|"When you had the turtle crab safely in your arms, you hesitated. The hawk looked at you with hungry eyes, and you realized you were condemning it to starve. You didn't know whether to side with the hawk or the turtle-crab."|
|— Ozai recounting a childhood event of Zuko's life to convey the issue in his son's judgment of the Yu Dao crisis.|
The Promise Part Two is the second installment in The Promise trilogy, a graphic novel continuation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender storyline, originally released by Dark Horse Comics in collaboration with Nickelodeon on May 30, 2012, and later released with its counterparts in Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise Library Edition HC on February 20, 2013.
While Aang and Katara stay the night at a Ba Sing Se fan club dedicated to Aang and his Air Nomad culture in wait for their audience with Earth King Kuei, Toph takes Sokka to her metalbending school, only to discover that Toph and her students are being evicted by a firebender with plans to use the building to teach other children his bending art. Meanwhile, Zuko seeks advice from Ozai in concern of the colonial peoples' plight, a decision that, coupled with Kuei's change in perspective, may pit the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom against one another once more.
Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph are riding on Appa's back in the Earth Kingdom. Sokka begins to get uncomfortable as he sees Aang and Katara cuddling and begs Toph not to leave him with them. Subsequently, Toph decides to bring him to appraise her metalbending school.
After they land, Toph explains to Sokka what inspired her to start teaching metalbending, but Sokka puts her account aside with the knowledge that she only founded the school because she likes telling people what to do. As Sokka meets her students, they inform Toph that they have been kicked out of their school by a firebender named Kunyo, who is starting another class in the art of firebending. The man claims that since the new Fire Lord recanted his part in the Harmony Restoration Movement, he and his students are taking what is rightfully theirs. Kunyo also denies the existence of metalbending, until Toph bends a metal spear around his head. As the two of them prepare to fight each other, Sokka interferes, coming up with a less destructive solution. He suggests for the two classes to face off in three days. The sole condition of the competition is that whichever team forces an opponent to sit would net victory. As Sokka and Toph exit, Toph worries that her students cannot bend metal yet, and after seeing Kunyo's students train, she is sure that her own will be defeated decisively.
Aang and Katara's arrival in Ba Sing Se brings them to meet members of the Official Avatar Aang Fan Club. They ask Aang if he would be willing to spend the night in their all-female clubhouse, which has been designed to look like the Western Air Temple. Aang gladly accepts, but Katara is unsure of her opinion of the group and feels jealous.
In the Fire Nation, Zuko takes advice from his imprisoned father regarding the colonies as the ongoing dilemma of the people's fate weighs heavily on the young Fire Lord. Ozai begins telling Zuko a story involving a vacation their family had had on Ember Island. Zuko, only three years old at the time, witnessed a turtle crab being attacked by a hawk. He rescued the crab as fast as he could but realized he was condemning the hawk to starve. Zuko stood on the beach, debating whose side to take, until a wave washed him in the sea, forcing Ozai to dive into the sea and save him. However, Zuko does not understand how this story helps him with the Fire Nation colonies, so he leaves his father's cell.
Back in the Earth Kingdom, Toph's students are training hard, but to no avail; they still cannot metalbend. In the other room, Sokka and Toph discuss her students and come to the subject of how she recruited them. She explains to Sokka that her bracelet "found" them. When she was in public, the bracelet would shiver ever so slightly, especially around emotional people. Toph hypothesized that the people who made her bracelet shiver could be metalbenders and recruited them. She met Ho Tun in a ramen house where he found a spider-wasp in his soup, Penga at a marketplace arguing over shoes with one of her family's servants, and the dark one watching people in a street corner. But she knows it is still only a theory as none of them has bent metal yet. Sokka offers Toph his service as a "motivational bender", saying he can motivate her students. Putting a headband on, he attempts to inspire them, but Toph and her students seemed skeptical. Sokka makes them take a strong stance, close their eyes, and feel the earth. He subsequently starts throwing coins at them, hoping that the students will metalbend, but only knocks them down. After seeing his failure, Toph starts making fun of his methods and headband.
At the fan club, Aang becomes distracted by spending time with the girls. Growing more jealous, Katara reminds Aang of the main reason they are in the Earth Kingdom. The two leave, and Aang tells Katara that even though it was a simple fan club that the girls reminded him of being back with the Air Nomads, causing Katara to regret her selfishness.
