Spoilers ahead For Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire Part 3.
Commander Guan has taken democracy into his own hands as the final phase of his brainwashing invention commences. It’s up to Korra, the Beifongs…and Kuivra to stop him as the rest of Team Avatar remain under Guan’s control. Ruins of the Empire continues to dive into the political storytelling heavily prevalent on the Nickelodeon TV show as it expands on the overall Avatar and Korra mythos.
We’re sure you have many questions following the finale, luckily, Newsarama had the chance to talk to Dark Horse editor Rachel Roberts, and artist Michelle Wong, to help us unpack the story. We discuss the future of the Avatar The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra graphic novels, the importance of Korrasami’s relationship, and the story beats that went into creating Kuvira’s redemption story.
You can find the final part of Legend of Korra Ruins of The Empire on stands at your local comic book store now.
Newsarama: Rachel, to jump right into it, I’m sure many fans want more Korra after reading Turf Wars and Ruins of the Empire, what future plans do you have for the Legend of Korra comics?
Rachel Roberts: We’re not quite ready to share specific news yet, but I think fans of both Avatar and Korra will be quite pleased with what we’re cooking up! We have several fun new projects in the works that will not only expand our publishing line, but will introduce new formats and approaches to these beloved franchises.
Nrama: What have you enjoyed the most about working on this franchise?
Roberts: Working with series creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, has been an amazing learning experience in countless ways over the years. From being involved in the initial outline and script-writing phase, to looking over Bryan’s art notes, it’s fascinating to see everyone at work and how they shape the material to be the best it can be.
I’m also continuously energized by working with artist Michelle Wong and colorist Killian Ng; they both bring an enormous wealth of hard work, genuine talent, and passion to the table that makes these books what they are.
More anecdotally, I was a huge fan of the series before coming to work at Dark Horse, so joining the comics team and eventually taking over editorial stewardship of the publishing line is an immense honor. It’s near and dear to my heart, and as a queer person and a fan myself, I want to work hard and make books that readers will love.
Nrama: Why has it been so important to explore the Korrasami relationship with these graphic novels?
Roberts: Licensed titles like Avatar and Korra provide kids who might not be familiar with reading comics an accessible stepping stone into the medium - basically, they already know this world, they trust these characters, and it helps get them invested in reading. And in this case, our two lead characters are bisexual women of color. It’s crucial to acknowledge this. LGBTQ+ people of color face much more hardship than white community members and are underrepresented across all forms of mainstream pop culture. It’s critical for anyone, especially children and teens, to be able to see themselves portrayed and represented positively. There has been a growing trend of inclusion and acceptance in mainstream kids’ media recently, whether it’s comics, books, or TV, and I’m happy that Korra has a place in that. I'm looking forward to continuing and expanding upon this, now and in the future.
Nrama: How do you feel like their relationship has developed throughout these chapters?
Roberts: Coming out stories are important, but so are stories that depict same-sex relationships as an everyday normal - because they are! In Ruins of the Empire, we’ve moved past the coming out phase; Korra and Asami are busy with the ins-and-outs of their daily lives and their Team Avatar duties, but now they just so happen to be in a relationship. Just like any other couple, they have their fair share of self-doubt, nerves, strife… elemental powers and the Avatar state… electrified gloves… trips into the Spirit World… y’know, totally normal relationship stuff.
In all seriousness, it was important to us to show how these two might cope with shared stressful experiences (like Kuvira’s trial and her stint on Team Avatar) as a couple. They don’t see eye-to-eye on it, but they trust each other and talk about it, and they love and support each other even though they don’t agree.
Nrama: Michelle, how did you approach Korra and Asami’s relationship from a visual perspective as Asami transitioned from being brainwashed to her feeling guilty over her forgotten memories?
Michelle Wong: I have always enjoyed character work, and I loved getting to draw a fiercer, colder Asami with closed off body language, and then exploring her more vulnerable side when she gets her mind back. When she is brainwashed, she holds herself stiffly around Korra, in panels that visually show the space between them. Later, her posture is more unsure, while Korra is the one to approach her to show her that everything is okay.
Nrama: A large portion of this arc focuses on Kuvira’s redemption story. Why was it important to the creative team for Ruins of the Empire to tackle this story?
