were born has long term effects even in the present.

Again, Konietzko proves he has an incredible way of coming up with very original and powerful art to compliment DiMartino’s story line. This time he goes pre-Columbian South American, creating an elaborate and powerful site for the secretive fire benders. I particularly love the ancient temple where Aang and Zuko learn their, for lack of better term, fire bending kata.

What’s actually interesting is these two episodes actually work off each other in many quiet ways. By the time they are finished, it’s hard to think of one without the other. While the pairing of these two episodes is implied, D&K leave no doubt that the next two chapters are one, simply by calling them Part 1 and Part 2.

Without giving too much away, what’s important here is it establishes a bond between Sokka and Zuko. The overall plot is the two breaking into the Fire Kingdom’s ultimate prison with the intention of liberating Sokka and Katara’s father. This time, the prison itself is as much a character in the overall plot. This is one case where one wishes DiMartino and Konietzko did provide a commentary track. I would have loved to have heard how they thought this one up.

More important is what Sokka and Zuko find awaiting them once they’re inside. These two episodes are loaded with incredible plot twists and surprises, but all fit seamlessly into the overall story. My favorite though is the final confrontation between Sokka and Zuko against Azula, Ty Lee and Mai. It pulls off one final rug out from under us viewers, one that if we thought the entire thing through, should have seen it coming.

The final opinion is when push comes to shove, “Boiling Rock” has to be the best written and executed episodes of this series, at least so far. It’s an incredible study in character development and maturing for the two primary boys.

In fact, if one has to make one interesting comment about this disk, it’s really more about Zuko than any other character here, even Aang. In “Western Air Temple” Basco has a fairly long monologue with himself that is another standout performance. By the time he is done, one realizes he’s finally starting to enter the terrain previously only occupied by Iroh, even if he still has a ways to go.

But let’s be real. As great as this set of episodes truly are, what really matters here is by the time they are done, they are all really just setting up our expectations for the last five. The thing now is Konietzko and DiMartino have set the bar exceedingly high for themselves with this set. If they pull it off, well then we have to put


down as one of the greatest animated series of all time, period.

The only catch now is we’ll have to wait until July 29 to see if that is the case or not. Somehow I get the feeling we shouldn’t be surprised if they come out on DVD first, too.