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Comic Book / Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search

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A comic book Interquel between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, and a sequel to the previous comic The Promise. It is written by Gene Luen Yang and published by Dark Horse Books.

After the events of The Promise, the Gaang is attending a lecture to figure out how best to create a new peaceful world, when Zuko is struck by the philosophy that how a ruler treats his family is indicative of how he will treat his nation. Disturbed by what seems to be a dire prophecy for his own rule of the Fire Nation, he decides he not only must find his long-missing mother Ursa; but repair his family as broken as they are. However, Ozai refuses to say a word to him about her since his imprisonment and so must turn to the only person he thinks he'll talk to: AZULA. Azula coaxes the truth out of Ozai; but with Azula being... well, Azula, she manages to force Zuko to take her along on the search, unbound. And that's not the only twist in store on the journey, as a secret about Ursa's past also comes to light...

A sequel, The Rift, stars Toph and deals with the early construction of Republic City.

The Search provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • You remember the "My father says she was born lucky. I was lucky to be born." quote from the Season 1 finale? Ozai says it to Zuko right after telling him that if Ursa and the Fire Sages hadn't pleaded for his life, he'd have thrown him out right after he was born because he believed that Zuko was a non-bender.
    • And if you think Ozai loves Azula? He doesn't. Ozai says he can and will kill her along with Ursa and Zuko if Ursa takes the children with her when she's banished.
    • Taken to the extreme in a flashback at the end of Part 3. Ozai was knew that the letter Ursa wrote to Ikem was a lie. When Ursa stated that she wished that Zuko wasn't his son, he accepted by stating he'd never treat him as such again. So all the abuse that Ozai laid at Zuko's feet from then on was simply doing everything he could to spite Ursa.
    • Also, it's strongly implied that Azulon is being emotionally (and perhaps physically) abusive with Ozai at the same time.
  • Arranged Marriage: Ursa is basically forced into marrying Ozai because Fire Lord Azulon wants to conduct a eugenic experiment in breeding a better, more powerful royal heir. Ursa's refusal would result in the deaths of her and her parents.
  • Aspect Montage: Of Ursa preparing a poisonous potion.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Ursa's marriage to Ozai. He cuts her off from her friends and family, has a maid intercept her letters back to her village, and generally treats her like shit.
  • Bad Boss: How do you think Vachir ended up with the Rough Rhinos? Ozai wants to actually be sure that Ikem is dead, and doesn't even want there to be the slightest possibility that Ikem did not perish in Forgetful Valley. Ozai goes as far as to disgrace Vachir from the Yu Yan Archers.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Ikem grows one after Ursa is forced to accept Ozai's proposal.
  • Beast with a Human Face: Koh's mother, the Mother of Faces, has an aura that makes forest creatures have markings that resemble human faces.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Ursa tells Ozai she hopes Zuko will be nothing like him. The traits that make Zuko nothing like Ozai — namely his compassion, kindness, and loyalty — are what Ozai hates most about him and what causes Zuko to speak out at the war meeting and end up not only facing his father in an Agni Kai, but refusing to fight his father, and getting scarred and banished in retaliation. Which, in turn, leads to Zuko trying his hardest to become more like Ozai since he wants his father to love him... but does, also, eventually, lead to Zuko embracing the qualities his mother valued and rejecting the path his father laid out for him.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: The wolf noted below can cough up a swarm of spirit moth-wasps.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Azula and the Mother of Faces are the central antagonists, neither "bad" so much as crazy and neutral respectively.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Team Avatar was able to get Rafa healed and the mystery behind Ursa was solved with her being found in a new family with Ikem with no memories, that were later restored. However, Azula is more emotionally conflicted than she has ever been in her life. Ursa and Zuko both have to accept that Ursa had willingly given up all memories of her children for 5 years due to being unable to cope with the pain the memories of her time with the Fire Nation royalty gave her and now, having restored her memories, must live with her guilt. Zuko's happy to have his mother back but has potentially lost his sister again and rebuilding a relationship with his mother may be a challenge now that she has a new husband and daughter in her life to complicate matters as well. And that's not even going into what said husband and daughter must have to go through....
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Ursa wanted to take the children with her after killing Azulon, agreeing to never show her face at the capitol again. Ozai said he would keep them as collateral.
    Ozai: As long as you keep your word, no harm will come to either of them.
    • Ozai is outright insulted by Ursa's incredibly obvious lie that Zuko is Ikem's son.
  • Book Ends
    "Wait. I want to know everything."
    "For you, my dear, I'll start from the beginning."
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: Essentially what happens to Ursa so she could move on with her life and make sure she didn't endanger her children. Undone later.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Ursa tells Ikem that she "joyfully accepted" Ozai's proposal to stop his attempts to resist, which would almost certainly get him killed.
