|"My fellow citizens, thank you for gathering here on such short notice. The last few days have been traumatic for all of us. Our children were taken—our parents grew fearful—and out streets descended into chaos. And as your Fire Lord, I... responded poorly. Security and freedom exist in a delicate balance. I did not maintain that balance well. My recent decisions were not based on reason, not on wisdom, but on fear. For that, I ask your forgiveness. You should never feel like prisoners in your own city, or suspects in your own homes. I resolve to do better. I will continue striving to be a Fire Lord worthy of you."|
|— Zuko to the Fire Nation people.|
Smoke and Shadow Part Three is the third and final installment of the Smoke and Shadow trilogy. It was released in comic book stores on March 16, 2016, and in mass market retailers on April 12, 2016.
When children are disappearing in the Fire Nation Capital, Avatar Aang and his friends do everything in their power to save them. When Azula reappears after having vanished in the Forgetful Valley, Fire Lord Zuko locks down the capital in order to apprehend her. However, this action gives rise to fear and riots in the streets, leaving Zuko to decide to which lengths he is willing to go in order to save those he holds dear.
Zuko is certain one of the Kemurikage is Azula and demands Kiyi to be released. The Kemurikage attacks Zuko with lightning, who is confident in his ability to redirect it. However, the Kemurikage redirects the lightning back at him again, the blast sending Zuko against a wall. Aang cushions his impact with airbending. The Kemurikage dodges and attacks Suki and Ty Lee, before joining the other Kemurikage with Kiyi. They disappear in smoke. Noren and Ursa arrive, Ursa surmising Kiyi was taken. Zuko apologizes to her.
In the morning, Mak updates Zuko on three other kidnappings on the night before, bringing up a total of thirteen kidnapped children. Mai arrives and offers her sympathy. Zuko vows to find all of them. The identity of the fake Kemurikage worries Aang and Zuko. Mai asks if they are sure they are not spirits. Suki and Ty Lee assure a concerned Mai that from the use of lightning and fighting style, they are certain it was Azula. Mai questions what motive Azula could have to kidnap children, but Zuko dismisses it as Azula being Azula. Mai comes clean about Ukano's leadership of the New Ozai Society, Aang noting his tendency to be part of societies, and Suki wondering if the New Ozai Society and Safe Nation Society are one and the same. Zuko asks why Mai did not reveal Ukano's participation before, and she answers that despite being evil, she still does not like betraying her father, something Zuko should understand. She adds her own speculation that Ukano is hiding something and might be aware of Azula's involvement. From her recent conversations with her father, Mai thinks he believes all that is happening is in her benefit. Zuko orders a lockdown of the capital, instructing his forces to search for Ukano and his allies everywhere, so they can be brought in for questioning. Aang disagrees with the involvement of soldiers. Zuko politely thanks Aang for his help so far, much to his confusion. Zuko says Aang's methods have not worked so far, so he will have to try another method. If Aang does not support his decision, he should leave. Aang argues that such drastic actions will only breed mistrust, and Mai counters that drastic situations call for drastic actions. Zuko has Suki and Ty Lee escort Aang out. Aang voices his displeasure with the situation, the two sympathizing with him. Aang believes there are still avenues to pursue, such as looking for clues of Kiyi's room, and wonders what Sokka would do. Suki says Sokka would investigate on his own and leads Aang to Kiyi's room.
Ukano arrives at the room with the kidnapped children, and the Kemurikage deliver their recent captives. Tom-Tom greets his father, asking him if they are going home. Ukano says not yet. Kiyi, awake from the sedatives, struggles against one of the fake Kemurikage. Kiyi is sorry for the fake Kemurikage, for the punishment they will get from Zuko. The angered fake Kemurikage almost moves in on her, but is held back by another Kemurikage imposter, who explains Kiyi has fight in her blood. In a separate room, the fake Kemurikage unmask themselves, Zirin asking their leader, Azula, for how long they will have to oversee the children. Azula answers doing so is the least she could do after Azula broke her out. Azula talks to Ukano in private, and he shares Zirin's concerns. Azula questions Ukano's commitment, and while he reaffirms it, it breaks his heart to see Tom-Tom there. Azula wants Ukano to have the Safe Nation Society go on a protest, and the protest to grow into a riot, despite Ukano's assurance that the citizens are already turning against Zuko. Ukano relents, still not sure how it will get Ozai back to the throne. After he leaves, Azula says to herself Ozai was never part of the plan.