The following morning, Zuko brings more tea into his father's cell and again confronts him concerning the significance of the tale, to which Ozai sternly responds that either decision he could have made regarding the fates of the hawk or the turtle crab would have been the correct one because the Fire Lord's decision, by divine imperative, is always the right one.
A bitter argument promptly ensues between father and son, with Zuko angrily denouncing Ozai's lack of belief in right and wrong and promising that he, Aang, and the Earth King would come to an agreement as to the fate of the colonies. Ozai responds that he has heard rumors regarding the Harmony Restoration Movement and chides his son for continuing to pursue a negotiated settlement to the crisis. Ozai believes the Earth King will stiffen his resolve this time out and use force to remove the Fire Nation colonials from Yu Dao to save face following years of incompetent rule and past Fire Nation humiliations. He says if Zuko were a true Fire Lord, he would defend the Fire Nation colonials with equal vigor because his subjects are an extension of his divine will. However, when Zuko firmly places faith in Aang's efforts to resolve the crisis because he is on the side of right, Ozai angrily declares that the Avatar is a relic of the past attempting to impose his will on a situation that can only be decided by force and implies his son trusts Aang's judgment over his own. When Zuko fails to respond to the obvious insinuation, an enraged Ozai orders his son to remove himself from his sight. As Zuko angrily departs the prison, his leave is witnessed by Suki, who had secretly followed Zuko there, concerned over his frame of mind.
Toph's students continue their training, but still cannot metalbend. Toph is so disappointed and worried that she does not even yell at them. Sokka suggests to Toph a new idea: they must make her students extremely emotional to get them to metalbend. Both of them try to figure out a way to get the students emotional. For Ho Tun and Penga, doom and shoes respectively are capable of causing great distress. It turns out that The Dark One, as revealed by Toph, has a name that embarrasses him greatly, which is the cause of his spiteful behavior. Toph tells Sokka the name on the condition that he never reveal it to anyone. He gives Toph the idea to construct something out of metal. Toph shows him the armory below the school, containing kid-sized Fire Nation armors. Sokka instructs Toph on what to build.
Inside the Fire Nation colony of Yu Dao, Kori Morishita trains with her firebending and earthbending cousins, preparing them to defend the city from the growing threat of battle following the massive anti-Fire Nation protests outside the city gates days earlier. Kori's boyfriend, Sneers, appears following the end of her training session, and she learns from him that he was leading the protests together with Smellerbee. An argument ensues in which Sneers asks where her loyalties lie, with the Fire Nation or with the Earth Kingdom. Kori angrily responds that she is both an earthbender and a citizen of the Fire Nation and insists that Sneers choose between her and Smellerbee before storming off.
Sometime later, Aang and Katara greet the Earth King. Earth King Kuei thanks them for taking care of the Yu Dao protest a few days prior. Kuei realized that Zuko desires to keep the colonies, contrary to their past agreement. Aang and Katara propose setting up a meeting between the Earth King and the Fire Lord, the waterbender noticeably concerned about Zuko's legitimate worries being pushed aside.
Meanwhile, Sokka and Toph's students are enjoying the night outside, sitting down near a campfire. Sokka tells a scary story about a "winged boar spirit" that haunts the mountain when suddenly Toph comes out disguised as the fictional spirit, which she made due to Sokka's request. The pupils scream, but The Dark One easily discovers Toph inside of metal winged boar. In order to get him emotional like the other pupils, Toph utters his name: Moo-Chee-Goo-Chee-La-Poo-Chee the Third. After all of them have become adequately emotional, Sokka attempts to inspire them to beat the firebending rival class. The students, however, are too panicked to listen.
While Aang and Katara are eating at the Royal Palace, the Earth King enters proclaiming his decision concerning Zuko's position on the colonies: he will enforce the Harmony Restoration Movement by ordering his troops to march on the colonies. Tired of being manipulated and incompetent, Kuei wishes for once in his life to take control of his nation. Aang and Katara try to dissuade him but fail. Earth King Kuei goes as far as to say that if Aang does not join his cause, he stands against him.