  • Brick Joke: The name of the play that Ursa and Ikem rehearse at the start is "Love Amongst The Dragons". Zuko makes a wry comment back in The Ember Island Players that Ursa would take them every year to watch how the troupe butchered it.
  • Brother–Sister Team: One of the themes of the story. Sokka/Katara are an example as well as the siblings the gang meets in the forest. Zuko and Azula are starting to develop toward this, at least between her bouts of paranoia.
  • Cain and Abel: One of Zuko's goals is to put an end to this and fix his relationship with Azula. He puts up with quite a bit of bad behavior from her in pursuit of this. In Part 2, Azula actually starts trying to put effort into mending fences as well, but of course it doesn't stick by the end. In the end, this trope is played with in a heartwarming manner: Zuko accepts that he and Azula may always have a Cain and Abel relationship... and yet even so, he will always care for her, since she's his sister.
  • Call-Back: Aang points out that spirits may know things mortals don't, something he remembered from "Siege Of The North: Part 2" when he attempted to get help from spirits.
  • Call-Forward: It's mentioned that the Yu Dao police force wants to learn Metalbending from Toph.
  • Central Theme: The Search focuses on the importance of family and the strength and serenity that comes with a healthy, functional family.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Hey, remember that nice family from part 2, Noren, Noriko and Kiyi? Noriko is actually Ursa with a new face and no memory of her Royal Life, and Noren is Ikem with a new face. Kiyi? Meet Zuko's half-sister he never knew about.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Ursa's lover Ikem was her childhood friend.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Azula—though she wasn't exactly subtle. They were only putting up with her in the first place because Zuko wanted to try and make her sane.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Zuko shares with Kiyi that Azula liked to play with dolls herself at Kiyi's age, though Azula chimes in that she didn't give haircuts but headcuts which scares Kiyi. Also, there's something hilariously heartwarming about how Azula had to fight hard within herself to not burn down a house with a happy family.
  • Comforting Comforter: As he and Zuko talk about family, Sokka drapes a blanket over his sleeping sister. Zuko decides to do the same with his own sister.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Azula has settled into a state of mind where literally everything bad that happens or has happened to her is some grand conspiracy by Ursa to undermine her.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Yu Yan archer who failed to kill Ikem is Vachir, the archer from the Rough Rhinos. His failure is the reason why he's with them.
    • Koh the Face Stealer not only gets mentioned, but his existence actually becomes a pretty crucial plot point in Part 3. Rafa's face disfigurement was actually Koh stealing his face, and Koh is the Mother of Faces' son. Because of both, it causes the Mother of Faces to grant two wishes this season rather than one and help Rafa out.
    • Master Kunyo first appeared in The Promise. This series shows how he got to the colonies.
  • Cowardly Lion: Ikem is said to be a coward, but when Ursa is about to be taken away, he grabs a prop sword and stands up to some Fire Nation soldiers armed with real weapons and Firebending.
  • Creepy Shadowed Undereyes: Azula gets these during her psychotic episodes.
  • Cruel Mercy: Ozai lets a Yu Yan archer who failed him live, but takes away his status as a Yu Yan.
    • Ozai does indeed spare Ursa any pain regarding her letter about Zuko. Zuko gets the brunt of the abuse from then on.
  • Darwinist Desire: The reason why Fire Lord Azulon had Ozai married to Ursa was because the Fire Sages thought the descendants of Avatar Roku and the Fire Nation royalty would produce powerful offspring.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Azula during her lucid moments.
  • Domestic Abuse: Ozai is shown being emotionally abusive towards Ursa. Possibly physically abusive as well. It's easy to miss, but when he confronts Ursa over the letter he grabs her wrist with one hand... and the other is curled into a fist.
  • Dragon Ascendant: To some extent Azula finally becomes this in this story, due that her father is imprisoned and depowered and she becomes one of the main antagonists of the story.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Azula has always looked up to her father for his admiration of her fire-bending skills, and resented her mother for allegedly thinking her daughter is a "monster". But on the night of Ursa's banishment, Ozai threatened that if Ursa tried to take the kids with her, he'd kill them all, including Azula. Also on that fateful night, Ursa kissed her sleeping daughter on the cheek before she left. If only she had known...
    • Ozai promises Ursa that no harm will befall their children as long as she keeps her promise to leave the capital and never return. Ursa leaving them in their father's "care" would do quite a number on their physical and mental health instead, with Zuko's face being scarred for life and Azula having a mental breakdown at the age of 14.
  • Driving Question: The entire comic series was made to answer the BIGGEST driving question of the series: What happened to Zuko's mother after her banishment? It also adds another potential driving question. Will Azula ever completely regain her sanity and if so, will she complete a true Heel–Face Turn?
