The third trilogy of Interquel comics between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. This trilogy shifts focus back to Aang and the foundations of Republic City, as well as Toph, who was absent from the previous trilogy.
After the Yu Dao situation is finally brought under control, Aang receives visions of the previous Air Nomad Avatar, Yangchen, who tries to talk to him but is mysteriously inaudible. However, her appearance does remind Aang that it's time for the Air Nomad holiday held in her honor, and he takes Katara, Sokka, Toph, and the Air Acolytes to celebrate it for the first time in a hundred years. Unfortunately, the island where the celebration used to be held is now the site of a joint Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom mining operation, and the environment is in bad shape, though the current supervisor Satoru insists it's unrelated. Aang is now sure that Yangchen was trying to get him to shut the mine down, but things quickly get much more complicated, as Toph in particular is sucked into the conflict in a rather unusual way.
The first part of a sequel trilogy, Smoke and Shadow, was published September 23, 2015. It focuses on Zuko dealing with a rebel faction of Fire Nation citizens calling themselves the "New Ozai Society."
The Rift provides examples of:
- Adorkable: Satoru is a Twilight Sparkle-level fanboy of the Gaang, especially Toph.
- Animation Anatomy Aging: The Gaang are now clearly teenagers, looking a bit closer to their adult models from Korra, which is especially noticeable with Aang and Toph.
- Ascended Extra:
- Three of the Air Acolytes (Xing Ling, Yee-li, and Jingbo) play a bigger role, with their individual personalities fleshed out a bit more.
- Avatar Yangchen is given a lot of focus, as are the events from her past, specifically her first action as the Avatar.
- The cabbage merchant now has a restaurant that serves cabbage-based food, but inevitably falls prey to his own Running Gag. But hey, at least his shop doesn't collapse.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Lady Tienhai and General Old Iron are massive spirits. The former is long dead, whereas the latter is still around and is no longer being placated by Yangchen's festival. How does Aang counter? Using the Avatar State, he creates a giant stone golem that he controls with Earthbending, with him in his four-element sphere as the golem's "head." It's still not enough, as Toph and her top metalbending students have to use metalbending to peel the iron plates off of Old Iron before Aang's earth golem is effective.
- Badass Beard: General Old Iron.
- Badass Boast: Toph gives a fantastic one to her father, combined with Calling the Old Man Out, in Part Three, when he tries to reconcile with her since he doesn't know if they'll live or die in the collapsing iron mine:Toph: That's... your whole problem, Dad. If you knew me... the real me... you wouldn't be wondering... if we're gonna live or die... because you'd know... I can keep this up... as long as I need to. I'm Toph Beifong... the greatest earthbender... of all time.
- Because I Said So: Whenever Toph questioned her parents about some rule or tradition, her father would always answer, "That's just how it's done." To her, this is a source of angst.
- Berserk Button: The phrase "That's just how it's done." triggers bad flashbacks for Toph and she becomes a lot less agreeable after she hears it.
- Bittersweet Ending: Aang is able to save the town, but General Old Iron leaves in defeat, declaring that spirits have no place in the world anymore, leaving Aang shaken about his duty to keep balance in the world. It gets both better and worse if you've seen Korra, as Aang's successor will create a world where humans and spirits live in harmony, but only after her connection to her past lives is severed, meaning Aang doesn't get to see it.
- Bodyguard Crush: Implied with General Old Iron, who protected and was friends with Lady Tienhai.
- Braids of Action: Yangchen wears her hair this way.
- Breather Episode: Acts as a break between The Search and Smoke and Shadow.
- The Bus Came Back: The cabbage merchant makes appearances in Parts Two and Three. We also see the beginnings of Cabbage Corp.
- Call-Back: Sokka wants a new bag, just like he did in "The Blind Bandit". The others mock him for it using lines from that episode.
- Old Iron has a marking on its forehead that is identical to the one Combustion Man (and later, P'li of the Red Lotus) have. What connection they have is unclear.
- Satoru has invented an assembly line process based entirely on machines that non-benders can use, clearly the beginning of the more mechanized world seen in Korra.
- Yu Dao is brought under the control of a council made up of both Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation citizens, a setup that Aang will repeat on a much larger scale with Republic City.
- The cabbage merchant now runs a restaurant, which will become a whole corporation by the time of Korra. He also expresses interest in Satoru's forklift, automobile manufacturing being the focus of his future company.
- The way General Old Iron looks and acts is similar to the Dark Spirits from Korra.
- Calling the Old Man Out:
- Toph to Lao, saying that she's not the daughter he raised her to be, but she's his daughter nonetheless, and worthy in her own right. He says nothing in response, deeply upsetting her.
- When he tries to reconcile with her, she gives him another speech about how he doesn't understand her true self, underscored by the fact that she's keeping tons of iron from crushing the both of them and several others.
