A trilogy of Graphic Novel digests published by Dark Horse Comics in the Avatar franchise, acting as an Interquel between Avatar: The Last Airbender and its Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra. The story is written by Gene Yang (American Born Chinese) with input from series' creators Michael Dante Di Martino and Bryan Konietzko, with illustrations by Japanese art duo Gurihiru.With Ozai defeated and the war over, Team Avatar and the world's governments set to work restoring balance to the world. Zuko, worried that he might go mad with power like his father, makes Aang promise to kill him should he ever become a threat. One year later, a dispute breaks out over the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom, and war may break out yet again. Worse yet, Zuko is taking the colonies' side, making the conflict worse and forcing Aang to accept that he may have to fulfill that promise after all.The first volume was released on January 25, 2012, the second on May 30, and the third on October 9, with a hardcover compilation of the trilogy released February 20, 2013. A second comic series by the same creative team subtitled ''The Search'' began in March 2013, detailing Aang and Zuko's search for Zuko's Missing Mom while dealing with Azula, whose discharge from mental care Zuko has ordered so she may aid in the eponymous search.
The Promise provides examples of:
'80s Hair: Early preview images showed Zuko sporting a sort of mullet. The ensuing negative fan reaction led to Zuko being redesigned.
Bittersweet Ending: Aang successfully averts the war between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom, Yu Dao becomes the center of a new dynamic between the nations, and Aang finds a way to carry on the beliefs of his people through the newly-formed Air Acolytes. However, Aang severs his spiritual connection to Roku, since Roku's outdated worldview and insistence that the Avatar must be willing to kill clash with Aang's Thou Shalt Not Kill attitude and new worldview. By extension, the other Avatars are a no-go in this department, as well. Zuko realizes his internal conflicts will continue in spite of his Heel-Face Turn, and in pursuit of finding peace in his familial roots, resorts to enlisting his currently straitjacketed sister on a quest to find his still missing mother. Finally, Mai breaking up with Zuko over his secret keeping isn't resolved by the end. It remains to be seen if Iroh II's grandmother is another woman or not.
Bodyguard Babes: The Kyoshi Warriors serve as Zuko's personal bodyguards after his previous guards fail to intercept six assassination attempts.
Book Ends: Near the beginning, Zuko is asking Ozai about his mother. In the last scene, Zuko, having realized Ozai will not help him, turns to his sister Azula.
All remaining Freedom Fighters, including the long-vanished Sneers who makes his first appearance since "Jet", return with Smellerbee as their new boss.
Earth King Kuei has gotten back in the political game pretty quickly after Ozai's defeat.
Iroh and Azula finally make appearances in Part 3, with the former commenting that Zuko should really learn to come to him sooner.
Call Back: While tunneling underground courtesy of Toph, Suki is about to remark on how she can't see anything. Sokka quickly stops her as it's a sensitive topic with Toph, referencing his own slip in "The Drill" and Toph's sarcastic response.
Call Forward: Goes with being an interquel. The most obvious is Aang's fanclub, a group of Air Nomad enthusiasts that evolve into the Air Acolytes of The Legend of Korra.
Catapult Nightmare: In part three, Aang and Zuko have the same nightmare. Aang wakes up this way, while Zuko's reaction looks a little more realistic.
The Chains of Commanding: Zuko struggles with how to do right by his people while not doing it at the expense of the other nations. He's so torn up about this that he goes to Ozai for advice on how to deal with the pressures of the job.
Chekhov's Gun: One that was set up but never fired in the TV series returns here, that Toph realized her space metal armlet could alert her to potential metalbenders.
Chekhov's Skill: Spinning helmets is very helpful in subduing soldiers without killing them.
Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Played with. Kori wears both red and green, as she's an Earthbender yet also legally a Fire Nation citizen and thinks of herself as such.
Zuko, once again, has to deal with it. Later, Aang does too.
