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"Redemption and apologies are for the weak. I owe nothing. I am Azula, daughter of Ozai the Phoenix King! I am the rightful Fire Lord! And I do not take kindly to meddling spirits!"
Azula to the spirit of the temple.

Azula in the Spirit Temple is a standalone graphic novel set in the Avatar universe, following Azula. The graphic novel is written by Faith Erin Hicks, with art by Peter Wartman. It was originally planned to be released on September 26, 2023, but it was later delayed multiple times to an official release of October 31, 2023. Dark Horse listed the final release date as November 1, 2023.[1][2][3] The book is centered around Azula confronting her past.[4]

Overview[]

Azula continues her destabilizing campaign against the Fire Nation and her brother, Fire Lord Zuko.

But after a failed attack on her latest target, Azula finds herself in a mysterious forest temple inhabited by a solitary monk…or is it something more mysterious? Azula must confront her past, and finally face her chance at redemption.[2]

Synopsis[]

Azula, Zirin and two other members of the Fire Warriors travel through a forest within the Fire Nation one night, Azula remarking to herself that some people are worthy, while others will never be. They come to a small village housing a granary that they intend to destroy as part of Azula's campaign against Fire Lord Zuko; as they infiltrate the building, Azula sees Ty Lee bring tea to a pair of soldiers stood guard there, and grits her teeth at the sight of the other girl. She then uses her firebending to ignite the contents of the granary; as she does so, Ty Lee advises the guards to drink up, explaining that she thinks their auras will need fortifying tonight.

The granary then goes up in a fiery explosion. As Azula and the Fire Warriors attempt to flee the scene however, Ty Lee calls out to a group of soldiers hidden in the forest, revealing the granary to be part of a trap. The soldiers rush out and surround Azula's group, before Ty Lee informs them that the destroyed building had been empty, and states that she will not allow Azula to escape and cause further trouble for Zuko. Chiyou - one of the Fire Warriors - responds by attacking her with firebending, but Ty Lee avoids the attack and subdues her with chi-blocking, and the two groups fight one another. In the end though, the Fire Warriors flee without Chiyou, Azula bending a wall of flame to keep Ty Lee and the soldiers from pursuing her.

The Fire Warriors recuperate with other members of their group at a campsite within the forest. Zirin tries to discuss rescuing Chiyou with Azula, but the former princess refuses to go back for her, dismissing Chiyou as a casualty of war. Zirin mocks the idea that their conflict with Zuko resembles a war in the first place, before going on to claim that Azula promised the Fire Warriors that they would be helping the downtrodden of the Fire Nation instead of sneaking around like criminals. She warns that they are not pawns for Azula to use against Zuko, and that they wish to focus on other things.

Angered by Zirin’s words, Azula reminds her and the other Fire Warriors of their past imprisonment in the mental institution, and how they had been confined there because they refused to conform to the expectations of their traditionalist parents. She claims to have given them a purpose and place to belong when she broke them out, and therefore she will decide what they need. Zirin backs down, but after Azula heads into her tent for the night, she and the other Fire Warriors conclude that the former princess doesn’t care for them. They agree that they owe it to Chiyou to try and rescue her, as she would do the same for them.

The next morning, Azula wakes up to find the rest of the campsite deserted, the Fire Warriors having abandoned her in the night. Enraged at this perceived treachery and ingratitude, she roams the forest in search of them with the intent to take revenge, but finds no trace of them the entire day, and is later caught in a storm as night falls. Pulling the hood of her cloak up, she continues walking through the forest, and eventually comes across a temple resembling those of the Fire Sages. She expresses puzzlement at the presence of such a building, before hearing her stomach rumble and deciding to investigate.

Entering the temple, Azula finds a female monk preparing food, and asks about the building. The monk describes the temple as a place of refuge and rest for the weary, to which Azula questions its location in the middle of a forest, expressing doubt that weary travelers could actually find it. The monk assures her that those who need the place can do so, before remarking that Azula looks in need of help. Azula dismisses the notion, insisting that she just needs a warm meal and a bed for the night, and that Zirin and the other Fire Warriors will pay for their betrayal. The monk invites Azula to stay the night at the temple, and assures her that she will have good dreams there before setting up a bedroll on the floor for her. Azula however insists on taking the monk’s bedroom for herself, with the monk agreeing to do whatever is necessary to facilitate her stay.