- The Cameo: Kori, who started the events in The Promise, appears at the beginning of Part One, where she introduces the new diverse, democratically elected governing counsel of Yu Dao: two Fire Nation citizens and two Earth Kingdom citizens, and for added diversity two men and two women.note Why Kori is the one doing the introduction is unknown, however.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Niyok and Nutha, sisters from the Southern Water Tribe and friends with Katara. They appear briefly in Part One, just long enough to establish who they are and suggest that Nutha is angry with Katara about something.
Part Two reveals that while Sokka and Katara have been globetrotting the Southern Water Tribe has fallen on hard times and its people have to leave to find work, sometimes dangerous work, just to eat.
By Part Three Nutha and Katara are on good terms again; Nutha acknowledges that Sokka and Katara have been doing important work and not just gallivanting, making the Southern Water Tribe proud.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: In the opening of Part One, the citizens of Yu Dao wear the colors of their respective nations. At Satoru's refinery, the workers wear colored scarves representing their nation.
- Conflict Ball: There was nothing stopping Toph from just skipping out on Yangchen's festival if she found Aang's adherence to its traditions to be a reminder of her unhappy childhood, or even just talking to him about it. Instead she just decides to become a disrespectful little brat.
- Continuity Nod: Yangchen tells Aang that breaking his connection with Roku in The Promise has damaged his connection to all his past lives. Later, Aang fashions a new Fire charm for his meditation beads and reconciles with Roku.
- Continuity Snarl: A minor one relating to the technology as motorized forklift had been invented in the comic while Legend of Korra still had horse-drawn vehicles like in Yakon's escape until the proliferation of automobiles during the apex of Sato Industries.
- Cool Old Guy: Master Boma, Yangchen's mentor and traveling companion.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Satoru's uncle Loban, who's running a hidden iron mine underneath the legit crystal one. Even without the possibility of ticking off a powerful spirit, it's polluting the river and could potentially collapse the entire town.
- Deadly Dodging: Aang beats a group of Earthbenders by getting them to surround him and then jumping high above them, causing all four to crash into each other. He gives them a little push with airbending to make sure it happens.
- Double-Meaning Title: "The Rift" has multiple meanings, from the tension between the land's former status as a sacred Air Nomad site and the current mining operation there, to Toph having to come face-to-face with her father after she ran away. It also refers to the "rift" between the human and spirit worlds. Katara and Sokka's old friend Nutha resents them for leaving the tribe to go adventuring, and Aang's shunning of Roku in The Promise is giving him trouble contacting his other past lives. Many of these rifts are repaired by the end, though as we see in Korra, the division between the human and spirit worlds requires more work to fix.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Toph is understandably annoyed that not only has her father essentially disowned her, but he won't even appreciate all the amazing things she's done after leaving home.
- Elemental Armor: General Old Iron encases himself in iron plates when he's attacking, making it difficult for even the Avatar to match him. Unfortunately for him, Toph invented metalbending since the last time he was awake.
- Enemy Mine: Members of Team Avatar engage the Rough Rhinos in the unstable iron mine, but after the iron mine starts to collapse, the Rough Rhinos, Team Avatar and the workers decide to halt their hostilities and just focus on surviving.
- Everyone Has Standards: When Toph declares that the iron mine is dangerous, the first thing her father does is order the evacuation.
- Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Niyok and Nutha have had to take dangerous jobs to earn money because the fallout of the war has hit some places hard. The Rough Rhinos have gone from an elite Fire Nation squad to working as private security, and one of their number has joined up because he lost his job in the regular Fire Nation army with the war's end.
- False Reassurance: In flashback, when Yangchen claims that now that she is a fully trained Avatar she is perfectly capable of handling any situation, her mentor is quick to remind her that she only mastered her last element a week ago.
- Fat Bastard: Loban, who is verbally abusive towards his nephew Satoru and doesn't give a crap about his workers' safety to the point of running an unstable iron mine behind his business partner's back.
- Foil: Aang and Toph are starkly contrasted here, especially Aang being allowed freedom by Monk Gyatso whereas Toph's parents kept her inside and expected her to uphold tradition and propriety without saying why.Toph: Don't you think you're trying a little too hard to hold onto your past?
Aang: Maybe. But don't you think you're trying a little too hard to run away from it?
Toph: Not everyone's past is like yours, Aang. Some of us have to run away just to... just to live.
- Foreshadowing: We again hear about loyalist Ozai die-hards gathering when Satoru talks about his parents. They will become a threat to Zuko's regime in the Smoke and Shadow trilogy.
- Freudian Slip: Toph to Satoru, and seized on by Katara and Sokka right away:Toph: I would love to be in a partnership with you—I mean, the refinery.
