At its best, the Legend of Korra shook off the stigma of its “Young Adult” label and proved to be a compelling anime adventure that provided young people from all walks of life with heroes they can relate to and root for. While the themes of family, friendship and self discovery can apply to literally anyone, the series (and to an extent, its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender) was particularly important to young people of color and those of differing sexualities. That latter point, which I personally felt was handled rather subtly, proved to be a big point of contention for opponents of the show and a rallying point for its defenders. That Korra’s evident bisexuality was only touched on in the last scene (the last shot even) of the series’ final episode naturally incensed both sides of the debate, but truly proved to be the most diplomatic way for the show’s creators to tackle the issue on a cable channel aimed at the 12-and-under crowd. Now that the series has wrapped and the Legend of Korra will live on in a series of comics for Dark Horse, series co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino is through being ambiguous.

Indeed the book’s first arc, dubbed “Turf Wars: Part One”, picks up right where the TV series left off – removing any doubt that the knowing look and briefly held hands of the show’s finale were signs of anything besides a romantic relationship between the titular Korra and her companion Asami. The first several pages follow our heroines as they enjoy each other’s company on a journey through the spirit realm. They swim, play, canoodle – and yes, even kiss – and honestly, if parents are willing to raise their kids with a respect for other people’s lifestyles (you know, like good human beings) there’s nothing too shocking or upsetting in this book. Yes two young women kiss, but it’s far from oversexualized and reads just as genuinely as any heterosexual teen romance you’ll read out there. It honestly feels like DiMartino, who wrote this book, felt he had to address the mild controversy that came out of the series’ finale head on, because he sends about ⅔ of the initial arc specifically on the Korra/Asami relationship.

Korra

We join our heroines on their vacation in the Spirit World.

The second, and probably most culturally important portion of the story deals with Korra returning to her family’s home at the Northern Water Tribe to tell her parents about her new relationship. Indeed, so much of this book is about coming out – something I’m sure will help younger kids deal with their own uncertainty, but as a cisgendered straight male I’m something on the outside of this. From a critical standpoint I could find issue with literally every person they share their news with (barring maybe Mako, who has dated both women) reacting to the news with overwhelming positivity, but this is a fantasy series that is at least partly built around providing positive depictions of social groups that are typically ill represented in modern fiction, so I’m okay with the re-incarnated elemental wizard and her girlfriend having a sound support structure of friends and family because of the positive message it sends. Yes there are some misunderstandings between Korra and her father, but it comes from a place of familial care and concern rather than anything negative. Korra realistically reacts to this perceived negativity like a teenager might – jumping to conclusions and a “parents just don’t understand” mentality. Again, I’m not the audience for this, but I recognize consistent scripting.

With the heavy lifting of the emotional side covered (though the two women do experience some relationship issues throughout this story, it’s nothing too dissimilar to issues she faced while dating Mako), the rest of the book falls into pretty familiar territory for the LoK series. A crooked politician in Republic City is employing local Triad gangs to create havoc for one goal or another. This time around that includes instigating hostilities between the human and spirit worlds, which is what catches the attention of Korra and the team.

It all feels very reverential from the show, which is both a blessing and a curse. Unlike the original Avatar series, which was given room to breathe and develop its storylines across a full 4 seasons, Korra always felt rushed. For whatever reason, Nickelodeon was far more reticent to run with the (fairly popular) series than its other programs, and the writers were forced to move at a far more hectic pace. The end result is a less developed story and events that happen with little build. That shouldn’t suggest that Korra is a bad show, far from it actually. It’s just that the rigors of working AGAINST the producers at Nickelodeon rather than with them, led the creators to treat each season as if it could be their last. This is why each season was treated as its own unique arc, and why Aman was so underdeveloped as an antagonist in the first season (as they had to establish Team Avatar and a ton of lore, meaning the villain ended up a little flat).