  • Dungeon Bypass: Azula attempts to save traveling time by burning down a forest.
  • Easily Forgiven: Aang gives an amicable greeting to Azula on the morning of their quest despite her electrocuting him about a year ago and her current rudeness to him and his friends. Averted with everyone else. Though given that it's Aang, this is to be expected.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Mother of Faces may be a somewhat benign example (when she feels like it), but she definitely looks the part. She is the source of all human faces, being the one that gave humans individual identity to begin with.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: Sokka suggesting this of Azula is a Running Gag. "Nature hates her!"
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: After visiting Noren and Noriko, Azula is one to voice she was tempted to burn down their home, much to Katara's horror. To this, Azula justifies that she's simply disgusted at their "charade"; she's convinced their happy home life is artificial, and that nobody's ever that happy. Even when Aang offers up that he and Katara are indeed that happy, but Azula just shoots it down as the two of them being "idiots". It effectively highlights that due to her dysfunctional background, Azula can't fathom what a normal, idyllic family life is supposed to look like.
  • Facial Horror: Rafa badly disfigured his face in an accident and hides it behind a wooden mask.
    • Until we learn in Part 3 that he's been suffering an even worse fate... living without a face after Koh stole it!
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    Aang: So that must be it: Forgetful Valley!
    Sokka: How do you know? Are you detecting something with your special Avatar powers?
    Aang: No. It says so on the sign.
    Sokka: [just now noticing the sign] Oh.
  • Fallen Princess: Azula's a mess in this book in comparison to her normal and later looks.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Azula's use of "snow peasant" is definitely a racist/classist slur against waterbenders, but exactly how offensive and widespread that term is hasn't been revealed.
  • Feed the Mole: What Ursa's letter claiming that Zuko isn't Ozai's biological son turns out to be. She suspected that Ozai was having someone spy on her by reading her personal letters, so she decided to test out it by writing something that would be sure make Ozai upset and cause him to give himself away. When Ozai confronts her over it, it turns out that he didn't buy the letter's statement for a second, because he fully well knows that it an impossibility, and he is actually just upset that she thought such a transparent lie would ever trick him.
  • Foil: Sokka and Katara's sibling relationship is this to Zuko and Azula's. Sokka even lampshades this. We're reminded that Sokka and Katara have the regular version of Sibling Rivalry, while Zuko's and Azula's is messed up on a whole new level.
    • Also, the husband/father relations between Ozai and Ikem. Ozai is a powerful Firelord, but is cruel and abusive, and sees Ursa as a prize and possession. Ikem is little more than a humble man who runs a theater, but he's a good man who loves Ursa. What's more, Ozai takes pleasure in fulfilling his wife's wish to treat Zuko (his own flesh and blood) like he were Ursa's bastard son. Ikem is not only kind to his own daughter Kiyi, but he once suggested to Ursa taking in Zuko and Azula as their family, even with the knowledge they weren't biologically his children.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In Legend of Korra Katara hints that Ursa's story does get a happy ending. Sure enough Zuko does find her in the end, and Katara was there to see it, so she knew what she was talking about.
    • In the prologue, we see Ikem propose to Ursa, who joyfully accepts it. However, given she eventually married Ozai, this tells the reader that something will tear the two lovers apart somehow.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Zuko and Kiyi getting along so well hints to the true identity of the mother. It makes more sense given the brother-sister relationship theme underpinning much of the story; it seems that this bond can apply no matter how distant the connection. It also would mean that there's a way for Zuko to fulfill that relationship by having a positive one with Kiyi if not through Azula. OR, it means that there may still be a way for Zuko to fulfill that relationship with Azula; but knowing now what he does of Azula, it may take quite a bit more time and work.
    • When Noren firsts approaches Team Avatar, he does so while wearing the Blue Spirit mask. In a way, this is apropos, as his persona as Noren is basically Ikem wearing the "mask" of a different face.
    • Then there’s a hint that the last letter Ursa wrote, which states that Zuko is hers and Ikem’s son, is far from the truth: Ikem found the idea very dodgy, and doesn’t recall…any such circumstance that would lead to him and Ursa having a son before Kiyi.
  • Freudian Excuse: Koh the Face Stealer, of all people, gets one: he had a falling-out with his mother and steals faces to counter what she does, but it's said that his real investment in taking faces is to have them around because he actually misses his mother.
  • Freudian Slip: Suki has one with Zuko, alluding to her possibly having more than platonic feelings for him.
    Suki: I'm—we're glad to have you back, Zuko.
  • Funny Background Event: Sokka and Suki hugging as Zuko tells the Gaang why Azula will be accompanying them on their search for Ursa.