Sokka: Is it just me, or is there some serious oogie-osity going on over there?
Katara: I think it's sweet. We almost never get to see Toph's softer side.
- Former Regime Personnel: The Rough Rhinos were an elite unit loyal to Fire Lord Ozai's regime, but Ozai's defeat put them out of a job, and now they are reduced to mercenaries for hire.
- Foreshadowing: General Old Iron's attack foreshadowed the bigger spirit-human conflict later in Korra.
- Funny Background Event: During the factory tour, Katara uses her waterbending to swipe the meat shish kebab Sokka won't share.
- Gaia's Vengeance: General Old Iron wishes retribution for the death of Lady Tienhai, his friend. His rage is somewhat misplaced; Tienhai died not as a direct result of human actions, but because she fell in love with a human and took on mortal form. She lives on in a new form, of which Old Iron is unaware. Avatar Yangchen started her festival to placate him, but with the Air Nomad genocide there's been no one around to perform it, and the mining certainly isn't helping.
- Hazy Feel Turn: The Rough Rhinos have left the Fire Lord's services after the war ended, and now serve the highest bidder, who runs an operation that Aang is clearly more than uneasy about. In addition, they are still hostile towards the Avatar.
- Honest Corporate Executive: Lao vetoed the idea of an iron mine because the earth was too unstable, and cares for his workers' safety over pure profit. Loban mines iron anyway behind Lao's back.
- Human Pack Mule: Jingbo spends most of the trilogy carrying a huge backpack and often needing help to get up because of it. However, he refuses to be helped with it and it proves useful in several instances.
- I Have No Son!: Lao refuses to acknowledge that Toph is the daughter he raised, even in light of the fact that she's essentially a world-renowned hero.
- Implausible Deniability: Satoru insists that the river pollution is from natural causes and not the fault of the factory. Toph confirms that he's telling the truth, or at least thinks he is. His uncle is in fact responsible, not just for the pollution but also the earthquakes, as he's running a second, deeper mine in secret.
- Innocently Insensitive:
- Aang explains Air Nomad traditions by saying "That's just how it's done," the same words Toph's parents used to justify everything that she didn't like.
- Toph turns it around later, absentmindedly stating that though the town and refinery are on Air Nomad sacred land, it's effectively vacant as no one has been there for a hundred years. Since the Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads.
- Karma Houdini: The Rough Rhinos. They attacked innocent villages and killed people for the heck of it. Their punishment? A steady job guarding a more-or-less successful business.
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- Loban runs an unstable mine of iron, ignoring the security problem and even stopping Lao when the latter tries to get the workers evacuated. In the end of Part Two he is trapped inside said mine.
- Lao always treated Toph as a fragile china doll and denied their relationship when she proved otherwise. She is the only one who can keep him and a lot of other people alive after the mine's collapse.
- Load-Bearing Hero: Toph uses her metalbending to stave off the collapse of the iron mine.
- Martial Pacifist: The very first thing Yangchen tried when General Iron attacked was asking him what his problem was and offering to solve it. When it didn't work she fought him and had to use the Avatar State when he was about to kill people. She finally managed to calm him and make a deal.
- Meat Versus Veggies: In Part One, Sokka taunts Aang and the Air Acolytes with a shish-kebab and offers to share it, but when Katara takes him up on it, he claims the offer's only open to the vegetarians. In a Funny Background Event, she just swipes the thing with waterbending.
- "Not Important to This Episode" Camp: This time it's Zuko's turn to pass on the adventure, as he has to get back to ruling the Fire Nation, and also because his mother and her family are coming to visit. As one of his bodyguards, Suki is also out.
- Not So Different:
- While Yangchen seems to understand why Aang broke his connection to Roku, she is quick to point out that his base reason was because Roku was too stuck in the past, and that Aang himself has also become stuck as he desperately tries to keep the old ways of the Air Nomads alive, even if he has very little understanding of what the traditions were for.
- Toph and Satoru. Both of them ran away from their parents.
- Pet the Dog:
- Lao is even more of a jerk than before, but does redeem himself a bit when he immediately insists the workers in the iron mine get to safety, over Loban's objections. He has a bigger one when he finally apologizes to Toph.
- Loban giving Satoru home, food and a job after he ran away from his parents. Pity he is such a jerk to him most of the time.
- Plot Tailored to the Party: In Part Two, a collapse in an iron mine ensures that Toph is the only one capable of stopping the collapse or facilitating any escape, since Aang (who's outside) cannot metalbend and the walls are unnaturally thick with iron ore, and any move he makes will be risky. In Part Three, Sokka has to retrieve Toph's metalbending students from Yu Dao to help.
