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Webcomic / Water Tribe

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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 Universe: It was close to canon for a while, but plot threads in the Avatar graphic novels and The Legend of Korra eventually made this story into an alternate reality.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Zhao's plan that he presents to the Water Tribe council is a good one- since the Air Nomads are no more, their land is open and ripe for the taking. This would allow them to have more territory, not to mention the resources of these areas (which would be a major boon to the economy). While in the wake of the hundred-year war where the Fire Nation did much the same thing, and the return of the Avatar (the last of the airbenders), it's understandable why the council vetoed the plan, but Zhao did make some good points.
  • 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."
  • Original Flavor: VERY original flavor.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Initially, Zhao thinks the reason he looks Fire Nation is because Fire Nation soldiers had their way with his mother (whom he can't remember). He's very angry at the thought.
  • Royal "We": "We know you well, Zhao. We do not wish to be... disappointed in you again."
  • 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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