    • Aang and Katara kissing in the audience as the main leads of Love Amongst the Dragons kiss at the finale.
    • Azula and Katara getting into a frankly silly argument while Aang and Zuko discuss serious matters. Sokka finally interrupts the talk between Aang and Zuko to tell them to break up the fight or someone will end up either burned or frozen.
  • Gilded Cage: Ozai informs Ursa that she cannot speak to her family or mention her pre-Fire Nation princess life again after their wedding. She cannot have certain possessions or travel where she wants without the Royal family's permission. Even her letters secretly sent back home were intercepted and confiscated, without her knowledge. Azulon does tell her that her new life will be better than her backwater village due to the comforts of the Palace.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Ursa's entire life has consisted of this;
    • After the Fire Sages stated that joining the royal family's bloodline to the Avatar's would produce a superior heir, Azulon demanded she marry Ozai. The results:
    • Ursa wishes out loud to Ozai that Zuko grow up to be nothing like him. Ozai takes this as carte blanche to treat him as a bastard child, setting the course for a lifetime of abuse that ultimately results in Zuko joining the Avatar to end the Fire Nation's conquest of the world.
    • Ursa wishes to leave her painful life as Ozai's wife behind and live a simple life as Ikem's, and to know she won't cause her children to be executed. This results in a happy marriage as Noriko, her third child, Kiyi, who has an equally happy childhood, all of which is free of the painful memories of her past... including her memories of Zuko and Azula.
  • Good Counterpart: Well, "good" if you don't threaten her. The Mother of Faces is basically a complete opposite to Koh. Whereas Koh steals faces, the Mother gives them.
    • This is because she's his mother, and Koh apparently has issues with her and does the opposite of what she does out of outward spite and inner, Freudian longing for her.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Ozai knew that Ursa was secretly writing letters to Ikem and thus had all the letters intercepted before they reached to her home island. But he didn't act upon his jealousy until Ursa claimed in one of her letters that Zuko was Ikem's son. Ozai, enraged by this, orders an assassination on Ikem's head and then told Ursa that Ikem was now dead (despite knowing otherwise) to break her heart. Then, after Ursa confirmed that Zuko was indeed his son but still wished that he would be nothing like him, Ozai resolved to treat Zuko as if he's not his son to "honor" Ursa's wishes.
  • Hate Sink: Ozai was already this in the original series, but in this story, he receives more characterization... and every single bit of it only makes him look worse than he did before. Considering he literally had no redeeming characteristics in the original series, this says a lot as to how utterly wicked, vile, and loathsome he is.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Azula apparently starts on one in the end, giving up on her goals of killing her mother and taking the throne from her brother. It's subject to interpretation though: Aang and Katara believe she's changing now, but Sokka still thinks she's a crazy threat.
  • The Hermit: Ikem becomes one after losing Ursa.
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: As it turns out, Ursa and Ikem, whom Team Avatar has been looking for, has been right in Hira'a the whole time—they have new faces as Noriko and Noren, the couple from the acting troupe who invited them to their home.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Azula's a mess, to put it lightly. In some ways, she's more of a danger to herself than she is to anyone else. It's...kinda sad actually.
  • Hypocrite: Ursa of all people. The last thing she says to Zuko before her banishment is "Never forget who you are". She then proceeds to get a new face and have her memories of her time in the royal family completely removed, including her children, so that she wouldn't be tempted to visit the capital and endanger their lives. At the very least, she's genuinely remorseful for said action and wants to work to repair it.
  • I Have Your Wife: The reason why Ursa never returned to the capital after she was banished. She would be willing to die to check on her children, but Ozai makes it clear if she ever did, he would kill both Zuko and Azula and leave her alive.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Zuko shows shades of this trope once he finds that incriminating letter, as now he potentially has a legitimate out to be Fire Lord. But in the final volume, Ursa admits that what was written in the letter was untrue, and Ozai knew it. Zuko admits that deep down he always knew he was supposed to become the Fire Lord.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Noren accidentally reveals he knows who Ursa is even though they haven't been formally introduced (it's actually Ikem with a new face). Ursa very quickly gets suspicious.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A familial example. When Zuko asks Noriko (really Ursa with a new face and no memories of her past) if she's happy, Noriko says that indeed she's happy with her life. To this, Zuko decides to leave his mother in peace, content to know she has a good life. Noren (really Ikem) stops him from pulling this trope, recognizing the young Fire Lord deserves to have a proper closure with his mother.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Zuko thinks to bring Tea to Azula and Ozai to try to facilitate a conversation between the two of them. However, Zuko completely forgets that his sister is still in a straitjacket. Azula calls him out on this, presuming that he wanted her to lap the tea out of the cup like a dog.
  • Instant Waking Skills: Azula is awakened and instantly alert by the sight of her mother talking to her.