Defied by Kori, who is an Earthbender and a Fire Nation citizen, is proud of being both, and is sick and tired of being told that her loyalties between the two have to conflict.
Cooldown Hug: Katara continues to pull Aang out of the Avatar State when she feels he's gone too far.
Could Have Avoided This Plot: Zuko boxes himself inside the city of Yu Dao as part of his withdrawal from the Harmony Restoration Movement. After an escalating series of scuffles nearly culminates in Aang making good on his Promise, Zuko says they should talk about this... prompting Aang to flip his lid and say that's what he came here for in the first place.
Deconstruction: The series ended on a note of hope for the future, with the new Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko as the vanguard of peace among the four nations. However, the idea of leaving a group of idealistic teenagers in charge of a world that's been festering in complicated political problems for more than a hundred years is quickly shown to be an unrealistic solution. Their initial solution—simply deport all Fire Nationals in the colonies back to the Fire Nation—is quickly shown to be extremely naive and causes problems due to people having already established lives in the colonies and interracial marriages.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Toph to her students. A typical communication goes like this, "Stop slacking off, lily livers!"
End of an Age: The finale cements this as modernization continues, progressivism wins the day, and the differences in philosophy between Aang and the previous Avatars result in him disowning them as mentors.
Enemy Mine: Zuko asks Azula for help finding their mother.
Epic Flail: Kori wields a meteor hammer. Because the 'ball' is made of stone, she can manipulate it with her earthbending for easy retrieval and trick moves.
Evil Mentor: Like he once did with Uncle Iroh, Zuko goes to his father for advice. Though he knows what his dad is like, and is more than willing to call him out when he smells a load of crap.
Fangirl: Aang and Katara meet a group of Avatar fangirls, many of whom are also fans of Air Nomad culture.
Won-Yee: What an honor it is to meet Avatar Aang's first girlfriend! Katara: Why thank you, I — wait, what do you mean, "first"? Won-Yee:[smirks]
Fantastic Racism: Considering the issues of imperialism and colonization are at the heart of the story, this isn't surprising. Smellerbee refers to the Fire Nation as "those ash-makers" for illegally occupying sovereign Earth Kingdom land. Sokka gets called a 'Water Tribe savage' by an Earth Kingdomer who throws a brick at him. Toph is repeatedly called a "dirt girl" by a firebender. Despite being extremely multicultural by in-universe standards, no Fire Nation citizen is going to be shining an Earth Kingdomer's boots in Yu Dao.
Foregone Conclusion: This will ultimately end in the founding of Republic City, as seen in The Legend of Korra, or at the very least the first steps toward that end. Additionally, as Zuko was confirmed by Word of God to be alive at the time of The Legend of Korra, Aang will never have to make good on his promise.
Sokka: Wait! You can't leave me alone with them! The oogie-osity's only gonna get worse when you're gone! How am I supposed to keep my food down? Toph: Well, you could come with me. Sokka: No, no. Hey, how about I go with you? Toph: Great idea Sokka. Wish I'd thought of it.
The conflict between the Fire Nation colonists (and Zuko) who do not want to lose their homes and the people who want to remove them (the Gaang, Earth Kingdom) from land conquered during the war.
A smaller-scale example is Aang and Zuko's philosophical divide over Yu Dao's social order. While Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation citizens live and work together in the colony, Fire Nation citizens are still firmly on top of the social ladder. Aang takes issue with this oppressive inequality but Zuko, while admitting things aren't perfect, feels that such inequality is an acceptable price to pay because everyone is better off than they would otherwise be.
Green-Eyed Monster: Katara, briefly, when Aang hangs out with some fans. Justified, as one of them calls her Aang's first girlfriend. She's quick to apologize after Aang mentions how his fans made him feel like he was with his people again.
Honor Before Reason: Zuko pulls out of the Harmony Restoration Movement without notifying his friends, presumably acting quickly so no more of his citizens would have to be taken from their homes against their will, and justifies this as being the right thing to do by his people. See below for how this almost leads to Poor Communication Kills. This later comes back to bite him in the butt with the Earth King; having broken one treaty without so much as a warning, Kuei sees no point in negotiating with Zuko again after he's proven himself to be untrustworthy.