Aang, Suki, and Ty Lee are not able to find any clues in Kiyi's room. Searching the room, Ty Lee recalls and finds a secret passage Azula would use when they would play together as children. The citizens grow outraged with the lockdown and the army going in their homes, looking for Ukano. Ukano uses their animosity to turn the Safe Nation Society's protest into a riot and disappears in the confusion. Kei Lo protects Mura from a rock thrown against her window. He goes outside and bumps into a friend in the Society, Hing. Hing warns him they are arresting everyone associated with Ukano. Despite not being associated with him anymore, his presence with the uniformed Hing has him arrested as well. Iroh is almost arriving in the capital in an airship. The pilot asks what brings him back, and Iroh explains preparations must begin for National Tea Appreciation Day. Surprised, as he thought it was a one time event, the pilot asks if Zuko has called a meeting about it, and Iroh admits Zuko knows nothing about it, but is sure he will.
Mak updates Zuko that there no longer is a riot, much to Zuko's surprise, who was not aware a riot had developed. Mai asks about her father, and Mak confirms his presence, before he disappeared into the confusion. Zuko takes her hand, assuring her they will find him. Troops arrive with apprehended Safe Nation Society members, Kei Lo among them. Mai lets go of Zuko's hand and asks him to release Kei Lo. Zuko ponders if Kei Lo is actually a double agent, angering him, and is reminded of how Kei Lo aided him in the forest. Zuko orders Kei Lo to be released, and Kei Lo tells him to accept he and Mai are together and move on. Aang arrives with Suki and Ty Lee, much to Zuko's surprise, telling him they found something he has to see. Mak tells him he needs to act before sundown, or else the citizens will rise again. Aang ignores Zuko's decision and takes him along with an air scooter. Suki, Ty Lee, Mai, and Kei Lo follow them. They arrive at the secret passage on the roof. Zuko asks Suki and Ty Lee to keep guard over the palace while they go through the passage, hoping to find Kiyi and Tom-Tom.
Ukano tells Azula how everything happened and begs her to act on her end of the deal and release the children. Azula feigns agreement and strong-arms him, certain that if the children are released, they will be able to lead the Fire Lord's forces to their hiding place. The children discuss why only Tom-Tom's father gets to visit them, and Guri tells one of the children that it is because much like the "scary ladies", Tom-Tom's father is a bad guy. Tom-Tom and Guri begin fighting. Kiyi tells them to be quiet, as she is trying to concentrate. As another girl asks what she is practicing, Kiyi responds that she does not quite know, though explains she once saw Zuko do it in the courtyard.
Meanwhile, Aang, Zuko, Mai, and Kei Lo arrive at the Royal Family Graveyard, where non-Fire Lord members of the Royal Family are buried. Aang notices they are surrounded by the fake Kemurikage.
Back at the royal palace, Iroh finds it strange that the palace is so empty. He finds Ursa in contemplation with Kiyi's doll and joins her.
Ukano cries in regret of what he has done in the name of his nation against the door of the children's holding room. Guri and Tom-Tom begin arguing again, and Kiyi orders them to be quiet and move out of the way, as she figured something out. Kiyi firebends at the door, melting a hole in it. Ukano throws a bucket of water at the hot metal and tells them that the perpetrators of their kidnappings, himself included, must be punished. He adds that they need to return to their parents and must be quiet so as not to get caught by the "scary ladies".
The fight in the Royal Family Graveyard goes on, Azula unmasking herself. Mai asks her where the children are. Azula instead goes on about when she first heard of the Kemurikage from Mai when they were children on a sleepover. Mai and Azula attack each other. Kei Lo tackles Azula when she is distracted and is in turn shot with lightning. Azula criticizes Mai, saying she is really slumming it when it comes to boyfriends. Zuko orders Azula to let Kei Lo go, and Azula makes fun of Zuko's situation. The two attack each other, and Azula flees. Mai tells Zuko to give chase, and Kei Lo tells her that he did not used to get hurt this often before dating her.
Ukano almost reaches the exit with the children but comes across two of Azula's subordinates.
Ursa tells Iroh how she made Kiyi's doll for her birthday and that she used to carry it everywhere she went. Now she has not touched it since Ursa regained her original face. Ursa wonders how the future will be, and Iroh urges her not to lose hope. She asks how he got over Lu Ten's death, and Iroh answers he never has. He tells her despite parents' efforts, the world will always be a dangerous place for their children, and the best they can do is teach them to see fear with unclouded eyes.