This book continues these pacing issues. While it’s understandable why most of the trade is dedicated (in one way or the other) to the development of Korra and Asami’s relationship, as creating a positive image of a queer POC in a fantasy series popular with kids is obviously a momentous and important task, it does mean the arguable “plot” of the series becomes underdeveloped. There’s a new leader of the triads (using blades that are a curious throwback to Avatar’s ill-fated revolutionary Jet for some reason) and another corrupt politician seeking to use the Avatar’s powers/influence to suit his own purposes, but their collusion is only briefly touched on. Even then, they use the climactic battle between the triads and the combo off Team Avatar and the Air Nomads as a means of revealing the Korra-Asami relationship to the rest of the supporting cast. There is a bit of a cliffhanger as the Triad leader is somehow merged with spirits at the end, but it’s not anything that will rock your world too much one way or the other.

Overall, this is a good character study on young women going through a turbulent time in their lives, that has a little bit of an Avatar story tacked onto it. The art is consistent with the show, as are the character voices, it’s just that the story here is the character interactions surrounding Korra’s newfound relationship, not the action-oriented fantasy that the series is known for. Not to say that’s a bad thing, per se, but it’s something readers should know going into the book. I imagine volume 2 will be back to the familiar adventures lovers of the show will remember so fondly, Book 1, however, is a character piece on young love and the coming out process.

‘Legend of Korra: Turf Wars’ (Part One) is a good character study on young women going through a turbulent time in their lives
Is it good?
As a musing on the difficulty of coming out to one's friends and family, the book is a pretty solid read. As an adventure in the Avatar universe, it's considerably less successful.
The Good
The art and tone is all very consistent with the show.
Purposefully tackles the controversial ending of the TV series in a way that will speak to the intended audience without talking down to them.
The Bad
The B story is so ill developed that it feels unnecessary and almost distracting to the real goal of this book.
8
Good

  • Killsqu4d

    Legend of Korra was amazing! I wish Korra didn’t have to end up with anyone really

    • Winter

      To each their own but personally I actually really like that Korra ended up with Asami as they really perfect for each other. Also THREE YEARS TO SEE THESE TWO KISS, Totally worth it but still Three Years! Every other couple got some kind of kiss shortly after meeting each other, be it on the cheek or the lips. Korra and Asami had to wait for comics to get a kiss.

      • Killsqu4d

        They didn’t develop anything though. I’ve seen two female friends act just the way they did

        • Winter

          I really can’t agree, out of all the relationships in the series Korra and Asami have, in mt opinion, the best developed in the show especially when compared to the other relationships of this show. Lets go over how much time was developed into these relationships in order of their appearance.

          Aang fell for Katara the moment he saw her while Katara didn’t really show any interest in Aang until she was pretty much told that she was destined to fall for him, and then barely showed any interest with only a few episodes. Kissed two, possibly three, times throughout the series.

          Sokka and Suki, pretty much fell for each other for the course of one episode and then kissed when they met up in their second episode together.

          Sokka and Yue, pretty much started a relationship after only knowing each other for a day or two. Kissed after their first meeting.

          Mai clearly shown to have a crush on Zuko yet we see nothing from him, even in the flashback when we see them as kids. Then they are in a relationship at the start of with no explanation. They kiss in their very first scene as adults together.

          Korra falls for Mako the moment she sees him and continues to have a crush on him even though he is completely indifferent towards her until the fifth episode where, despite not showing any signs that he was interested in her at all, suddenly can’t choose between Korra and Asami. They kiss in the middle of the fifth episode.

          Mako and Asami, pretty much start a relationship the moment they meet until Asami loses everything at which point he starts paying more attention to Korra for no stated reason. Kiss in Out of the Past.

          Jinora and Kai. In a relationship the moment they meet, Jinora kisses him on the cheek in their thread episode together.

          Bolin and Opal, again, in a relationship the moment they meet, kiss on the cheek in Operation Beifong.

          Korra and Asami. At first they start off as rivals though Asami is actively friendly towards Korra and Korra is more annoyed at Asami but acts polite whenever she talks to Asami. Then comes the car race scene which is the point when they become friends which is quickly fallowed by a test of said friendship when Korra suspects that Asami’s father is a Equalist. Asami choose to help Korra and her friends upon seeing how far her father has fallen. Korra tells Mako to comfort Asami after she has lost everything knowing that she needs Mako more then Korra wants him. The two remain supportive of one another each other even after Asami learns that Korra has a thing for Mako.