  • Ironic Echo: A rather wholesome one concerning both of Ikem's visits to Forgetful Valley. The first time, he has his handsome face, but he's alone and miserable. The second time, he has Ursa in tow, and even though he has a different face than his own, he's much happier in her company.
  • Irony:
    • In a flashback, Firelord Azulon tries to comfort a dispirited Ursa that her arranged marriage to Ozai will lead to a happier life in the palace than if she remained in the "backwater" Hira'a. Jump ahead to the present, and just the opposite is true: Ursa was far happier married to Ikem/Noren in Hira'a for five years than she ever was living in the palace with Ozai for twice as many years.
    • Azula has developed this delusion that her mother has been plotting to kill her from the moment she was born. Meanwhile, in a flashback, her father (who she has respected and obeyed all her life) is the one that threatened Ursa that he'd kill both their son and daughter if she ever returned. All this time, Azula was paranoid towards her loving mother, while devoting her loyalty to the parent who actually would kill her.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: One may think nine-year-old Azula is being a brat by insulting her firebending teacher and claiming she knows better than him, and side with Zuko when he tries to defend him... unless you read "The Promise", where said teacher actually appears and shows that Azula's perception of him is pretty spot-on.
  • Karmic Death: It's revealed that in order to keep Ozai from killing Zuko, Ursa arranged to make an undetectable poison in order to kill off Azulon and ascend the throne. Let that sink in for a moment: Azulon was indirectly killed by the very woman who he doomed to a loveless marriage to his son.
  • Kick the Dog: At their wedding reception, Ozai told Ursa she'd be cut from all ties to her family and friends, as she was essentially his property. What's worse was that he's not sadistic about it; he genuinely thought Ursa would be happy with him. Lovely way to kick off a marriage.
  • Lady Macbeth: Ursa, surprisingly. She makes a bargain with Ozai to help kill his father and become Fire Lord in exchange for escaping with the children. Ozai haggles her down from there, keeping their children as collateral.
    • When Azula's mind goes out to lunch, she starts believing in her Ursa conspiracy that everything is done by Ursa to try to kill her. This does tie into the near end of the series where her paranoia has her banishing everyone out of fear that she'll be killed by others who no longer fear her. The only difference is that now Azula has just turned to focusing on one specific person: her mother. She keeps thinking everyone will kill her, much like the end of Lady Macbeth herself; who was also driven to insanity by seeing knives everywhere.
  • Love at First Punch: Ikem fell in love with Ursa after she punched him in the stomach and kicked dirt in his face when they were six.
  • Love Hurts: A more familial variation, but ultimately the main motivation as to why Ursa chose to have her memories of her royal life removed.
    • In a case of tough medicine, the final battle between Zuko and Azula. They both reveal that they do truly love Azula, which hits her so hard she needed to run away in tears.
  • Luke, I Might Be Your Father: Zuko seemingly finds out via letter that his real father was not Ozai, but a man named Ikem. But the letter ends up being a lie.
  • Master Poisoner: None other than Prince Zuko's mother, Ursa, is revealed to be this. She knew how to make an odorless, color-less, lethal poison that was next to impossible to detect. She ended up offering a deal to Ozai; she would concoct the poison and give it to him to do as he pleased (the idea being he'd poison his father and then take the throne) and Zuko (who was going to be executed as a punishment to Ozai) would be spared. Ozai accepts.
  • Meaningful Name: Noren. The name is also of a character in "Love Amongst the Dragons" and has meaning to him. It's the name Ikem chose after gaining a new face, to maintain a connection to the acting troupe and, by extension, Ursa.
  • Mercy Kill: Ozai was considering doing this to Zuko in his sleep. However, Ursa talked Ozai out of it.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Ozai sends a Yu Yan archer after Ikem. Ikem barely escapes.
  • The Needs of the Many: Aang uses this rationale in an attempt to convince Zuko to burn the incriminating letter. Whether or not Zuko has a blood right to the throne is irrelevant in Aang's eyes; Zuko needs to be on the throne to help rebuild both the world and the Fire Nation's reputation.
  • Never My Fault: In Azula's warped mind, everything is Ursa's fault. No exceptions. Well, in Azula's broke-brained defense. It's that or lose all functionality and go totally insane. Gotta pick one or the other.
  • Never Say "Die": The use of "end" instead of "kill" when used in a threat.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Azula is now somehow capable of lightning bending by simply pointing her fingers and skipping the previously required circular motions, which is how she kicks off the plot by escaping her straitjacket. She also can bend the lightning instead of just firing it, luring away the spirit wolf by making an orb of lightning for it to chase.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ursa, full stop.