Hypocritical Humor: Throughout Part 2, Sokka gripes about Aang and Katara being all "oogie". When Suki shows up in Part 3, he starts acting the same way. Lampshaded by Toph.
I Am Not Left-Handed: Kori and her mother are Earthbenders, a fact the former doesn't reveal until long after Zuko has taken her prisoner and then uses to easily escape her bonds.
Ignore The Disability: Averted. Earth King Kuei compares the Fire Nation colonies to an old scar on the Earth Kingdom... in front of Zuko. He immediately apologizes, though Zuko doesn't take offense.
Innocently Insensitive: The Yu Dao chapter of the future Air Acolytes didn't entirely appreciate that permanently tattooing themselves with airbending mastery tattoos (which, understandably, they have no way of actually earning) might not sit well with the only living airbender/Air Nomad. When he calls them on it, they immediately cover the tattoos out of respect to him.
Instant Waking Skills: Zuko. Both times he gets up, he's alert and looking for another assassination attempt. Justified, as this has happened five times in twelve months and he's having trouble sleeping.
Insult Backfire: Toph disappointedly tells Sokka that she expected her students to become Metalbenders but that they keep failing. They overhear this and are motivated by discovering that she had any expectations in the first place.
Kansas City Shuffle: The Freedom Fighters use a battering ram to break into Yu Dao. Aang stops it and Smellerbee points out that it was a distraction; their true means of breaching the walls was a drill machine like the Fire Nation used in "The Drill".
Karma Houdini: Kori never faces any punishment for attempting to assassinate Zuko (the Fire Lord). Granted she had her reasons, but she never even tried to talk to him first. She continues to act like this for the rest of the series, picking fights with anybody who didn't agree with her side on a very complicated issue (which nobody ever calls her out on).
Kryptonite Ring: Of sorts. Zuko knows that, if he turned evil like his forefathers, Aang would be the only one capable of preventing another world war — by killing him. The 'ring' in this case is the promise Zuko extracts from Aang, who normally won't kill anyone, even genocidal child abusers.
Late Arrival Spoiler: Zuko having a Heel-Face Turn and becoming Fire Lord were major plot points during the show's final season. Here, you learn about it in the first couple pages.
Like Father, Like Son: Zuko becoming like his father is a big worry for both Zuko and Aang, forming one of the main dramatic arcs of the trilogy. Zuko even tries to commit suicide when he realizes that he took the same action his father would have, even if the motivation was different.
Lineage Comes from the Father: Despite being both an Earthbender and of mixed nationality in a country that was until recently Fire-supremacist, Kori is legally a Fire Nation citizen because her father is one.
Mama Bear: Kori's unnamed mother. She single-handedly Earthbends boulders in front of the Fire Lord and his personal guard's faces in order to safeguard her husband and daughter.
Murder Is the Best Solution: Kori defaults to violence to solve pretty much any problem. Her Establishing Character Moment is her attempt to assassinate Zuko, as opposed to some sort of rational discourse about the problems he's causing. She doesn't exactly get better about it as tensions increase.
My Name Is Inigo Montoya: "That's it! Don't you dunderheads know who I am? I'm Toph Beifong, the greatest earthbender of all time!"
Never Say "Die": Toph's student Ho-Tun is constantly worried about everything being 'doomed.' According to Gene Yang, Ho-Tun was originally worried about death. Nick nixed that as being inappropriate for the comic's younger demographic. The titular promise also uses "end" instead of "kill". That said, the direct words are used as often as the euphemisms.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Part 3, what started as a stalemate between the two armies escalates into a battle when Toph, on Sokka's suggestion, disassembles the Fire Nation tanks. The Earth Kingdom general, up until that point wary of starting hostilities, sees his opening and takes it.