Aang defeats two of Azula's subordinates and finds two more threatening Ukano and the children. They begin to fight.
Zuko chases Azula into the crypt of the first Fire Lord's most trusted adviser, where they too begin to fight. Azula's subordinates use smoke to their advantage against Aang but are taken down from behind by Mai and Kei Lo.
Azula manages to get the upper hand against Zuko during their fight and notices how it has always been like that. Zuko tells her to accept removing him from the throne will not put her there, and that she will never be Fire Lord. Azula says she has embraced that. As she gets up, Azula explains the voice in her head was finally silenced when she discovered her destiny, and how she has felt free and weightless ever since. Her goal is to make Zuko into the Fire Lord she tried to become, someone strong, who rules through fear. They hear Kiyi calling out to Zuko, and Zuko tells her they won. Azula disagrees and points out how ruthless Zuko has been over the last day, sure one day he will become like her, and when that happens, in a way, she will be Fire Lord. She disappears in the smoke, telling Zuko to embrace who he is deep inside. Zuko exits the crypt and reunites with Kiyi. He says he was worried about her, but she replies she was not worried at all, certain he would come for her.
Ukano says goodbye to his children before being arrested. Mai tells him he deserves what he is getting, but that he came around in the end, and that is how she will remember him. Zuko addresses his nation on the events of the last days, admitting to have had a poor reaction. He failed to maintain a balance between security and freedom, and acted not out of reason or wisdom but fear. Zuko asks his nation for forgiveness, vows to be a Fire Lord worthy of his people, and thanks them for their patience and trust. Azula and her subordinates, still dress and masked as Kemurikage watch from afar, and vanish in the smoke.
Mai breaks up with Kei Lo, who leaves Mura's shop in tears. Mura asks him why he is leaving so soon, as he just arrived. He claims that he has "stuff" to do. When asked if they would see him again, he claims he does not know and maybe never, before departing.
Iroh asks Ursa if she is sure that she is ready, and she claims yes. At Ursa's request, Iroh takes her to see Ozai, reminding her to remember "unclouded eyes". She apporaches him and Ozai says that he heard of her return and that it was a mistake. Ozai yells at her, reminding her of his promise to end her and everyone she loves, threatening to make her beg for oblivion, cursing at her. But Ursa is able to look past that, and finally sees Ozai for who he is, deeming him a small man trying to act big, and with a heart too small for anyone. She leaves Ozai yelling at her not to turn her back on him and to grovel at him. Ursa goes back to bed with Noren and Kiyi, who welcomes her for the first time since getting her original face back.
- Main article: Transcript:Smoke and Shadow Part Three
- Azula is able to redirect lightning.
- Kiyi is a firebender.
Library Edition reveals
The Smoke and Shadow Library Edition compiles all three parts of the Smoke and Shadow trilogy together with trivia- and production-based notes in the sidebar of many pages. These notes were written by Gene Yang and the Gurihiru team. The following are notable points from the Library Edition that pertain to the early production phase of Smoke and Shadow Part Three and trivialities as attested by the aforementioned crew members.
- Gene Yang (author-perspective, storytelling trivia):
- Azula's use of lightning redirection serves to show her power and mastery of firebending in the same way that the skill was used to highlight the aforementioned traits in Zuko during the series (p. 156).
- Ukano's proclivity for secret societies mirrors China's own affinity for covert groups in the early 1900s (p. 162).
- Iroh instituted the first National Tea Appreciation Day while he was interim Fire Lord (p. 176).
- The dome-shaped tombs in the Garden of Tranquil Souls were inspired by tombstones in ancient Asian graveyards, such as those in China's Fujian Province and Japan's Ryukyu Islands. In these regions, graves were made to resemble tortoise shells possibly to place deceased individuals under the care of the Black Tortoise, one of the Four Symbols in Chinese mythology (p. 188).
- Azula's flashback was inspired by a story that Yang's parents used to tell him when he was young (p. 197).
- The clash between orange and blue fire is a nod to Zuko and Azula's final confrontation from the series (p. 200).
- The final battle between Zuko and Azula involved fire daggers to render it "grittier" than all of their previous encounters (p. 212).
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow Part Three release date. Dark Horse Comics. Retrieved on November 23, 2015.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow Part Three release date. Amazon. Retrieved on July 23, 2014.