    • To see if her letters have been intercepted, Ursa wrote a letter that states that Zuko is Ikem's son rather Ozai's, knowing that it would provoke Ozai. It backfired horribly, as Ozai's rage over this (even though he knew it false, he was more upset at the implication that she wished Zuko wasn't his) caused him to openly treat Zuko as if he was not his own son as punishment to Ursa (though Ozai had already been treating Zuko pretty badly even before his confrontation with Ursa). Disaster Dominoes begins from here: Ozai's words were roughly along the lines of "I'll do whatever it takes to make you suffer" and he already put Zuko in his crosshairs. Ursa knew he would, and so she had to closely watch over Zuko.
    • Furthermore, because of Ursa's ploy backfiring heavily, her focus more on Zuko had the consequence of being forced to unintentionally neglect Azula (at least from her perspective) in the process. Because of this, Azula's cruel streak was never regulated, worked with or fixed and she was never properly disciplined by her mother and ends up becoming (from Azula's own perspective) a monster that her mother doesn't want; which leads Azula to attach herself to her father, sending her on the path to where she is now.
    • The worst part of it all? Ursa's plan and fallout from it was nothing more than Disproportionate Retribution. Ursa likely presumed that she would've been just yelled at if not hit by Ozai. But for Ozai to turn around and no longer have any qualms about killing Zuko or Azula was WAY too far...
  • No One Could Survive That!: Ozai doesn't believe for a second Vachir's claim that no one could survive in Forgetful Valley and his target must be dead already. (Now we know where Azula learned it.) Well, Ikem discarded his identity and got a new face, so metaphorically, he was dead.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: Azula asks Ty Lee how she lost her fear of her, but Ty Lee, after leaving with Zuko, tells him, "She's wrong, you know. I never lost my fear of her."
  • Oh, Crap!: Pretty much Team Avatar's reaction after Azula's wish to the Mother of Faces is granted and they notice Azula has run off.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The moment from "Zuko Alone" when Zuko finds out his father is about to kill him after Ozai suggested he take Iroh's birthright after Lu Ten's death is shown once again, but this time it's expanded upon to elaborate what Ozai told Zuko during the eclipse; Ursa was surprised to find out Ozai would kill their son, and was completely willing to do so until Ursa had an easy way for Ozai to take the throne in order to spare Zuko's life, but she had to leave because once the deed is done, she will be a loose end. The scene showing Zuko's very last interaction with his mother also gets seen again, with Ursa being sent away on a boat afterwards.
  • Parental Abandonment: In addition to being banished, Ursa, when getting a new face from the Mother of Faces spirit, also makes the controversial decision to have her painful memories of her life with the Fire Nation royalty wiped, which she feels she cannot bear to remember (but unfortunately includes her memories of Zuko and Azula). The other reason is she worried that if she returned to the capital with a new face, Ozai would find out and kill her children as he threatened.
  • Parental Bonus: To keep things appropriate for the target audience nothing is ever said outright, but there is some very obvious subtext in how Ursa, Ozai, and Ikem all act as though her claim that Zuko is Ikem's son can't possibly be true. In particular, Ikem's reaction to the idea is interrupted but he's clearly about to say that he and Ursa never had sex in that time frame.
  • Parental Favoritism: Once again, in flashbacks Ozai praises Azula's skills in firebending and is infuriated with Zuko's failures in the same area.
  • Parents as People: While the series portrayed Ursa as this ideal Mama Bear, the comic reveals she had her fears and has made her share of mistakes.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Aang, of all people, is showing signs of this. He is willing to burn a letter stating that Zuko is not Ozai's son and, therefore, not the rightful Fire Lord. As it turns out, Zuko had to burn it anyways, because it contained a lie.
  • Pet the Dog: Ozai does have limited moments of genuine kindness. It's hard to tell because most of his "kindness" featured in the flashbacks barely concealed his desire for revenge upon any slight against him.
    • Upon hearing Ursa calling him "my love," Ozai ordered the guards to stand down and allowed Ursa to have her final goodbyes with Ikem. In fact, he didn't even considered assassinating her ex-boyfriend until years later when she deliberately wrote a letter claiming that Zuko was Ikem's son instead of his.
    • When Ursa confronted Ozai about Azulon's order to kill Zuko, he said he'll make it a Mercy Kill while the boy is sleeping so that Zuko won't die knowing his father had him. Ursa's reaction made it clear that that killing their son was cruel no matter how merciful he tried to make it out to be.
  • Predecessor Villain: Fire Lord Azulon and Ozai, because their actions in the past were the reasons that led to the events of this story.
  • Properly Paranoid: The Gaang, even Zuko are worried about bringing Azula along unbound because not only do they realize how dangerous Azula is when she's sane, but now they have to worry about her when she's insane. And throughout the book, more than half of the conflicts are because of Azula's snapped mind on her own personal agenda; which ends up proving the team right on her mental instability.