Toph nearly abandons teaching metalbending when she thinks she's acting like her parents did by trying to force her students to be something they're not.
Zuko also realizes at one point he's acting like his own father would, and doesn't take it well.
Oddly Small Organization: For the strongest nation in the world with the finest military of the three nations and several deadly canon organizations and individuals (the Yu-Yan archers and the Combustion Man), Fire Lord Zuko having only two rather incompetent bodyguards that can be taken down (not to mention a stronghold easily infiltrated by a single teenager) after five repeated assassinations attempts seems... cheap, to be honest.
On the other hand, it's mentioned that the assassination attempts are coming from within the Fire Nation, so there is a good chance that Zuko not only can't rely on larger numbers to counter planning or foreknowledge, but also must make do with people he absolutely trusts. After all, what's the point of setting up twelve guards around your room if ten of them are potential assassins?
Zuko's turnaround on the colonial issue comes across as inexplicable to the Gaang and makes Aang seriously consider invoking his promise to Zuko. When Aang and Katara go to meet him, the hostile reception Yu Dao's soldiers give to Aang and Katara provokes a fight that only stops when Aang starts to go into the Avatar State. It's only after that close call - and Katara pulling him out of it for the nth time - that Zuko is finally able to explain his position.
Virtually all the tension is a consequence of Zuko not telling anyone anything before making his decisions. Comparisons can be made to how the entire war only began because Roku and Sozin were unable to calmly discuss their own problems; something that Roku regularly angsts about.
Power Born of Madness: Played for laughs. Toph finds candidates for metalbender training when they demonstrate extreme emotion, which can ever-so-slightly affect nearby metal....But the only people who get extremely emotional in public are, in Sokka and Toph's words, "crazy people."
The Promise: It's right there in the title. A great deal of tension lies in Aang's promise to kill Zuko if he were to become too much like his father.
Releasing from the Promise: In the end Zuko takes the burden away from Aang, admitting to Aang that in making the promise he had forced Aang to be the person to decide what right and wrong was for Zuko.
Properly Paranoid: Zuko fears attempts on his life, and wakes up just in time for one to happen.
Reality Ensues: See Deconstruction; the long-term consequences of a century-long war in which many people died and some land changed hands will not simply go away because one of your friends has replaced the Evil Overlord in charge of the aggressor nation. Even if both sides have well-intentioned individuals in charge, there is still the potential for conflict.
Rival Dojos: The Beifong Metalbending Academy and Master Kunyo's firebending school stage a duel over the property rights to a training dojo. The metalbenders win.
Saved by Canon: The Legend of Korra has established that the main characters all live into their forties, at least. Katara and Zuko in particular are still alive, though Zuko is just Word of God and hasn't appeared. It should be said that the comics take full advantage of what Korra doesn't confirm, breaking up Zuko and Mai and teasing that he might hook up with Suki instead.
Toph:Sweetie? Seriously? Sokka: I know, right? Sooo oogie.
Sokka and Suki aren't much better, at least in Toph's opinion.
Single Tear: Aang, when severing his spiritual link to Roku.
Standard Female Grab Area: Played with. Zuko catches Katara off-guard from behind, grabs both of her arms, twisting one around behind her back (which is a known real-world submission hold) and has her other arm outstretched above her head so that she can't move it easily. Katara's dialogue makes it appear that she could still break free and continue attacking him, but she's reluctant to because he's her friend.
Suicide by Cop: Zuko admits to Aang that the promise was an 'escape hatch' if he couldn't handle the pressure of being Fire Lord..
Took a Level in Badass: Earth King Kuei in Part 2, as he steps up to declare war on the Fire Nation. Reversed in Part 3; once the battle starts he's cowering in fear. He wanted to invoke this to show that he is a manly king.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Unfortunately, Kuei took one of these as well. And so did Roku. And so did Smellerbee and many of the Freedom Fighters.
