Thursday, May 30, 2024

Let’s Overanalyze What We Know about the LoK Comics

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Well, we finally have it. After waiting over a year since Legend of Korra creators first promised us a sequel comic series with a focus on the new relationship between Korra and Asami and the cleanup of Republic City, we have a release date! It’s coming next summer! Oh and we also have incredibly vague details about its plot, courtesy of Michael Dante DiMartino!! There’s just one thing to do with this: overanalyze.

The 411

First, let’s cover the basics. We are getting a 3-part graphic novel series called The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars in June of 2017. DiMartino is going Bryan Konietzko-less to write the series, but apparently Konietzko is consulting in some capacity.

Irene Koh will be the artist, which is awesome on many levels. For one, she’s incredibly talented. For another, she seems to be something of a Korra superfan. And we’ve got this nice little reassurance:


The official description for this series was released by Dark Horse Comics on Tuesday in advance of NYCC:

“Turf Wars begins with Korra and Asami leaving the spirit world and returning to Republic City only to find political hijinks and human vs. spirit conflict, as a pompous developer plans to turn the new spirit portal into an amusement park, potentially severing an already tumultuous connection with the spirits. In addition, the triads have realigned and are in a brutal brawl at the city’s borders where hundreds of evacuees have relocated.  In order to get through it all, Korra and Asami vow to look out for each other—but first, they’ve got to get better at being a team.”

Now, let’s break this down.

Korrasami will be a focus, but not a crutch

I’ve written a lot on Korrasami. It’s a relationship that’s incredibly important and validating to me, and I’ve always credited its authentic quality and feel as the reason for it. It’s true that “Bryke” wrote the last two seasons of LoK with the idea that Asami and Korra were simply on a trajectory “heading towards a romance”, assuming that industry constraints would not allow them to explicitly get these two women together on-screen. They ended up fixing this later on in Book 4’s development, giving LoK fans an ending that was about as unambiguous as you could get, even if not a “slam-dunk victory” for representation.


In my view, the self-imposed constraints on the romantic narrative was actually what made it feel so real and relatable to me, as a queer woman, because these are the same societal constraints and assumptions that color our own understanding of desire. In other words, Korra and Asami’s seeming hesitance to explore an explicit romance was something I’ve lived, as have many others.

For this reason, I was a little bit worried about the idea of LoK comics in a completely constraint-free environment. What if Bryke were so desperate to give us the representation they had wanted that the story became about Asami and Korra being bisexual, with the two women fighting an army of strawman homophobes (led by Grandma Yin or something)? It would feel so pandering, and a bit infantilizing, frankly.

Fortunately, Turf Wars looks like it is safe from this trap. Asami and Korra’s relationship, and mild tension, will be a feature, but it’s contextualized by the politics around them. Conflicts between them can spring up organically, while at the same time they “vow to look out for each other” because they’re dealing with what sounds like a mess.

This was always going to be an uphill battle…

DiMartino basically confirmed this in an interview with hypable. When asked if there’s going to be any relationship drama, he said:

“That’s been challenging to write because…I know how much that relationship means to people, but…if you want to say ‘everything’s great,’ there’s not much to write about.” he said korra and asami are “in the early throes of their relationship” and are “getting to know each other” (later clarified as knowing each other “romantically”) but there’s “nothing terrible…a few awkward moments, maybe.”

This is just…nice. He cleanly squashes any Closer to Earth awfulness, while also providing assurances that this isn’t going to be some angst-fest (also no break-up). The transition from friends to girlfriends is likely to be rocky, especially for very public figures like Korra and Asami; we’re talking the world’s spiritual leader and the world’s top industrialist. You think the owner of Cabbage Corp won’t be crying foul?

