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Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy is a standalone graphic novel set in the Avatar universe after the events of The Rift.[3][2] The graphic novel is written by Faith Erin Hicks in collaboration with series writer Tim Hedrick[4] and illustrated by Peter Wartman and Adele Matera. It was released on February 16, 2021.[5]

Overview

For some, perfection just isn't enough.

Things are looking bright at the Beifong Metalbending Academy! But after all the adventures Toph's had with Aang, Sokka, Zuko, and Katara, the whole thing feels a bit dull. Luckily, Sokka and Suki come to visit and reintroduce some familiar faces from their wandering days. And while out and about to celebrate, Toph discovers something that just might put the sparkle back in her eye...[5]

Synopsis

Toph's metalbending students are gathered in the courtyard of the Beifong Metalbending Academy as she instructs them to take their stances and begin metalbending, but shortly after the training starts, one of them tells her that Suki and Sokka arrived. The three members of Team Avatar are happy to reunite and, after greeting each other, Suki and Sokka express their opinion on how much the academy has evolved.

As they walk around the establishment, Toph explains that, with funds supplied by the Earthen Fire Industries, she was able to include new facilities in the academy and that she can also teach metalbending for free, adding that her students do not have to sleep on the ground anymore. As Sokka recalls how he and the rest of Team Avatar had to do that during their travels, Suki again compliments the earthbender on the progress she has made with the academy as Toph unenthusiastically replies that everything is going great. Sokka inquires as to why she is acting like something is wrong, and she exclaims that she is bored since there are no challenges for her and that the metalbending academy practically runs itself, with Penga, Ho Tun, and The Dark One teaching beginner classes, scouts looking for metalbenders and assistants paying the bills. Toph continues by saying that she has a monotonous daily schedule of waking up, eating, teaching, and going to bed again.

Suki tries to cheer up the earthbender, telling her that she and Sokka are there to shake up her routine. Toph excitedly asks whether they are going on an adventure or to fight someone, but her enthusiasm vanishes as the Kyoshi Warrior lets her know that they will be attending a concert.

As Suki, Toph, and Sokka arrive at the building where the concert will be held, the earthbender asks what is so special about it. Sokka answers that, before he, Katara, and Aang met her, they got trapped in a cave in Omashu along with a group of traveling musicians that turned out to be a secret tunnel. Suki continues saying that those musicians have formed the most amazing band which will be performing at the concert they bought tickets for. Toph sarcastically asks Sokka why he would pay money to hear the band sing after being stuck with them in a cave. He replies that it was Suki's idea and that she loves the band, so he tries to be supportive of her. Sokka adds that she knows all of their songs by heart and, when Toph inquires about how many the band has released, he answers, "Too many". Suki cheerfully announces to them that they have tickets for seats in the front row and that listening to the band, Trustfully in Love, is a wonderful experience that will bring some excitement to Toph's daily life.

Chong introduces himself, Lily, and Moku as the Trustfully in Love band from an indoor stage in front of Suki, Toph, Sokka, and numerous other spectators while the earthbender voices her dislike of the singers. The band begins playing a song about Aang and, after three hours of listening to their music, Toph declares that she has had enough of it and gets up to leave as Suki tells her that she will miss the interpretative dance section. Sokka pleads with her not to leave him there, but she replies that he is on his own.

As Toph leaves the building and begins walking down the street, she perceives something with her seismic sense, which she believes to be similar to earthbending but also different. She follows the source of the phenomenon through Yu Dao until she reaches the building it originates from. Noticing some people outside, she decides to go around the back. The earthbender subsequently discovers an illegal bending tournament. She is thrilled to see this, and she gets closer to the fighting area as she recalls the times when she used to be the Blind Bandit and did not have an academy to manage. Toph moves to the front of the group of spectators and sees that a woman is fighting against a boy. He dodges an earthbending strike from his adversary before responding with a lavabending attack that surprises Toph. A spectator next to her inquires whether she is the earthbender traveling with the Avatar, and she confirms this, but he cuts her off, yelling that "the man" is shutting the place down. Toph assures the people there that she is not the Avatar and that she just wanted to watch the fights as they run away, scared of her.

