I'm taking a break from my liveblog of The Stalking Zuko Series, (as for my other liveblogs, I'm waiting for those fics to update, which might happen relatively soon for Boys Und Sensha-do, and likely won't happen for a while for Team8) due to, among other factors, feeling a bit exhausted given how long the fic is, and being frustrated with how the fic portrays Aang. As such, I'm liveblogging this in hopes of doing a shorter project, and a different take on it. Perhaps the fact that it's not as well done will make it easier to take things less seriously. Perhaps the OOC-ness of the characters will help me keep things in perspective with regards to "The Stalking Zuko Series."
The comic begins with Katara monologuing about the beauty of the Earth Kingdom. She compares it to the beautiful sunrise she saw three years ago in the Fire Nation (it's unclear what point she's talking about, but it is clear that there has been a Time Skip since the end of the series). She thought nothing would ever change, but it did, and not in a good way.
A Wall of Text follows, saying it has been three years since the war, and since Katara has ever really been happy. After their victory, Katara stayed with Toph for a while, before going to the South Pole. Toph needs Katara's help for a fair amount, because with her parents having been killed in the war, she now is the head of the "Befong" family (I'll spell it "Bei Fong", the way it's supposed to be, even though, to my knowledge, the fic never gets it right). I may be comparing apples and oranges, but one point of contrast between this and "The Stalking Zuko Series" is that in the later, Toph's parents dying would become a fairly significant plot point with at least a chapter devoted to Toph's immediate reactions alone, rather than being mentioned in passing and forgotten about.
Everything is back to the way it was in the war, but we then cut to Katara, crying(expect her to do this a lot) in bed, as Katara narrates that she isn't there yet. Katara mentions that something is hurting her, and Toph, dressed in some fancy kimono-like garment that she wears with extreme reluctance at best (and because her parents- the ones who died- told her to do so), reminds Katara that it's the three-year anniversary. Katara confirms, saying "Yea..."; I wonder if it's A)An archaic way of responding in the affirmative, B)A typo for "Yes" or C)A misspelling of "Yeah..." . I suspect the latter is the case.
Toph comforts Katara, saying that It Never Gets Any Easier, but one day, Katara will wake up to a beautiful sunrise, before telling her to get dressed. There's nothing especially wrong with the portrayal of the characters just yet; it's not Toph's standard mode of interacting with each other, but she can be kind and sensitive on occasion.
Katara thanks Toph before getting dressed, and then they begin the long walk to a memorial, which is some distance from the Bei Fong estate so that it won't "haunt" Katara. It's Toph's turn for an internal monologue, and wonders "How hard it must have been for her. The day it happen."; these fragmented sentences are some of the more minor errors. Toph describes Katara as "broken" and feeling the pain that "only a mother can feel," which must be why she didn't tell Zuko, and why Toph wishes she could help Katara.
The walk continues, with the animated Toph and Katara walking over a relatively photorealistic hill. It has an effect similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but that movie had interactions between humans and toons as major part of the story.
Katara reaches the grave, which has seemingly Chinese text on it, but which the narration says has "Kuzon: My Beloved Child" on it. Katara says hello to Kuzon (who, for context, is named after Aang's friend from the Fire Nation 100 years ago), and says she wishes she was strong enough to keep him.
There's a flashback to three years ago. Katara is six months pregnant, with a bulge in her chest and a huge appetite. There's also a Rouge Angles of Satin mistake every second or third line, as Sokka, who looks unusually sour, says "Its all warm in their". Sokka's mood is apparently because Kuzon is going to come out as a Firebender. Toph scolds Sokka for his Fantastic Racism with the same expression that she's been wearing for three consecutive panels.
Now might be a good time to bring up one of the main problems of the comic. Many of the charactes have been subject to tracing, and are often copied from one panel to the other, resulting in characters having the same expression even as their moods change, which can be fairly disconcerting.
Katara suggests that Kuzon will come out looking nice, given that she's his mom, suspects that he'll be tough, and Toph might be able to teach him Earthbending (which he could only do if at least one of his parents was from the Earth Nation and he inherited that parent's powers).
Toph punches Sokka and asks him if he sent out the letters, and he says yes. Katara asks Sokka to make sure that he did not send any letters to the Fire Nation, since she doesn't want Zuko to find out yet. Sokka insists that he didn't, saying the Fire Nation "Senate and Counsel" finding out would result in a civil war, even if Zuko is Fire Lord.
Katara is relieved, but Toph realizes Sokka is lying, and he realizes that she's on to him. It turns out that he didn't just send the letters to the people Katara asked him to, but accidentally sent one to the Fire Nation, as a result of not checking the destinations for the letters. Not only does it seem like a lapse of judgment that is implausible for Canon Sokka, but it also seems like a somewhat unlikely thing to do by accident.
