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Webcomic: Water Tribe

An Avatar: The Last Airbender fancomic by Rufftoon, aka Johane Matte who was one of the storyboarders on the show.

The major conceit of the comic is that Zhao, the villain of season one, wasn't killed by the Ocean Spirit in the season finale. Instead, he was saved but had all his memories of his past life as a Fire Nation admiral erased. The comic deals with him first discovering that he is not really a Watertribesman, and then trying to figure out what to do in the new world of peace. Along the way, he clubs baby seal-turtles, fights pirates, and complains about the cold.

Water Tribe is notable for its high art quality (it is drawn by a professional) and close connection to canon. It's also interesting because Zhao is noticeably the same character he was in the original show— dressing him up in furs and having him pray to water spirits doesn't change his personality, and he's still as arrogant, ambitious, and angry as he was in the series.

The complete comic is hosted on her livejournal here. Parts of it are also on rufftoon's DevArt account, along with concept art and sketches. The entire comic, fanart, and other Water Tribe-related bits can also be found at No Self Control, the biggest Zhao fanclub on dA.


This fancomic provides examples of:

  • Alternate Reality/Continuation: It's so close to canon you might as well consider it to be.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Kinda played with. Zhao is certainly ambitious, but he's not quite evil.
  • Anti-Hero/ Villain Protagonist: Zhao is the "hero", but he's seldom heroic. And yet, he's also not wholly bad...
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Zhao and Nauja.
  • Berserk Button: Absolutely anything regarding Yue, for Chief Arnook.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The tribe and spirits are safe, everyone is alive, and the Fire Nation is that much closer to recapturing Azula, but the Water Tribe thinks Zhao is a traitor and the Fire Nation still considers him a disgrace, so while the world benefits in the end, Zhao has no friends or allies and nowhere to go.
  • Darker and Edgier: Manages to balance this with Original Flavor in a very believable way (considering our viewpoint character isn't an eleven-year-old kid, but a middle-aged man). Impressive.
  • Easy Amnesia: Justified in that it's not a casual conk on the head that erases his memories, it's the frigging Ocean and Moon Spirits.
  • Expy: Officer Kwon, with his dry wit, insightfulness, and chevron moustache is pretty much Alfred Pennyworth in Fire Nation armour.
  • The Faceless: Firelord Zuko, at least until the end.
  • Meaningful Echo: "One step out of line... and I'll make sure your destiny ends right then and there I will not hesitate to sentence you to an appropriate punishment."
  • One-Scene Wonder: Count how many pages Firelord Zuko appears in. Now count how many comments those pages have.
  • Original Flavor: VERY original flavor.
  • Royal "We": "We know you well, Zhao. We do not wish to be... disappointed in you again."
  • Schedule Slip: It wasn't certain the story would be finished, because the writer/artist's real life had become too full of, well, real life stuff. She did eventually complete, although the last few pages are roughs instead of polished pages.
  • Shirtless Scene: It's about Zhao. What did you expect?
  • Smug Snake: Zhao, in keeping with his canon personality
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: He goes back to the Fire Nation, looking for his past life and hoping that it will trigger some memories. It doesn't.
  • Symbol Swearing
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Zhao and Nauja. She pretty much doesn't want anything to do with him... smart lady.

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alternative title(s): Water Tribe; Water Tribe
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