While the newly founded Avatar Studios plots a return to Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra's universe, Team Avatar's story continues the latest Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel published by Dark Horse Comics. Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy comes from writer Faith Erin Hicks and artist Peter Wartman. The story takes place sometime after the last episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender but gets Toph back in touch with her roots, allowing her a chance to reexamine her origin and reevaluate how far she's come while possibly pointing the way towards her future. SPOILERS for Avatar: The Last Airbender -- Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy follow.
As revealed by other Avatar: The Last Airbender comics, Toph Beifong became a teacher after Aang bested Fire Lord Ozai. Being the world's first metalbender, she decided to seek other potential metalbenders and set up a school to hone their skills.
By the time Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy takes place, Toph has also reconnected with her family and become involved in running Earthen Fire Industries' business. That's led to corporate backing for her school, which now essentially runs itself with her earliest students' help.
Toph is becoming bored and restless with her life when Sokka and Suki show up and strongarm her into attending a concert with them. Toph stumbles upon an unsanctioned bender fighting arena during the trip that reminds her of her days competing in the Earth Rumble. She then notices a young earthbender doing something she didn't know was possible: lavabending. Toph tries to communicate with the fighters, but they recognize her as one of Aang's friends and scramble, assuming she's bringing the authorities with her.
Toph is baffled by others viewing her as an authority rather than a rebel. It makes her pine for the old days when she had it rough. Her attitude changes when some of her students show up at the underground arena and nearly die when the lavabender loses control of his powers. Toph and her metalbenders were able to save the day, but only thanks to everything the students learned from Toph at the academy.
This moment makes Toph realize that she's been romanticizing the struggle instead of valuing the goal. She opened Toph's Metalbending Academy to make sure that benders like her didn't have to go through the things she did to achieve their full potential. She realizes that she needs to look forward if she's searching for a new challenge rather than backward.
This moment may be a key to Toph's longer character arc from Avatar: The Last Airbender through The Legend of Korra. Some fans have long felt that Toph becoming police chief of Republic City was grossly out of character for someone who long shirked responsibilities in favor of freedom. Personally, I always figured that Aang was able to talk Toph into it by playing on her considerable ego and insisting it's a job that only the world's best earthbender could perform.
However, Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy suggests that Toph may already have been growing more comfortable with additional power and responsibility. She's already grown into her role as a representative for her family's business. Between that role and the school, it isn't hard to see how she'd go from providing a safe environment for young benders to stepping into a role where she believed, rightly or wrongly, she'd be using her authority to make Republic City a safer place for all citizens. Ultimately, fans know she'd retreat into a hermitic lifestyle when the complications inherent in such a position became too much and conflicted with her role as a mother.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Avatar: The Last Airbender: Toph Beifong's Metlabending Academy is on sale now.