Warning: contains spoilers for Avatar: The Next Shadow #2!
Humans are not the only threats present on the planet of Pandora. The newest Avatar comic series from Dark Horse reveals that Jake Sully is up against a new enemy. But this enemy isn’t a Dreamwalker or some other off-world being; the threat comes from within his own clan.
James Cameron’s Avatar was released in 2009. Although several sequel films have been announced, they have continually been delayed. In the meantime, fans of the Na’vi of Pandora have been able to enjoy two comic series published by Dark Horse. The first, Tsu’tey’s Path, was published in 2019. It was six issues long and focused on Tsu’tey, Jake’s rival. Events that happened concurrently with the film were presented that showed more about Tsu’tey’s past and his distrust of Jake, leading up to his eventual death and acceptance of his former enemy. Now, Dark Horse has begun publishing a comic that will bridge the gap between the first film and its upcoming sequel.
Avatar: The Next Shadow had its first issue released January 6, 2021. This four-issue mini-series – written by Jeremy Barlow with art by Josh Hood – focuses on a new threat to Jake Sully and his clan of Na’vi. Fans already know that relations between the Na’vi and humans who traveled to Pandora are strained. The film showed the difficulties of a human becoming a Na’vi and the distrust this inspired in the Omatikaya clan. This includes a fight for leadership and possible traitorous behavior within the clan itself.
Jake’s new problem is a family affair, as his new rival Arvok is the brother of Tsu’tey. He was first introduced in Tsu’tey’s Path, but has become a more prominent character in Avatar: The Next Shadow. In the first issue, he is shown talking with his parents, who are still mourning Tsu’tey. His parents believe that Jake Sully was wrongfully made Olo’eyktan, or clan leader, of the Omatikaya. They do not trust Jake and are now aiming to make their younger son Olo’eyktan. Arvok does not appear to want this, having trusted his brother’s judgment. He argues that Tsu’tey trusted Jake, but admits that he is still angry. Yet he does not believe that killing Jake will make things any better. His parents push that Jake is unfit to be the clan leader, but assure Arvok that there is a way to challenge his rule and take over without death being necessary. Arvok agrees to take this route.
The second issue initiates a confrontation between Arvok and Jake. Arvok invokes “First Blood”, a ritual with binding consequences. It is a trial by combat, where the first combatant to draw blood is the winner. The ritual’s result is binding and nothing can reverse the outcome. While the fight may only be until first blood, Arvok’s parents have poisoned the blade that Arvok is using. Now Jake’s life may be near its end as a result of actions taken by his former rival’s family.
Despite being the leader of the Omatikaya, Jake may die by the hands of the Na’vi that he leads and has protected. It’s a smart addition to the lore of Avatar, making it clear that not every conflict in this world is between clear-cut groups. Not all of Jake’s subjects trust him to lead them well, creating the kind of intrigue found in any story where characters with close ties have sincere but differing ideas about how best to approach the future. The complete consequences of this altercation will not be known until the next issue of Avatar: The Next Shadow is released on May 3, 2021.