  • Put on a Bus: Toph is too busy with her metalbending school to help the Gaang this time around. Similarly, Iroh was left behind as acting Fire Lord in Zuko's absence.
  • Reality Warper: When the Mother of Faces visits her forest, face-like patterns appear on the animals and plants living in it. Aang, as the bridge between humans and spirits, is affected too, his face starting to wear expressions mimicking some of the patterns around him without his being able to control it.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Azula is fully aware that she's lost her mind, and it's yet another thing she blames on Ursa.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Once she learns her relation to her half-sister, Azula believes her mother had Kiyi for the sole purpose of replacing her first daughter that "turned out to be a monster". Subverted when we learn Noriko was mind-wiped, so she didn't even know Azula existed and Ikem never interacted with Azula so he didn't know what kind of child she was.
  • Resigned to the Call: Zuko, even not knowing that the letter is fake, accepts that the throne of Fire Lord is always going to be his responsibility.
  • Revenge Through Corruption: After Ursa admitted to Ozai that she wishes Zuko to never be like him, Ozai swore that he'll treat Zuko like he's not his son out of spite. Considering that Ozai treated Zuko with pride and respect after hearing his son allegedly killed the Avatar years later, it's clear in hindsight he would only stop when Zuko is the complete opposite of what his mother wanted.
  • Running Gag: Katara has taken to making snowballs out of any handy water source and plopping them right in Sokka's face when she doesn't like one of his quips. Also, Mother nature just does not like Azula at all.
  • Sadistic Choice: Two come up in Part 3 (though one in a flashback).
    • The Mother of Faces only grants one wish per season but Team Avatar had two favors that needed addressing, thus the choice: either ask for her help in finding Ursa, or address Rafa's face disfigurement. They INTENDED to do the latter, but Azula being Azula, she cut in and yelled for the former, and it took some unforeseen circumstances to get the Mother of Faces to help Rafa. Ironically, had Azula not done so they likely would've NEVER found Ursa.
    • Noren/ Ikem had taken Ursa to the Mother of Faces for a new identity to keep her safe from Ozai but the Mother of Faces sensed that her pain lay deeper from her past life so she also gave a choice. She could take the memories of her Royal Life away, but it would mean forgetting her children completely, or she could abstain and Ursa would keep those memories but she would be under constant emotional pain from being separated from them. She chose to lose her memories, only being restored thanks to the first Sadistic Choice making the Mother of Faces a bit more agreeable.
  • Sanity Has Advantages: Azula escapes from the Gaang in Volume 1 with her typical do-daring, but unlike her pre-breakdown self is quickly recaptured because she stops running to get into an argument with a hallucination. She's beaten easily whenever a fight happens, thanks to her general craziness making her erratic.
  • Savage Wolves: The Gaang gets attacked by a gigantic spirit wolf, later shown to be a pet of the Mother of Faces.
  • Searching for the Lost Relative: Comics centers around Zuko's search for his long-lost mother Ursa, which was teased at the end of the original animated series. In addition, his sister Azula forces him to take her too, by reading and burning up the only evidence of their mother's whereabouts.
  • Self-Deprecation: Azula frequently refers to herself as a monster every time she loses control of her emotions.
    • A meta-level joke; but Azula at one point complains about Noriko's family being happy together which made her retch. She then derides the happiness of Katara and Aang together, only thinking they're that happy because they're idiots. This can be seen as a burn to the rather ham-fisted, sickeningly sweetheart relationship the two had in the Promise, with Azula taking the role of the disgruntled reader.
  • Self-Made Orphan:
    • The Search reveals that Ozai is the one who murdered Azulon. The vicious and treasonous thing Ursa did that night is just simply making an untraceable poison and giving it to Ozai before leaving.
    • Azula's true motive for "helping" with the search for Ursa is so that she can kill her mother.
  • Shadow Archetype: Deconstructed. From an inverted perspective, Azula resents that Kiyi turned out to be everything the former isn't: sweet, innocent, well-adjusted, and beloved. Azula feels as if her half-sister is meant to be her mother's replacement for her "monster" daughter.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Though Azulon never comes out and says it directly, his words and their reactions all but state outright that he knows that Avatar Roku's descendants (Ursa and her mother, Rina) have been hiding from him, and for good reason.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Between Zuko and Suki, bizarrely enough. Her grabbing his hand in The Promise could be explained as the fans reading too much into it, but here there's no doubt it's deliberate.