The next morning, Penga, Ho Tun, and The Dark One greet Toph as she enters the metalbending academy, and she tells them to give her the weekly report, wishing to get over with it. Ho Tun begins by saying that he helped the beginner students get in touch with their deeper emotions as, without listening, Toph tells The Dark One to continue. He replies that he has been avoiding his students and sending them on ten-mile hikes, but she interrupts him and prompts Penga to share her report but quickly turns away before her student can speak. As Toph walks away, Ho Tun tells her that she seems grumpier than usual, and Penga adds that she has worked hard with the students and did not even have a chance to talk about it as The Dark One states that he hates it when her emotions are the same as his. Ho Tun asks whether the academy is in trouble, and Toph exclaims that everything is perfect and respectable and that that is the problem.

After she leaves, Penga asks what she meant by that as The Dark One comments that he hates it when Toph is cryptic even more than when she yells at him. Ho Tun wonders whether their sifu is upset that the metalbending academy is so different from the environment in which she learned bending. The Dark One inquires to why she would care about that as Ho Tun explains that Toph perfected her earthbending skills while fighting in an underground bending tournament that had been very dangerous and difficult and that she invented metalbending while helping the Avatar in the Hundred Year War as opposed to them, who learned the specialized bending technique in comfort. Penga argues that they hardly had any comfort since she only has two closets for her clothes, and The Dark One adds that Toph yells at them frequently. Ho Tun replies that they are still in a school that cannot be compared to bender duels and notes how much they had grown because of the academy, inquiring if they remember how they acted when they first joined.

Penga recalls being obsessed with shoes as The Dark One replies that she still is. She responds that she has not bought a new pair in a month and that she has changed a little as opposed to him, who she claims continues to hate everything. He counters that now he tolerates people and things, like her and Ho Tun, who are happy to hear this. Ho Tun says that he hardly sees doom anymore. Penga asks again why Toph is angry that the three of them learned bending in a different way, especially since she is the one who founded the academy. Ho Tun suggests that they should show their teacher that they are as tough and as capable as she is. The Dark One says that they are not, and the other agrees that they will never be on her level, but that they can prove themselves just as she did as Penga says that that sounds scary. Ho Tun tells them he overheard some of the new metalbending students talking about an underground bending tournament just like the ones Toph used to participate in and that they will be able to demonstrate their capabilities. The Dark One responds that now he is the person seeing doom everywhere.

That night, Toph returns to the building in which the canceled bending tournament she had spectated had been held. She sees a boy there and asks him if the fights will still take place, but he immediately runs away. The earthbender asks herself why everyone keeps avoiding her as she hears a very loud noise and inquires whether that is a herd of saber-tooth moose lions that were let loose in the city.

Right then, Chong runs into her and asks for her help, saying he knows her to be the greatest earthbender in the world. Toph tells him her name and inquires whether he is Chong, the musician. He confirms this, saying that he wishes he was different because his fans keep chasing him, requesting her help once again. She creates a small rock wall behind which they hide as excited fans run wildly past them. Toph asks him whether he is hiding, and he explains that the fans' love for him is too strong, and he needs to avoid them. The earthbender wishes him the best with that and begins walking away, but the musician asks her why she is upset. Toph sarcastically replies that the question is stupid and that she has no reason to be sad since people respect her so much that they are running away from her. She continues telling him how the people in the underground bending tournament see her as an enemy who is going to call the authorities to stop the fights, frustrated that they do not take into consideration her former public identity of The Blind Bandit. The earthbender acknowledges that she is proud of the Beifong Metalbending Academy but that her life feels monotonous as her abilities are not challenged since she only teaches children how to do their stances. She mentions the lavabender she saw the day before, exemplifying what interesting events can take place while she trains students at the academy.

Chong comments that he gets it, saying that him, Lily, and Moku used to play music for love, but when it started to be a way to make money it changes how they felt about the music. They continue along this topic, before Chong requests that the earthbender escort him home because "the fans love is scary". As this was happening, The Dark One, Penga, and Ho Tun have been wandering the streets of Yu Dao. The Dark One and Penga try to convince Ho Tun to not try to prove himself in a tournament, stating that "it is ridiculous" and that "Sifu Toph didn't ask us to do this". Ho Tun finally states that he has to do it, not just because of Sifu Toph, but to prove to himself that he has changed; He then goes to state the the Dark One and Penga do not have to do come, but they cut him off and say that they will come because they will not let him do it alone and that Beifong Academy metalbenders never leave a friend behind. Ho Tun thanks them, and the scene flips to Toph escorting Chong through Yu Dao.

