The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire Part Three is written by Michael Dante DiMartino, with art by Michelle Wong, colors by Killian Ng and Adele Matera, lettering by Ariana Maher, and cover by Michelle Wong and Killian Ng. In this exciting conclusion to the Ruins of the Empire arc, Avatar Korra must work with her former enemy Kuvira and the Beifongs to free Asami, Bolin, and Mako from the Earth Empire remnant’s brainwashing, and stop the evil organization from manipulating the results of the first-ever Earth Kingdom elections.
One of the things I’ve always loved about The Legend of Korra is how much ample time and development the series gives to its side characters. At times, especially in the first half of Season 2, this has been to the detriment of the main members of Team Avatar. But it has also allowed a variety of stories to be told in the Avatar universe, fleshing out this incredible world even further. The centering of Kuvira over these three graphic novels and especially in its final installment, continues the development of this former stone-cold villain and dictator, who seemed irredeemable, into a remorseful character who genuinely wants to make up for the crimes she committed.
Kuvira’s atonement arc throughout this comic series feels earned and sincere. At the start of it, she has both real remorse and resolution that she had good intentions in founding the Empire. Ruins of the Empire is all about peeling back the layers of the sins the Earth Empire committed and Kuvira realizing how horrific her single-minded devotion to it and fascism was. Ultimately, this former ultimate villain of The Legend of Korra series becomes a hero through actively combatting the evil lingering factions of the organization she built. Their character development for her is gradual and feels real. While she did feel some remorse at the end of The Legend of Korra series, that was only the start of her atonement journey.
And it is indeed a journey that is continuing. There’s no sugarcoating Kuvira has done through the Earth Empire. This was an organization that put Earth Kingdom immigrants of Water Tribe and Fire Nation origin in “re-education” camps, which has horrifying parallels with our history and modern-day. It takes actual imprisonment and time for her to increasingly realize the full scope of her and the Empire’s horrific crimes so that she can start to make up for it. She also increasingly realizes how she must actively do good to make up for her crimes. There’s no magical fix and it is a grounded attempt at atonement, making it satisfying to read. It’s even better when the book commits this as only the start of Kuvira’s atonement and has her vocally reiterate that as well.
Series creator’s Dimartino’s writing is poignant, direct, funny, and concise. The comic series is a direct continuation of the story of the animated series, and the stakes always feel urgent and gripping as a result. Kuvira and the Beifongs stand out the most, as they are the heart of the story. There’s a further exploration of Kuvira’s relationships with Sue, Opal, and even the fiance she horribly betrayed, Baatar Jr. The scene between those two, in particular, is rife with complex drama that Dimartino smartly and boldly depicts. Obviously it hits the reader best when they’ve watched The Legend of Korra series, but even with the dialogue on its own, it is rife with tension. It’s beautifully done.
The political situation of the Earth Kingdom remains in flux as it attempts to transition to democracy, having that development threatened by what remains of the Earth Empire. The comic continues The Legend of Korra‘s excellent exploration of political themes, with characters discussing the nitty-gritty of democracy, showcasing how it is never a smooth process. Various countries worldwide and throughout modern history have attempted the transition, to various levels of success and staying under constant threat of losing democracy. Prince Wu, in particular, shines during this story arc, showing his incredible growth and maturity from the playboy prince he was in the animated series.
It’s in the Kuvira, Beifong, and Earth Empire storylines where the main narrative lies. The other main characters are supporting ones to this. Korra gets to have her relationship with Asami develop further, and has an arc of saving her, Bolin and Mako from the Earth Empire’s brainwashing. Additionally, Korra is a consistent supporter of Kuvira’s atonement and believes that she’ll continue to make the right choices. They all get to have some great action scenes, but for the most part, these latter three, and especially Bolin and Mako, are sidelined. It’s a forgivable blemish as they’re not the main characters of this comic, but it still would have been nice to have more of them.
Michelle Wong is a masterful artist and character designer. Even without words, it’s easy to tell what each character is feeling and whether they are hero, villain, or something in between. Reading the comics of this series, its easy to feel like you’re watching an episode of the animated series. You sense the character motivations, the bending effects are fluid, and everything seems urgent. The stories of the Avatar universe always make rich use of color and textures in its art. Killian Ng and Adele Matera also masterfully use color to portray the world and to display the mood of the characters. With excellent artists like these, you’re always guaranteed for beautiful color design in this world.
You should definitely pick up Ruins of the Empire Part Three and its previous installments, particularly when the collected hardcover version hits stores. It’s a gripping and exciting story that further explores the geopolitics of the Avatar universe, while showing the very direct impact it has on the various characters, resulting in great drama and stunning bending action.
The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, Part Three
In this exciting conclusion to the Ruins of the Empire arc, Avatar Korra must work with her former enemy Kuvira and the Beifongs to free Asami, Bolin, and Mako from the Earth Empire remnant’s brainwashing, and stop the evil organization from manipulating the results of the first-ever Earth Kingdom elections.