In a bit of corporate synergy, the new Dark Horse Comics Avatar: Adapt or Die #1 launched this week at the same time as the new Avatar: The Way of Water movie trailer released. We’ve been waiting so long for a followup to the 2009 movie that most of us don’t remember the story all that well. In a story about humans and Na’vi living together, Corinna Bechko explores the distrust of new neighbors.
Bechko thankfully doesn’t drag readers into a story that requires a lot of knowledge, with a focus on Dr. Grace Augustine, a character played by Sigourney Weaver in the films, and a story about attempting to integrate and live together. This issue opens with young Na’vi capturing a creature with a special net. Dr. Augustine clutches at one, but is soon scolded by a Na’vi elder since that creature will sting her. It’s an efficient way to show humans and Na’vi both have a lot to learn.
The basic premise of this series is about Dr. Augustine wanting to help the Na’vi understand humans through classes with the Na’vi children. If you missed the film, Dr. Augustine is a human attempting to learn about the Na’vi and their flora and fauna. She can also put her mind into a Na’vi body. She’s facing backlash from the Na’vi elders who distrust humans while the human leaders aren’t so keen on letting Dr. Augustine waste time they could spend mining. If you’ve seen the movie you can understand the spiritual core of this series mimics the film.
Fans of the film will adore a basketball scene midway through the book. It’s short-lived, but you could see James Cameron sticking a scene like that into a film as it explores something known to us humans, but bizarre to aliens.
This story does suffer a bit from being too simple and expected. Younger readers will love it I’m sure, but the way the plot turns in the third act of the issue is unsurprising given the tensions between Na’vi and humans set up earlier on. The issue that is used to spur conflict is unsurprising, even if there are nefarious reasons for it.
The book looks pretty darn close to the films thanks to art by Beni R. Lobel with colors by Wes Dzioba. The environments are lush and the characters look spot on. The height difference between Na’vi and the humans is depicted well, which is a feature that makes the Na’vi look even more alien. Colors are excellent at capturing the details in the Na’vi skin. Vehicles also look great. The one downside of the art is a bit of stiffness with body language. Certain angles on faces, for instance, look traced from the film itself, making the bodies not quite line up with the heads and facial expressions. It’s relatively minor, but can create a disconnect at times.
As we await the next Avatar film, Avatar: Adapt or Die is a good way to experience the characters and familiarize yourself with the world. Bechko captures the familiar tensions of the Na’vi and humans while Lobel brings these drawings to life.
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