As they are walking along, Toph senses something, to which she exclaims that she "knows that vibration". Toph dashes off after the vibration, and after a moment of deliberation, Chong chases after her. At that moment, Ho Tun, Penga, and the Dark One arrive at an abandoned warehous where a bending tournament is being held. They walk in, but Penga and the Dark One start to doubt that they should do it, to which Ho Tun responds that they are "metalbenders, and that no matter what other benders throw at us, we'll be able to take them".

Toph and Chong arrive at the source of the vibrations, and Toph launches them into the air using earthbending. She catches Chong as they fall onto the green-tiled roof of a warehouse. They peer through a hole in the roof at the bending tournament going on below. Chong comments that three weird-looking kids "full of love" showed up, and when Toph asks him what about them is weird-looking, he responds that 'one of them is shaped kinda like a potato, the other one's got great shoes, and the third one looks like he has a poets heart'. After listening to that description, Toph realizes that they are her students and frustrated, exclaims that they shouldn't be there.

Ho Tun, Penga, and The Dark One walk up to a desk to register for the bending fights and the bet collector tells them to stand in line. Chong says that he thinks bender fights are sad, and that the kids "need love, not war". Meanwhile, in the ring, Sun defeats an opponent and Ho Tun nervously says that he is seeing doom. A waterbender steps into the ring, preparing to fight Sun. He freezes the ground and Sun slips, however his hands touch the ground and lava explodes from underneath. Toph realizes he is lavabending and Ho Tun and The Dark One realize he cannot control it. People run toward the exits as the warehouse collapses, and Penga bends a metal beam back into place. Toph pulls Chong off the roof and runs into the building, telling him she needs to help her students. The metal beam crashes back down and the people are trapped. Ho Tun, The Dark One, and Penga work together to try to raise the beams above the exits so the spectators can escape, just as a metal beam flies toward Sun. He raises his hands and seemingly metalbends, however it turns out to be Toph, who helps her students clear the exit.

After they all escape, Sun and his friends try to run away from Toph, but she ties him up in a long strip of metal. His friends come to his aid and tell her to let him go, but she tells them that they wrecked a building and they needed to talk about what happened. Sun's female friend tells Toph that "he doesn't mean to lavabend, it just happens sometimes". Toph invites Sun and his friends to join the Beifong Metalbending Academy so he can learn to control his lavabending, and learn metalbending from "three of the best metalbending teachers in the Earth Kingdom", referring to Ho Tun, Penga, and The Dark One. Sun accepts and they walk back to the academy.

Production notes

Transcript

Main article: Transcript:Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy

Trivia

  • Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy is the second standalone graphic novel in what Rachel Roberts, editor of Dark Horse Comics, has called a themed trilogy of "the awesome ladies of Avatar",[6] the others being Katara and the Pirate's Silver and Suki, Alone.
  • The graphic novel's major theme is the different stages of life, with people often looking back at a difficult past with "rose-colored glasses" due to the mundanity of the current, comfortable situation.[7]
  • Some of the characters in the underground bending matches are inspired by figures of real-world professional wrestling. One individual was also designed in reminiscence to a 1980s Hong Kong action movie star.[7]
  • On May 19, 2021, Dark Horse Comics conducted a live reading of Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy on Twitch, with Jessie Flower, Jack DeSena, and Jennie Kwan voicing their respective characters. Faith Erin Hicks, Peter Wartman, and guest voice actors Phil LaMarr and Olivia Hack joined them to voice minor characters.[2]

References

  1. Faith Erin Hicks (2020-07-27). Faith Erin Hicks on Twitter. Faith Erin Hicks (Twitter). Retrieved on February 21, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dark Horse Comics (May 19, 2021). Toph Beifong's Metabending Academy Live Reading. Twitch.com. Retrieved on May 19, 2021.
  3. Faith Erin Hicks on Twitter. Retrieved on July 27, 2020.
  4. 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Continues With Graphic Novel. The Hollywood Reporter (July 27, 2020). Retrieved on July 28, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Avatar: The Last Airbender–Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy. Penguin Random House (July 27, 2020). Retrieved on July 24, 2020.
  6. Highlight: Dark Horse Comics: New Comic Book Day Rundown Oct. 14, 2020. DarkHorseComics - Twitch (October 14, 2020). Retrieved on December 13, 2020.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Toph goes solo in new Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel. Games Radar (2021-02-13). Retrieved on February 16, 2021.
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