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Comic Book / Avatar: The Last Airbender Imbalance

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The sixth comic trilogy in the Avatar franchise.

The Gaang makes a return visit to Earthen Fire Industries, and discovers an entire town has grown up around it thanks to its success and the new inventions that enable the factory to be far more efficient. Unfortunately, those inventions have also effectively replaced the jobs of many benders, stirring up discontent among them and the non-benders who replaced them. Aang naturally decides it's his duty to resolve the conflict, but it grows far more complicated than he dreamed as even forces within the city council are making their own plots to take advantage of the situation.

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Imbalance provides examples of:

  • Big Bad: Li Ling, who has an agenda of her own to escalate the violence. However, it's worth noting that unlike other cases, Li Ling is ultimately a symptom of the violence plaguing the city and Part 2 outright confirms this. They capture Li Ling, but Sokka points out that many others were at that meeting ranging from local thugs to higher members of the council. Sokka outright confirms in part 2 that Li Ling is really just spitting out the truthful resentment between benders and non-benders in the town that have been brewing for what could've been years if not ages.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Aang has an especially hard time resolving this conflict because there's no real bad guy to fight, just an unfortunate situation where two sides have their own justified desires that simply can't both exist at once. Case in point, the benders have been using their abilities to harass and rob from non-benders and other benders as well. The non-benders don't even feel safe walking down the streets; but an outright ban on bending in the city will serve nothing but to antagonize the benders further, not to mention in the Avatar Universe, removing bending from a bender is like removing a vital limb.
  • Call-Back: Toph's lie detector abilities get good use in this chapter. She's able to tell just by the running and the seismic patterns that it was Ya Ling and Ru Ling at the refinery when it was destroyed.
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    • The end of part 2 has Toph ask Aang to make a statement out of Li Ling by doing the very same thing he did to Ozai: remove her bending completely.
  • Call-Forward: Cranefish Town provides plenty more of the steampunk gadgets that will have spread all over the world by Korra's time. The bender/non-bender conflict will unfortunately also have gotten a lot worse by then.
  • Co-Dragons: Li Lings daughters, one of whom is an Earthbender and the other a non-bender. Interestingly enough, the Earthbender thinks herself higher than the non-bender, which irritates the non-bender.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Toph vs. Ya Ling, but three guesses who wins and wins quite easily.
  • Fantastic Racism: In book 2, Li Ling is attempting to manipulate the benders into a war with the non-benders to drive them out. Ru, Li Ling's non-bending daughter has serious doubts about the movement as she's realizing that her mother is ultimately going to alienate her.
    • One of the benders shouts the phrase "We will not be replaced!" which has been a common saying done by many white nationalists in the current age. It's one thing to have a prejudice, but Li Ling is outright directing it towards violence.
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  • Horrible Judge of Character: Ya Ling gets manipulated by Toph to help the team find the meeting place. She's played like a fifty-cent kazoo.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Sokka laments that trying to stop change is like trying to stop a lion-turtle: You can't and it'll just crush you. It does tie into a lesson of change he learned from North and South
  • Idiot Ball: Toph threatens to arrest Li Ling for the incident...by herself in a room full of benders spoiling for a fight. It's by sheer miracle they manage to lock her up.
  • Inherent in the System: With the progress made towards automation of abilities that required benders, it was only inevitable for the businessman to save money and remove people not needed for the task anymore. Because of this, combined with insufficient funds to be able to move, people are now forced into poverty and they can't break out of it; so they're turning to crime. Katara explains this viewpoint regarding Cranefish Town's civil war. She doesn't think anybody or any group of people set out to make life harder than necessary, but it's just that everyone who came to the town is trying to get a piece of it for themselves and to be able to call home in a town like that; and the changes made to Earthen Fire Industries put a huge damper on that.
    • Part 2 has Satoru reflect on this, saying that maybe technological advancement at the rate he did was a bad idea for putting people out of work. Toph remarks that while it did, there wasn't going to be a way for Earthen Fire industries to employ each and every single bender in the town. The problem was going to happen either way.
  • Industrialized Evil: A rare non-violent case. Satoru's inventions and creations put a lot of people out of work who are turning to crime as a result to get by; which means he's part and parcel (even if it's not his intention to do so) of the problem.
  • Kick the Dog: For someone who came off as quite a smug looking threat, Ru Ling really seems to take a verbal and emotional beating in the second book.
  • Mama Bear: Li Ling does give herself up to buy time for her daughters to escape. The words undermine her intent willingly: She wants Ru out of there to carry her sister who was Chi blocked and calls Ya Ling useless without her bending. She is either failing to notice the damage she risks doing to her own daughter Ru or simply doesn't care.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Li Ling does quite a fine job of not only getting the town whipped up into a frenzy the Avatar might not be able to fix; but also able to turn the benders against him by a few choice questions that already prey on the benders' frustration.
  • Nice Hat: Sokka kept his favorite hat and the Wang Fire Beard. Katara begins to wonder if he's got a hoarding problem.
  • Parental Favoritism: Li Ling tends to have more respect for her Earthbender daughter than she does for Ru, the non-bender. Ru doesn't take it very well though still does what she's told.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: All of the benders ready to start a revolution in Cranefish Town. While Li Ling was ultimately the one to unite them and light the fuse, odds are good it was only going to be a matter of time before the keg blew up. If not her, then someone else.
  • Reality Ensues: Just like the real industrial revolution, the creation of machines to replace jobs that previously required human workers leads to a massive job shortage, with many of those out of work forced to turn to crime. Satoru highlights this from the business man's perspective: Noting that because of the improvements made to technology, he had no reason to keep the benders around and spend money on them, yet he never intended to put people out on the streets.
    • Change occurs, but change is constant. What was once a blessing for a small town to prosper ended up turning it into a Wretched Hive because of the sudden downturn in employment thanks to Satoru. Yes, change was going to occur, but not all of it is good; especially as a town can go from the top of the heap to down in the dumps in less than a few years.
    • Though much more prevalent in The Legend of Korra, it was only going to be a matter of time before people with the ability to shoot fire or throw rocks at whim would start to use their abilites as leverage and superiority over those who can't. Despite the practice growing traction, Chi Blocking isn't widely used or readily available to non-combatants and it's difficult to stand up to benders who can cause massive damage at whim.
  • Running Gag: Sokka is repeatedly dismayed by the uncreative names for Cranefish Town and its various innovations.
  • Shadow Archetype: It's easy to see Ya Ling and Ru Ling as Katara and Sokka respectively if the two water nation siblings allowed Katara's bending to drive a rift between them.
  • Shaming the Mob: Toph tells Aang that taking away Li Ling's bending might be the best way to get the benders to calm down.
  • Title Drop: Imbalance coincidentally happens to be the password needed for the team to get to the meeting underground.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Suki really shows her stuff in part 2. She not only picked up Chi Blocking (likely from Ty Lee); but she swiftly disables Ya Ling and Li Ling herself, leading to the latter's capture.
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