    • There's also an odd variation of this in Part One; Katara's necklace clearly has an Air Nomad glyph on it instead of a Water Tribe one. It reverts to normal a few pages later, but it's more than enough to make any and all Kataangs Squee their heads off, thinking they're secretly engaged.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Azula plans to betray Team Avatar and overthrow Zuko later on. She ends up doing the former, but gives up on accomplishing the latter.
  • Something Only They Would Say: When Ikem approaches Ursa as Noren, they initially hit it off, until he scares her off by bringing up her name without introduction. To stop her, he brings up a childhood incident only they would remember, signaling to Ursa who he really is. For good measure, he confirms his identity by bringing up the memory of when she broke up with him to spare him from Ozai's wrath.
  • Split Personality: Word of God describes Azula as like someone who has this: she flips between being a more manic and irrational version of her former manipulative, sane self and a completely emotionally unstable and Ax-Crazy psychopath.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Ursa and Ikem. Subverted by the end.
  • Stealth Pun: [Mother] Nature hates Azula.
  • Symbolism:
    • In a flashback, an eagle eye will notice that Ursa's hiding place for her masks (specifically from the play "Love Amongst the Dragons") isn't just any ordinary hiding spot: it's behind hers and Ozai's wedding portrait. This is meant to signify that although Ursa has "dedicated" her life to serving the Fire Nation and being Ozai's wife, her heart still belongs in Hira'a with Ikem.
    • In another flashback, while Ikem is explaining to Ursa how he came to acquire a new face, he puts on a mask while explaining that the Mother of Faces gave him the face he wears now. Rather appropriate, as it reflects that his Noren identity is just what it sounds like, a mask.
    • Towards the climax, Azula literally drops in on Noren and Noriko's home rather violently before she confronts the latter of the two (really Ursa wiped of her memories). This gives an atmosphere that despite her intentions to forget her pain and start over, Ursa's past life in the palace and consequences for forgetting said-life have caught up with her, in the form of her troubled daughter Azula.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Gaang is not happy about having Azula around, especially given her sinister motives and accusing them of being her mother's accomplices in a plot to undermine her. Afterwards, they give up and decide that they must contain Azula.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Ty Lee chi-blocks Azula even though she's already restrained. Zuko tells her that was completely unnecessary.
  • They Really Do Love Each Other: The revelation that Zuko and Ursa love her hits Azula pretty hard and she runs away into the woods in tears.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Ikem throws his burning prop sword at a Fire Nation guard.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Azula manipulates herself into the role.
  • Tyke Bomb: Azulon planned Ozai's bloodline with Ursa to be this. According to his Fire Sages, the descendants of the Fire Nation Royal Family and Roku would produce really strong firebenders. It certainly was a success in regards to both Azula and Zuko, who were both immensely powerful and skilled firebenders. Deconstructed as genetics alone can't guarantee the child will be perfect, especially against a poor environment. Genetics did not save Zuko from a massively traumatizing childhood nor did they save Azula from going bat-shit bonkers.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Ursa was very unhappy with being married to Ozai. The comic also reveals that while Ozai loved lording his power over his wife, ultimately the feeling was mutual.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Justified due to Azula's own insanity. She hasn't been in fighting shape for a year, and so she is easily taken down and restrained physically by the Gaang. In addition, her Chronic Backstabbing Disorder combined with a lack of subtlety due to her psychosis making her lash out has made her far too predictable that the heroes have gotten used to it.
  • Wham Line: When Zuko reads Ursa's letter to Ikem. But, it's the impact it would have on how Zuko's childhood would go from then on that makes it a whammer.
    Ursa: My one consolation is our son Zuko.
  • Wham Shot: When the Mother of Faces reveals that Ursa is actually Noren's wife from back in Part 2.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Azula, after giving up her ambitions in the last volume, just...runs away. We don't see what becomes of her afterward. Aang, Katara and Sokka say they're sure she'll turn up again soon.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Aang calls out Zuko multiple times for not burning the incriminating letter when he had the chance, pointing out that Zuko being Fire Lord is needed to rebuild the world regardless of whether or not he is the true heir.
    • The Mother of Faces hates it when people ask for a new face when she put so much work into crafting the one they already have, which is why she only does it sparingly.
  • With Due Respect: Ikem uses this phrase while asking Azulon to let Ursa go.
  • The Wrongful Heir to the Throne: Azula, as she would have been in the series finale, still aims to be this. Taken a step further with a letter from Ursa that supposedly proves Zuko isn't really Ozai's heir. However, thanks to the sequel, it's a simple matter of fact that she can't possibly succeed. The official site for Korra states that Zuko was Fire Lord for many years (before retiring to become a wandering ambassador), and his daughter after him. As it turns out Ursa intentionally lied in her letter to get a reaction from Ozai that would prove her letters were being intercepted, and Zuko actually is Ozai's son... Ozai full well knows this too and still treats his children with contempt.