Sokka meets Toph in front of the metalbending school the night before their face-off with Kunyo's students. He tries to tell her about another idea for motivating the students, but Toph interrupts him, telling him how she achieved metalbending: when she first performed metalbending, it was in a tiny, metal cell when Xin Fu and Yu were taking her back to her parents. The thought that she was going to be made into something that she is not caused her to experience pain and pressure, feelings that she does not wish for her students to experience because of her. From now on she will not try to make her students be something they are not: metalbenders. Therefore, Toph plans to go up to Kunyo tomorrow and sit down, thus forfeiting the competition. Unbeknownst to Toph and Sokka, Ho Tun, Penga, and The Dark One have listened in on their conversation from inside the building.
Aang and Katara decide to travel to Yu Dao to evacuate the colonists before the Earth Kingdom's army arrives. Before boarding Appa, Aang comments that Kuei is right in that Zuko broke his promise to remove the colonies from Earth Kingdom soil, knowing that promises, like the one that he has made with Zuko, should never be broken. Yee-Li, who is spying on the couple, sends a messenger hawk to the Yu Dao Chapter of the Official Avatar Aang Fan Club stating that their help will be needed.
The next morning, the rival firebending class comes to the school. Kunyo is ready for the match and taunts Toph. Knowing that her students cannot metalbend, she says he has already won and begins to sit down. Suddenly Ho Tun enters and bends a few coins of metal at Toph to get his teacher's attention and to stop her from forfeiting. The other two students are also present and start metalbending at the firebender students. They release a barrage of coins at their opponents and eventually get Kunyo to sit down, winning them the match and their school. Afterward, the students explain to Toph and Sokka how Toph's words inspired them to learn metalbending, in turn inspiring Toph to get back to training her students.
Back at the Fire Nation Royal Palace, Mai confronts Zuko, and they have an argument. Mai, upset that Zuko is keeping secrets from her, tells Zuko that she believes he cares more about his secrets than about her and leaves him, exiting despite Zuko's pleas that he still loves her. As she leaves, Suki enters the throne room, asking him if she or the Kyoshi Warriors could help in some way, and that they are worried about him. She further states that she, specifically, is worried about him. General Mak enters the throne room, reporting that the spies from the Earth Kingdom have sent a message saying that the Earth King and his army are ready for an invasion of Yu Dao.
In the Earth Kingdom, Kuei has gathered his soldiers, ready for war. Near the Earth Kingdom, Fire Lord Zuko has gathered his fleet, ready to fight for the sake of the colonies.
Less than a month after Part 1 was published, The Promise Part Two's release date was quickly revealed to be May 30, 2012 upon the previous installment's immediate success. Sales for Part 2 eventually sky-rocketed to far above its predecessor's; while The Promise Part One and Part 2 both reached the top of BookScan charts, it was revealed in an official press release that Part 2 had also attained the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and it held the title for at least one week.
Bamfas was one of the first media sources that was given the chance to preview The Promise Part Two; it did so over a month before the graphic novel's initial release. Bamfas concluded, "With lots of quirky humor, Avatar: The Last Airbender Volume 2—The Promise Part Two continues to be a good read. It's well written and has a nice flow to it, because of that, the story is developing quite nicely in this volume. [...] With that said, The Promise Part Two is must pick up for all fans...", awarding an overall four-out-of-five star-rating.
Speak Geeky To Me criticized the comic for not taking advantage of Gurihiru's artistic talents in this installment but called it "incredibly fun" even though "it contain[ed] a fair amount of plot filler", supposedly ruining chances for a perfect ten-out-of-ten. "Never-the-less [sic]," it continued, "Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part Two is absolutely amazing for any fans of the TV series and easily deserves its 8 out of 10." Comicsgirl praised Gurihiru's "incredible sense of layout and color" and "can't imagine this book in anyone else's hands," as well as commended Gene Yang for his ability to fit so much into one volume, saying, "It's a fun, easy read and doesn't let you realize how much information and depth is packed in until it's over."
Some reviews were less positive; Bookyurt was disappointed in Part 2 because it "ended up feeling mostly like a filler". Despite "expect[ing] more from Team Avatar" (especially in comparison to Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra), Bookyurt gave Part 2 a B+.
- Main article: Transcript:The Promise Part Two
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
- When Toph is telling Sokka about why she started her metalbending school, she states that after training Aang, she realized how fulfilling teaching could be. Sokka responded that she just liked yelling at people, referencing when she taught Aang in "Bitter Work".
- When first trying to find a place to stay on page eighteen, Katara suggests going to "Iroh's", referring to Iroh's tea shop which he acquired in "Lake Laogai" and reclaimed in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang".