It does strike me a little odd that they “have to get better at being a team” because these two kind of excel at that:

In fact, Asami’s utter devotion to Korra’s vision for the world is marked throughout the series, something she makes decidedly known by the seventh episode. We watched them fight in lock-step for three seasons. Then we learn that during their years apart before the final season, Asami had worked overtime to marry the spiritual and material worlds by integrating the new spirit vines into Republic City’s infrastructure, which is exactly what Korra was trying to accomplish when she left the spirit portals open. In fact, Asami did such a good job, that the harmony between humans and spirits within the city became a selling point for the place.

I’d find it hard to believe that Asami would be on #TeamAmusementPark (what is this plot, seriously), but I’m also perfectly happy to wait and see. “Nothing terrible…a few awkward moments” hardly sounds like girlfriends throwing each other under the bus during a press conference or the restart of a love triangle. Maybe it’s just a question of how they navigate the public space in these uncertain times.

Speaking of that infrastructure…

Has Raiko learned absolutely nothing during his presidency? No, seriously, I know I have very odd, Cersei-ish headcanons about this guy, but I had at least thought in Book 4 when he called for a “preemptive strike” against Kuvira, it was in direct response to his head-scratching reticence years prior when Korra came to ask him for help regarding the literal apocalypse.

But no, this guy, who valued Asami’s infrastructure work enough to let her cut a ribbon with him, who knew Republic City was referred to as “home to the spirits”, decides to hire some idiot developer who wants to build an amusement park that upsets the spirits? Come on, Raiko, if you’re going to cynically utilize the new portal for monetary gain, at least try the angle of “easier trade with the water tribes” (assuming the Spirit World is navigable).

At least my horrible attempt at political satire is still relevant…

Looks like Asami really did pick a bad time for a vacation, unless Raiko was already worried about his next election and took a gamble with a new contractor. Frankly, this is possible, because the triad issue sounds like a disaster on his hands. These people were evacuated what, a month, and it goes to chaos? Raiko might be looking for all the distractions he can find.

I’m a little hesitant to jump back into anything resembling the Book 1 plotline, but perhaps this is DiMartino’s way of tackling bender vs. nonbender tensions with a less superficial (or at least less convenient) resolution.

Brothers in blue

Fortunately, these triads are going to be tackled by two of the best: Mako and Bolin. Who actually used to be involved with them from time to time…

Look at these dorks

Mako fans should be quite happy to see that their boy is back in action in the job that he loves (sorry, Wu, but no more bodyguards for you). I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised to see him still in a sling, but I guess that was one heck of an injury, in fairness.

However, he’s now joined by his little brother! It was great to see the way Bolin matured and found a meaning in his life when he worked for Kuvira. He was fulfilled, going where the need was the most dire, and where he was truly *helping* people (at least in his mind). It makes perfect sense that serving on Lin Beifong’s force would give him that same feeling of purpose, especially with “all the crap” facing Republic City.

The good news is that this time he won’t have a pesky lil’ dictator as his boss. I’m crossing my fingers for all the Lin/Bolin scenes possible, though after Lu and Gang he may be a star employee.

Oh, and while Kuvira is on the mind, DiMartino confirmed that she will not be showing up:

“There’s the fallout from Kuvira, but I don’t want to get people’s hopes up. You don’t see Kuvira.”

That’s 100% fine with me, to be honest. She served her narrative function well enough as Korra’s foil to hammer home the theme of balance, but if there’s more story to tell with her, it’ll be with the Beifongs, not Korra and Asami.

Is it summer yet?

If there’s one thing this announcement did, it’s that it reminded me how much I simply adore Legend of Korra. Even with my latest habit of going through each episode and meticulously analyzing narrative flaws, it’s such a well-done show overall, and there’s so much meaning that can be extracted. We’re in good hands, and as bizarre as this premise seems in some ways, there’s no question that it will be worth the wait.

It’s just 8 months away. 8 months to continue to mull over that amusement park. 8 months to figure out exactly what DiMartino meant by “a few awkward moments.”

…I’m not going to make it.

Images courtesy of Nickelodeon and Dark Horse Comics

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