Azula falls asleep, still intent on taking revenge on Zirin and the Fire Warriors. As she sleeps, she has a dream of herself waking up in her family’s old beach house on Ember Island, with Lo and Li waiting to greet her. The two older women take Azula’s wrists and lead her outside, where she sees her entire family bar Kiyi - Ozai, Ursa, Iroh, an unscarred Zuko and Fire Lords Sozin and Azulon - and Ruon-Jian all gathered to greet her on the beach. Ozai refers to her as his favorite child, and other members of the family commend her for her past deeds; conquering Ba Sing Se, killing Avatar Aang and becoming Fire Lord following Ozai crowning himself the Phoenix King. As Azula questions these events, Ursa hugs her and assures her daughter that she is proud of her, before the moment is interrupted by Mai and Ty Lee, who remind Azula that she is only imagining the events taking place, and that she once expressed a belief that Ursa considered her a monster. Azula tells the pair to shut up, but Mai retorts that she knows what Azula is really like, before repeating her statement that the current events never happened. Azula shouts her previous demand, and then awakens to find herself back in the temple.

The monk then enters the bedroom with a panicked look, stating that Azula’s dreams did not give her peace and urging her to leave immediately. Though angry at the monk’s treatment of her, Azula leaves the temple and heads into the forest. As soon as she does so though, a mist appears and clouds her vision, before clearing away to show the temple back in front of her. Believing the monk is trying to trap her within the temple, Azula heads back inside with the intent of forcing her to let her go, but finds tendrils of dark blue energy within the building, as well as the monk kneeling and lamenting how things have gone wrong. Grabbing the monk, Azula demands to know the truth about the place, to which the monk nervously repeats her earlier claim about it. Throwing the monk aside, Azula concludes that the temple is a trap designed by her enemies and starts looking around for a way to escape it. The monk again urges her to leave, warning that she cannot control what will happen next.

Azula then finds a burnt turtleduck toy on the floor in front of her, and kneels down to pick it up. Ursa appears and asks her what she is doing, before Azula finds herself in the form of her child self, holding the now burning turtleduck toy. The scene is indicated to be a childhood memory of when Azula was revealed to be a firebender; Ozai appears and expresses joy at the reveal, while Ursa is far more subdued, saying only that Azula is her father’s daughter and kissing her on the forehead. Azula then witnesses her vision crack as though looking at it through a pane of glass before correcting itself; when it does, Ursa shows herself to be as happy about Azula as her husband. Azula smiles, before the memory abruptly ends, the Azula of the present day claiming the events to be a falsehood.

Azula recalls her belief that Ursa was fearful when she learned her daughter was a firebender, to which the monk claims she is just trying to give her what she wants. The former princess questions why the monk thought she would be happy with the false vision, to which the monk - now possessing red and yellow eyes as well as fangs - replies with the claim that Azula’s greatest desire is to be loved and embraced by her family, and asks why she cannot find peace by seeing such. Azula claims the monk is no monk, and firebends at her; the monk dodges and takes on a more monstrous form, revealing herself to be a spirit, with the dark blue energy tendrils forming into the shape of eyes around her. Though initially surprised, Azula soon recovers, and denounces her family as traitors with the exception of Ozai, whom she dismisses as a mere shadow of his past self following the loss of his bending to Aang. She declares herself to be the only one left with any claim to the Fire Nation throne, and that she will take what is owed to her. The monk mockingly refers to her as “Little Fire Lord”, and remarks that she will get what is coming to her.

At that moment, Azula hears a knock on the temple’s entrance door, before Ty Lee enters the building and spots her. When questioned about her presence, Ty Lee claims that she was separated from the other Kyoshi Warriors by the storm while tracking Azula, before eventually finding a path to the temple. The two of them soon end up fighting; as they do, Azula mocks Ty Lee’s decision to join the Kyoshi Warriors, fondly recalling how the two of them defeated the group with Mai during their hunt for Aang. Ty Lee replies that she only remembers being stressed and anxious during that time, but Azula insists that she enjoyed herself, before complaining about how Mai had betrayed them for Zuko at the Boiling Rock. Ty Lee calls her out for obsessing over other people’s relationships and suggests that Azula get some help; enraged at being told what to do, Azula kicks the other young woman into a wall, knocking her out.