- Reality Ensues:
- One of the Rough Rhinos defies Talking Is a Free Action.Rough Rhino: Let this be a lesson to you, kiddies. Never have a conversation when you're in the middle of a fight!
- Since the war is over, this leads to Fire Lord Zuko downsizing the Fire Nation's armed forces as there is no longer any priority for them. This has caused a number of army personnel to be discharged from service and have to take contractor jobs.
- Aang was eleven when he ran away from the temple, and didn't learn all the reasons why certain traditions existed, merely knowing the steps to follow. This proves a big hindrance when he tries to recreate the Air Nomads.
- One of the Rough Rhinos defies Talking Is a Free Action.
- The Resenter: Nutha resents Sokka and Katara because they left the tribe. She conveniently forgets that if they hadn't left, the Southern Tribe never would have gotten help from the Northern Tribe, or its own men back. She gets over herself by the end, after Sokka and Katara help rescue her and the other mine workers.
- The Reveal: Satoru's parents are Ozai loyalists, and just like Mai, he couldn't go along with it and ran away.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: General Old Iron went on one of these when Lady Tienhai was seemingly murdered. Unfortunately for the human town, she had merely died of old age after taking mortal form.
- Running Gag:
- The youngest Air Acolyte insists on carrying a huge backpack by himself because...Jingbo: As the most junior Air Acolyte present, it's my honor to carry the festival supplies!
- ...and keeps having to ask for help when he falls down.
- And the poor Cabbage Merchant again suffers misfortune to his cabbages. It's not so bad this time, though.
- The youngest Air Acolyte insists on carrying a huge backpack by himself because...
- Ship Tease:
- Toph quickly gets a crush on Satoru, but their relationship is soured as Toph's family issues come to the fore, and she accuses him of "acting like a sniveling flunky" to his uncle (who's her father's business partner). They're back on good terms by the end, but it remains to be seen if he'll go on to father Suyin.
- Yee-li and The Dark One have quite a bit in Part Three.
- Shoutout: The scene of Toph holding up the collapsed ground is drawn to resemble a scene in Secret Wars. Gene Lang's comments, which had previously compared Sokka to Hawkeye, here draw parallels between Toph and the Incredible Hulk.
- Talking Is a Free Action: Averted; as the three Acolytes argue as to whether or not it goes against Air Nomad culture to "squish" a person, the Rough Rhino Jingbo had hit with a forklift recovers and captures them, telling them it's not a good idea to have a debate in the middle of a battle. Luckily, they are saved by Toph.
- The Good King: The king in Yangchen's time. He takes complete responsibility for Lady Tienhai's death and when General Old Iron attacks his only request to Yangchen is to safeguard his citizens' lives.
- There Was a Door: Toph arbitrarily takes down a wall so she can ask Satoru where her father's office is. Walking through the main entrance was apparently out of the question.
- Thicker Than Water: Satoru's belief in this is a major reason behind his loyalty to his uncle, and leads to friction with Toph, who has a troubled relationship with her parents. Satoru abandoned his parents because they were Ozai loyalists, though, and defends his uncle because he took Satoru in afterward.
- Third Eye: General Old Iron has a vertical eye on his forehead.
- Time Skip: It's been at least a year since The Search, long enough for the Gaang to have visibly aged.
- Title Drop: Avatar Yangchen in a flashbackYangchen: Remember, General Old Iron, I am the Avatar. I stand on the border between the spirit and human worlds, to ensure that border never grows into a rift.
- Those Two Girls: The two female air acolytes, Xing Ling (the bald one) and Yee-li.
- Took a Level in Badass: Ho-tun, Penga, and The Dark One are adept enough with metalbending to not only teach in Toph's absence (at least the novice-level class), but also rally to their sifu in combat.
- Ungrateful Bastard: When Aang saves one of the Rough Rhinos from falling and being seriously injured, the mook thanks him, then pulls a knife on him. Aang quickly earthbends him into the ground.
- We Used to Be Friends: General Old Iron and Lady Tienhai were friends until General Old Iron tried to kill the humans.
- Wham Line:
- When the owners of the factory arrive, a single word from Toph makes the story far more personal to her character than implied anywhere before.Loban: Lao...? You look like you've seen a ghost.
- Later:Satoru: Boss man Lao? You told me you didn't have a family.
Lao: [Beat Panel] That's correct. This girl is not my daughter.
- When the owners of the factory arrive, a single word from Toph makes the story far more personal to her character than implied anywhere before.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Like the previous trilogy, this one addresses a lingering plot thread from the series as Toph encounters her father again.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Aang complains about Toph almost hurting one of the Rough Rhinos more than is necessary, while she accuses some of the Air Acolytes of showing too much restraint and giving their opponent the upper hand.
- You Mean "Xmas": In the end, the new Spirit's friendship festival turns out to be one for the Chinese new year.