Roberts: When we last saw Kuvira in the animated series, she had been arrested for her crimes, but her fate hadn’t been completely resolved. She had a lot to answer for, both during her trial and to those she hurt, so it was important to explore what true reparations for her would really look like. In Part Three, we see several characters reacting to Kuvira’s redemption in different ways. Korra, Asami, Su, and Bataar Jr. each had different experiences with Kuvira and each handle her attempts at reconciliation with varying attitudes—loving acceptance, cautious optimism, and a general “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Forgiveness and acceptance take many forms, and all are valid. Similarly, change is difficult, and Kuvira really needed to put in the work to set things right.
Nrama: Michelle, what went into building the final battle?
Wong: Avatar the Last Airbender and Korra are both known for their awesome action sequences, and the reason they're held in such high regard is that at the core of a good fight scene there's good story. Every character gets their moment in the final battle of this arc, and Kuvira's faceoff with Guan in particular was not just a way to showcase her metal bending skills, but also to show her determination and change in character. I tried to keep that in mind and not focus only on the action but also the moments of emotion.
Nrama: What was your favorite thing to draw for the finale?
Wong: I'm trying not to spoil this too much for people who haven't read it yet! There's a scene near the end featuring hugs is all I will say.
Nrama: Would you like to work on an Avatar/Korra crossover at some point? Do you feel like it’s possible to see the younger versions of Avatar interact with the Korra cast in some fashion?
Roberts: That sounds like it would be super fun! I definitely think young Sokka and Bolin would get along really well, don’t you? Bolin has a ton of that genuine Captain Boomerang energy. Sadly, I don’t think this is a story arc that will ever come to fruition! We hew pretty closely to the established timeline of the show, and unless we can figure out a way to justify time travel in the Avatarverse, I don’t think it’ll happen. But that’s what fanfiction is for!
Nrama: What are you most proud of that came out of this arc?
Roberts: It’s impossible to say! There are so many things about this series I’m proud of - the story, the art, all the work that went into it…readers don’t necessarily get to see what goes into making these books, but they represent literal years of incredible, tireless work by Mike, Bryan, Michelle, Killian, letterers Rachel Deering and Ariana Maher, Dark Horse Digital Art Technicians Christianne Gillenardo-Goudreau and Samantha Hummer, Dark Horse Designer Sarah Terry, Assistant Editor Jenny Blenk, and Nickelodeon Editor Joan Hilty, not to mention our wonderful licensing, print, and prepress teams. We are fans, making books for fans, and we hope our love for the franchise shows in these pages. So I guess you could say I’m just really proud of the team!
Meanwhile, you can find me on the Dark Horse rooftop, shouting "Korrasami is canon!" into my pink, purple, and blue megaphone.
Wong: I got to flesh out the Beifongs more, and I also got to draw my favorite Korra villain's journey to redemption. I'm really happy with the flashback sequences, and also getting to show a different side to Kuvira, even if it's just a scene with her wearing some more casual clothes like in her original Season 3 appearance around the Beifong estate again.
Nrama: One of my favorite things about the original Korra TV show is how every villain represented a different philosophy. What philosophies do you want to see explored?
Roberts: This is a really great question, and one I really needed to think about. This isn’t really a philosophy per se, but something I’ve always wondered about is how the Avatar cycle effects the economy and general relations between nations. When an Avatar passes away and the search for the new one begins, does that cause any commotion in that respective nation? Do festivals or celebrations take place? Are there holidays? Do people travel to that nation to witness the discovery of the new Avatar?
Similarly, do any of that nation’s residents react to the presence of the White Lotus, either positively or negatively? We see a bit of this at the start of Korra’s journey, but because we see it from her and her family’s point of view, it’s limited in scope. Given that the series deals with power imbalances between benders and non-benders as well as the Avatar and the people, I wonder what someone else’s view of this event would be (Red Lotus members notwithstanding).
Nrama: Are there any characters you want to see get more spotlight?
Roberts: There are a ton of characters I’d love to catch up with! Fire Lord Izumi, Jinora and the rest of the Airbender kids, Bataar Jr., Bumi and Bum-ju, Uncle Iroh, wherever he is. Like so many others, I also wonder what Azula got up to in her old age and whether she’s still kicking around the Fire Nation somewhere. I like to imagine she’s kept tabs on her brother all these years, and scoffs over her morning paper whenever he’s mentioned.