With Ty Lee unconscious, Azula ties her wrists behind her back before sitting down next to her and clutching her head. The monk approaches and asks if she intends to kill Ty Lee; surprised, Azula questions why she would do such a thing, to which the monk replies that she is trying to figure out what Azula wants. Azula asks why the monk wishes to do so, to which a manifestation of Ursa appears in front of her and states that she cares about her. Azula dismisses the manifestation as not being real, but Ursa replies that what is real is constantly changing within the temple, and hugs her while assuring her daughter that she is real enough for the moment. Within her mother’s embrace, Azula accuses Ursa of choosing Zuko over her and ruining her through her poisoning of Azulon, claiming that it and her subsequent disappearance allowed Ozai to mold her into a person who would end up constantly betrayed by her friends, family and subordinates. She claims that were it not for Ursa, the people in question would have remained loyal to her; as the monk watches with a hopeful smile, Ursa asks if Azula would like to have those who betrayed her ask her forgiveness, while acknowledging and atoning for their mistakes, to which Azula replies that she would.

The captive Ty Lee then sits up, and her head changes to that of Mai, before she mocks Azula for thinking herself the victim in her past. Recognizing the other woman as another spiritual manifestation, Azula stands up and attempts to leave the temple again, but finds the mist outside impossible to see through, and the manifestation of Mai argues that Azula herself encourages people to betray her. Azula turns around to rebuke her, but the manifestation retakes the form of Ty Lee, causing the former princess to fall to her knees and demand to be shown what is real. The manifestation teasingly insists that she is real, but Azula is unconvinced, and claims she never believed the manifestation’s earlier story of being able to track her through the forest. The manifestation remarks that Azula believes a lot of falsehoods, such as her and Ty Lee being friends despite how she threatened Ty Lee into joining her hunt for Aang. Azula retorts that she gave Ty Lee a chance to do something important, dismissing her life in the circus as a waste, and claims that she is now less than nothing.

The manifestation switches back into Mai’s form, and chastises Azula for acting like the people around her are nothing and would be unable to survive without her. Azula insists this is true, but the manifestation responds by taking the form of Zuko and claiming she surrounds herself with people she can hurt and manipulate to avoid having to face the world alone. Taking on a more monstrous form, the manifestation of Zuko states that being alone would force Azula to face the consequences of her past actions, before adding that she has only herself to blame for her current predicament and asking if she intends to beg for forgiveness. Screaming in horror, Azula blasts the manifestation with lightning, causing it to collapse.

The manifestation of Ursa reacts in shock to the attack on the manifestation of Zuko, before Azula turns around; readying flames within her hand, she declares that she sees through the spirit’s lies and that she is finished with it. She then hears a voice from behind refer to her as “Little Fire Lord”, and turns around to see a spirit resembling a gigantic insectoid positioned behind her. The manifestations of Ursa and Zuko disappear, as does the monk, before the insectoid spirit claims the temple is a place of rest just as the monk said, adding that it is also a place where those who have followed a wrong path in life can choose to take a better one. It claims that Azula was offered redemption and forgiveness, but rejected both, and that it has taken a form that mirrors her inner self’s cruelty and desire for vengeance, which it describes as a monster. Readying another blast of lightning, Azula declares that redemption and forgiveness are for the weak, and that she is Ozai’s daughter and the rightful Fire Lord. Stating that she does not take kindly to meddling spirits, she attacks the spirit with her lightning.

Following the attack on the spirit, the temple starts to collapse before abruptly vanishing, leaving Azula back in the forest. Laughing, Azula dismisses the events within the temple as not being real and departs, unaware of an insect greatly resembling the temple spirit crawling along the ground behind her. As she travels on, she discovers tracks within the forest, and follows them to a campsite set up by the Fire Warriors, who have rescued Chiyou. Azula observes them for a short while, before dismissing the group as unworthy of her leadership and traveling on, intending to find another domain and source of followers.

Production notes[]

Transcript[]

Main article: Transcript:Azula in the Spirit Temple

Series continuity[]

  • Except for Ningka (who deserted the group before this comic's events),[5][6] all unmasked Fire Warriors featured in Smoke and Shadow Part Three reappear in Azula in the Spirit Temple.
    • One previously unnamed Fire Warrior is identified as Chiyou.
  • The comic confirms that Azula both considers herself the rightful Fire Lord, yet also wants to make Zuko into a (from her point of view) better ruler. These seemingly contradictory wishes were already alluded to in Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game media.[7][8]
  • Azula's declaration to the spirit, "I am Azula, daughter of Ozai the Phoenix King! I am the rightful Fire Lord!", is reminiscent of the one made by Zuko in the episode Zuko Alone ("My name is Zuko. Son of Ursa and Fire Lord Ozai. Prince of the Fire Nation, and heir to the throne").

Goofs[]

  • In the spirit vision of the moment when Azula first consciously used firebending, Ozai is portrayed as wearing the royal regalia, including the Fire Lord headpiece, even though he was only a prince at the time.

References[]

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