Toph then decides to have a word with Sokka, although given that her expression has been the same for the entire scene, it's hard to tell whether it's a calm lecture or if Sokka's getting a scolding. Toph says Katara is going to "kill" Sokka when she finds out, as apparently, her pregnancy is amplifying her water bending powers, past the point at which she can control them. Toph points out that if Katara accidentally made it rain from not getting the crab cakes she liked, Sokka's in trouble.
Sokka's more worried about the Fire Nation, though. Toph reminds Sokka that, as he said, the Fire Nation will suffer from a civil war if word gets out, because of the "old traditions." While there's a fair amount of animosity between the former adversaries, in "The Promise", Kori is the daughter of a Fire Nation official and an Earth Kingdom woman. But in any case, it's considered true for this comic, so keep this in mind for later, along with the fact that Sokka and Toph, the heroes, first brought it up. Also keep in mind Toph's parting comment that not only is Sokka in trouble with Katara, but Zuko is in trouble with Mai.
Sokka sheepishly walks off, and finds Katara, with an entire page passing in awkward silence as Katara stares over the balcony at the lake. Katara's mind is elsewhere, believing that no one knows she truly loves Zuko, not even Zuko himself. She then remarks how stupid it is to ask him to tell her his feelings, when she can't do the same for him, which is an interesting observation, but anxiety regarding possible unrequited love is understandable.
Sokka walks up next to Katara, and tells her that she's not stupid, but brave. He knows that she loves Zuko, because the way she looks at him is the same way Sokka "used to look at Sukki". There are three problems with that quote; 1)It's in the past tense (although the fact that he broke up with Suki off-panel isn't as bad as who he gets together with), 2)It's forgetting Yue, whom Sokka met after Suki and had feelings for before falling in love with Suki, and 3)Suki's name is mis-spelled, even though it should be one of the easier names to spell. Of course, we're not up to who Sokka gets paired with yet...
As for Zuko, Sokka points out that he's upset and almost angry with him, but he doesn't blame him for not knowing Katara's feelings, then waxes philosophical about knowing a man's heart and how "love removes the mask". The canon Sokka wouldn't do the latter without some kind of lame joke thrown in.
Katara begins to cry, and some storm clouds roll in. Sokka embraces Katara, thinking that she's not alone, and they will be there for her. He also believes that their mother would be so proud of her. It's oddly touching, but it's somewhat difficult to tell what order the panels are in.
The scene shifts to the Fire nation, where Zuko is thinking about Katara, wondering if she misses him or has forgotten about him. He never wanted to leave her, and wishes he was brave enough to stay. He then thinks back to how the day after finding the man who killed Katara's mother, they hugged(which he says, reminded him of "(his) mine") kissed and he gave her a flower. But her eyes still haunt his dreams, and the Wangst is already starting to haunt this comic.
The scene shifts back to the present day, with Katara mentioning how her memories of Zuko "are like a fire that won't stop burning," and picks up Zuko's baton for the melodramatic internal monologue, wondering if he loves her and whether Kuzon would still be alive if he'd been there, . On a side note, on this Dramatic Reading of HIBY, the reader mistakenly believes that Zuko is still talking, and reads Katara's dialogue in his voice before catching herself. Katara then hopes that, at the very least, Zuko is happy, even if love between them is no longer possible.
Toph points out that the sun is setting and Katara must be hungry- I have to wonder- did they spend all day at the grave? Toph then takes the baton from Katara, and ponders how it's difficult to take her from the place, where she would spend days if she could. Toph points out that it's hardest how her birthday is always just after this, meaning that Katara hasn't smiled on her birthday in three years (on a side note, in "The Stalking Zuko Series," Katara's mother died near her birthday). Toph concludes that the Katara she knew is gone, and the only person who can bring her back is half the world away.
I'd like to amend that- Canon Katara is gone forever, and Zuko's return, for the author's version of the Zutara pairing, will be the final nail in her coffin.
I'll stop there for now. There will be two installments per chapter(except for Chapter 4, which has three, and the epilogue, which will be done in one go), divided based on the "plot," such as it is. In the next installment, we'll show Zuko learning the truth.
Again, I'll be doing the "What I liked" and "What I didn't like" segments. However, for the former, there is a caveat; just because I liked it doesn't mean I think it's good, at least not in the traditional sense.
What I liked
- Toph's expression constantly being the same.
- The dramatic reader doing Katara's wangsty thoughts in Zuko's manly voice.
- Quite a few of the typos.
What I didn't like
- Arbitrarily sinking canon pairings.
- A lot of wangst and melodrama, especially Katara.
- Sokka's loss of his status as comic relief.