          As Mako continues to pay more attention to Korra and ignore Asami, Asami confronts him over this at which point she states that she still considers Korra her friend and is more angry at Mako for keeping the truth from her. After this Asami continues to help Korra in anyway she can throughout the rest of the series, like when she agreed, without hesitation I might add, to ship weapons to the Southern Water Tribe and when Korra needed help in getting to the South to close to Southern Portal Asami was the first person to offer up her help.

          Then we get to Change and now, starting from their first scene together, is when they start to show signs that they are growing closer as friends. Asami and Korra spend 75% of Change together and work in near perfect sync together when fighting. We see them spar together, eat together, Asami offers to watch over Korra when she enters the Spirit world to confront Zaheer and then we get their final scene of that season together. The episode strongly implies and the comics straight up confirm that Asami took on the role of Korra’s personal caretaker in the weeks after her battle with Zaheer.

          It’s at this point when the two start to show real romantic feelings towards each other as they start acting much more affectionate towards each other. Asami holds Korra’s hand and tells Korra that she will be there for her should she need anything. Asami is the only person Korra writes back to during her time recovering, Asami becomes much happier when talking about Korra’s return, which she is clearly looking forward to more then anyone.

          When the two are reunited they show that they are still in perfect sync with each other as they are able to figure out what the other is planning without even needing to say a word. We see Asami making rather weak excuses to be next to Korra in Remembrance.

          This is why I consider Korrasami to be the best developed relationship in the show because they didn’t just meet and fall for each other. They got to know each other, became friends and only began to show romantic feelings towards each other after years of knowing each other.

          So when they finally took that next step if felt earned and real because we have seen this relationship grow in a way that felt completely natural because this is how a lot of relationships work in real life.

          These are however just my opinion and you are free to disagree with me if you like. 🙂

          • Killsqu4d

            Damn when you put it that way….it does make a lot of sense. But true or false, wouldn’t two straight females who are best friends do the exact same thing? That’s why a lot of fans thought this was fan service. What differentiates Asami and Korra’s romantic chemistry to that of two best female friends? Nothing right?

          • Winter

            Oh I’m not saying that two people have to have a romantic connection in order for them to love one another. Platonic or familial love can be just as strong as romantic love but here’s the thing. Korra and Asami feelings became more romantic after Korra’s battle with Zaheer but before that they were already starting to show signs that they were falling for one another.

            Case in point, take a look at their first scene together in Change.

            Notice how the music becomes much softer once Asami appears next to Korra and how close Asami is to Korra. Back in Air when Korra met Mako the two spent most of the episode with a room usually between them and the few times they were close it was usually a group shot so it wasn’t focusing on them.

            Now the reason I bring this up is that its one of the reasons most fans couldn’t get into Makorra but did get into Korrasami, the show itself was so uninterested in Mako and Korra’s relationship that it hardly ever focused on them whenever they were close to each other. In contrast about 97% of the time when Korra and Asami are in a room together the camera will focus on them and show just how close they are.

            This is one of the reasons it goes from friendship to romantic the way Korra and Asami are often shot together is usually rather intimate. Now take the way these scenes are shot together in contrast to how a relationship that is 100% platonic in this show, Korra and Bolin or Asami and Bolin. Even in scenes where the camera gets in close its not really very intimate, they’re not facing each other and normally have their arms crossed.

            Even their hugs are aren’t that intimate, here’s Korra and Asami hugging.

            http://i.imgur.com/FLEvqj8.png

            And here’s one between Korra and Bolin

            https://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/avatar/images/c/ca/Bolin_hugs_Korra.png/revision/latest?cb=20140822230858

            Now take these two hugs on their own, if you saw these two images with no context what would you say is the relationship between these people based solely on their hugs.

            Then there’s the tea scene in Remembrance, without any images here is what is said in that scene.

            Asami: (softly) I brought you some tea. I though you might be cold out here.
            Korra: (equally softly) You’re so sweet.

            Again, that this dialogue and the tone in their voices on its own with no context and what does this scene sound like?

            Its not so much what they’re doing but how they are interacting with one another that matters. The way they hug each other, the way they talk to each other, the way they work together and what they choose to tell the other.

            And that’s what makes Korra and Asami more of a romantic couple instead of just being close friends.

          • Killsqu4d

            Well….you stumped me

          • Jason Segarra
  • Killsqu4d

    Will read eventually