Tragic Bigot: Given the Fire Nation's long-standing and very recently ended reign of terror, one would be hard-pressed to find a single person prejudiced against firebenders and the fire nation that wouldn't qualify as this.
Ugly Guy, Hot Girlfriend: Sneers and Kori. A Running Gag in Part 3 is that everyone who finds out about them first confusedly confirms that they're together, then enthusiastically congratulates him.
Unexplained Recovery: Smellerbee and Longshot were last seen on the show in a hopeless looking situation, buying the Gaang time to escape Lake Laogai. They reappear here with no explanation of how they got out themselves.
Universal Driver's License: At this point we really need to ask if there's a vehicle Suki can't drive. Let's see - Airships, check. Hot air balloons, check. A freaking Fire Nation tank? Yup, check.
Unusual Euphemism: "Monkey feathers" makes a return, though the situation becomes bad enough that Aang uses "monkey feathers on top of monkey feathers".
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Suki, by going to Mai with her concerns about Zuko, ends up causing her to leave him, thus driving him further into despair and worsening the overall situation.
Valley Girl: The Ba Sing Se chapter of Aang's fangirls speak like this. It is one of many contrasts with the straight speaking Yu Dao chapter.
He may be evil, but Ozai is a good judge of character. He accurately predicts that King Kuei, after years of his kingdom being the whipping boy of the Fire Nation and his own ineptitude concerning Long Feng's manipulation of him, will resort to military force to remove the colonies.
Also Ozai's advice to Zuko about believing in the rightness of his decisions. Everything he says sounds downright psychotic the way Ozai says it, but the point behind it is that a good leader can't have doubts regarding his actions, which is something a lot of people and even books on the topic will vouch to. Much like Alec Baldwin's iconic speech to the closers in Glengarry Glen Ross, everything he says can only make Zuko a more effective force, if he gets past the deliberate antagonistic delivery.
Villain with Good Publicity: Surprisingly, Ozai, in the eyes of the colonials. He's a genocidal maniac, but at least he never betrayed his citizens like Zuko is supposedly doing.
From some of the residents of Yu Dao for giving it back to the Earth Kingdom.
From Aang and the Freedom Fighters for changing his mind on the Harmony Restoration Movement.
From Ozai about being indecisive.
Aang also gets offended by some of his fans imitating his tattoos, saying that they're an important part of Air Nomad culture.
White Man's Burden: Fire Man's Burden in this case. Despite stridently rejecting the idea that the war was the Fire Nation's way of sharing its greatness with the rest of the world, Zuko comes around to thinking that the war accomplished something positive in the colonies. He defends Yu Dao, social inequalities and all, to Aang and Katara in terms reminiscent of the White Man's Burden. It very much mirrors Rockefeller's idealogy of common wealth; even if wealth is not shared equally among all parties, if the standard of living has become higher for all people involved, than it is fair to say that everyone has benefitted.
Katara: It doesn't seem like the Fire Nation citizens and the Earth Kingdom citizens share equally in that [great] wealth.
Zuko: It's not perfect, Katara, but all the city's people, including the Earth Kingdom's people, are better off now than they were a hundred years ago.
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Both Sokka and Toph can't believe anyone would name their kid the The Dark One's real name. The answer to this is obvious, since he's "The Third": his grandfather obviously decided that his suffering needed to be passed on to later generations.
With Due Respect: An Earth Kingdom General yells this to Zuko during their battle, while rebutting his points.
Kori to Sneers, after he lets it slip that he's part of the protest looking to evict the Fire Nation from Yu Dao. Although rather than frame it as an issue of nations, as she had done to Zuko in the first volume, Kori presents it as protecting the city of Yu Dao itself.
Kuei tells this to Aang, after making it clear that the Earth Kingdom will re-take Yu Dao as per the Harmony Restoration treaty.
Sneers uses a guilt-trip version of this on Aang.
Sneers: This is it, Aang! You choose to either defend Yu Dao with us... or doom us.