- On page 25, Sokka says, "Oh how I miss you, space sword!", alluding to the sword that he made in "Sokka's Master" and lost in "Sozin's Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang".
- On page 35, Aang comments, "I know it's just a silly fan club, but for a moment there, it almost felt like ... like I was at home again. With my people," foreshadowing the formation of the Air Acolytes in The Promise Part Three.
- On page 44, Sokka says, "Now remember what you did during our final battle with Ozai? In the cabin of the Fire Nation airship?" referencing "Sozin's Comet, Part 3: Into the Inferno" when Toph metalbent a door into a rough suit of armor.
- When Toph tells Sokka why she is going to close down her metalbending school on page 59, she explains to Sokka how she discovered metalbending, mentioning being trapped in a metal box by Master Yu and Xin Fu, as it occurred in "The Guru".
- On page five, Katara does not seem to have her water skin, but on page six, the water skin is there. At the Avatar Aang Fan Club, she still has her water skin; however, at the Earth King's palace and when getting on Appa, she once again does not have her water skin.
- On page eight, the part of Toph's belt that hangs down seems to have disappeared.
- On page 12, the strings that hang from Kunyo's belt seem to have disappeared in one of the panels.
- On page 14, in the second panel, Sokka is not wearing gloves, but he has gloves on in the other panels.
- The number of buckles on The Dark One's legs changes from one on both legs, to one on one leg and two on the other numerous times.
- The metal "hat" that Toph bends onto Kunyo's head changes shape: on page 14, the side that sticks up on Kunyo's left has the spear and the one on the right is bent twice. On the first panel on page 16, the one on the right is bent only once. In the second panel, Toph metalbends the "hat" so that the spear is on the right and the two sides cross. However, in the bottom right panel, the spear is on the left. On the next page, when the disciples are giving the "Kunyo salute", the two sides are not crossed. And again on page 62, the two sides are not crossed and are back in their original positions. The spear also seems longer.
- On page 20, there is one panel in which the top-knot in Katara's hair is missing.
- On page 29, on the first panel (top left side), Sokka is wearing a headband; but in the same panel (top right side), his headband is missing.
- On page 29, in the background there is a visible gap between the forked spear and the knife spear and they are spaced unevenly. On the next page, the forked spear and knife spear are next to each other and are spaced evenly.
- On page 33, the tattoos on Aang's arms are missing. Additionally, on the lower right panel, the rest of his right arm seems to be missing.
- On pages 54 and 55, the chest of the metal winged boar is brown, though on page 56, it is silver.
- On the lower-left panel of page 58 and the upper left of page 61, the tattoos on Aang's arms go over his biceps when they should be going under.
- On page 61, there is one panel where the tattoos on Aang's arms are missing.
- On page 72, Mai's eyes are colored yellow, but in the animated series they were a purplish gray. A similar goof occurs on page 74 where Suki's eyes are colored green, but in the animated series her eyes were purple.
- On the last page, in the second panel, the Fire Nation guards behind Zuko seem to have their shoulders behind Zuko's shoulders, both in front of the door. In the next panel zoomed out, however, the guards seem much farther apart, not behind any part of Zuko or in front of the door.
- In the final two scenes, Fire Lord Zuko travels to Yu Dao aboard a Fire Navy warship, while the Earth King travels to the colony via a hot air balloon. Their means of travel represent the elements of the two nations not participating in the conflict, as well as the bending element opposite to the element of each nation.
- The two Chinese characters on Sokka's motivational headband are , an expression that literally means "add fuel", but is figuratively used as a cheer of encouragement.
Library Edition reveals
The Promise Library Edition compiles all three parts of The Promise trilogy as well as interjects 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 Promise Part Two's early production phase and trivialities as attested by the aforementioned crew members.
- Gene Yang (author-perspective, storytelling trivia):
- Yang caricatured the characters of Toph, Ho Tun, Penga, and The Dark One around the vices of rage, fear, greed, and "preoccupation with death", respectively, and the Beifong Metalbending Academy is the channel through which these people filter their vices. "After the comics were finished," Yang adds, "I realized that I may have been subconsciously influenced by Geoff Johns's Green Lantern comics." (p. 86)
- Based on Toph's unique character, Yang chose such vividly expressive motivations as "Do you need a beating?" to be written on the academy's posters (p. 89).
- Yang introduces the usage of "racial epithets" to illustrate what happens when conflict develops between cultures (p. 90).
- The Promise attempts to show how Aang's fan-like following present in "The Warriors of Kyoshi" and in his fan club evolves into the Air Acolytes of The Legend of Korra (p. 96).
- The flute that Yee-Li gives to Aang is based on the real-world Chinese instrument called the pai xiao (p. 109).
- The Tiger Mother controversy was about the difference between "parenting with high expectations and little positive feedback" ("tiger parenting", prominent in many places and cultures but somewhat alien to United States families) and the Western foil to this approach, sparking debate over the decisions of the parent and their consequences on the child. While this scandal erupted, Gene Yang was writing the script for The Promise Part Two, notably reflected in Toph's Tiger Coach attitude toward her students (p. 136).
- Yang's first instinct to the colonialism theme in the trilogy was that Aang would "lead a small group of Earth Kingdom patriots to kick out the remaining Fire Nation colonies" in the vein of Wong Fei-Hung, a Chinese folk hero portrayed by Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China. He turned from this instinct for two reasons, the first being his realization that colonialism is far too complex an issue to be resolved realistically with his conceptual ideal. The second was his understanding of The Legend of Korra, which "reflects this complexity. The gleaming, multicultural Republic City grew out of the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom," showing how the worst of situations (i.e. colonialism) can be catalysts to a better tomorrow. (p. 144)
- Kunyo is written as the embodiment of colonialism, its antagonism, and its inhumane acts toward others. Colonizers, Yang says, "deserve to get their butts kicked." Although the novel does delve into the aforementioned complexities of colonialism, the message of Kunyo's decimation by his enemies is simply that "the colonizer gets his butt kicked." (p. 144)
- Gurihiru (stylistic and artistic trivia):
- Creating a suitable layout for page ten (86 in The Promise Library Edition) was troublesome due to the abundant dialogue, which created many speech bubbles (p. 86).
- The team makes a humorous quip in concern to the cabbage merchant on page 18 (94 in The Promise Library Edition), noting that he is not as troubled by Team Avatar as his television counterpart (p. 94).
- The costume designs for the fan club members created an artists' block for Gurihiru, but Gene Yang lent a hand by providing a rough sketch for reference (p. 95).
- The preliminary layouts for page 38 (114 in The Promise Library Edition) presented Zuko behind bars with Ozai, but this scene was altered due to the former's lingering distrust for his father at that point in the story (p. 114).
- Page 46 (122 in The Promise Library Edition) does not have any borders to differentiate panels or direct chronological sequence, and the background is a simple white spread. This idea was conceived by Yang "in order to convey the passage of time." (p. 122)
- While illustrating the previous trilogy installment, Gurihiru was under the impression that Sneers was actually female (p. 42). Until they drew page 49 of Part 2 (128 in The Promise Library Edition), on which page Sneers kisses Kori, they had still believed this to be true. This "was a great surprise ..." (p. 128).
- "Attentive readers will notice that every time Momo and Bosco meet, Momo tries to steal Bosco's hat," Gurihiru mentions, as seen on pages nine and ten in The Promise Part One (Library Edition 11 and 12); and on pages 51 and 57 in The Promise Part Two (Library Edition 127 and 133).
- "Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise tops book charts". Digital Spy. Retrieved on February 23, 2012.
- "Dark Horse's Avatar: The Last Airbender Tops 'New York Times' Bestsellers". Comic Book Resources (CBR) (2012-06-18). Retrieved on August 27, 2012. “In an amazing show of demand for Dark Horse's latest graphic novel, Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise Part Two soared to the top of the BookScan charts and the New York Times bestseller list last week!”
- Tech2K (2012-04-06). "Review – Avatar: The Last Airbender Volume 2—The Promise Part Two". Bamfas. Retrieved on August 27, 2012.
- Lewis, Mathias. "Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part Two – Comic Review". Comics-Reviews. Speak Geeky To Me. Retrieved on August 27, 2012.
- "Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise Part Two". Comicsgirl (2012-06-03). Retrieved on August 27, 2012.
- "Avatar: The Last Airbender, Vol 2 – The Promise, Part 2 – Review". Book-Reviews. Bookyurt (2012-06-11). Retrieved on August 27, 2012.