B-List Bonanza: THE LAST AIRBENDER’s Jet
It struck me not long ago that B-list comics villains, especially those with roots in the DC mythos, have enjoyed a renaissance since the advent of The CW’s Arrowverse. Their presence has been particularly notable on The Flash, where not only have we been treated to a revival of Mark Hamill’s Trickster and the cerebrally enhanced Gorilla Grodd, but a storyline that made King Shark, of all characters, relevant again.
B-list heroes, however, haven’t gotten quite the same bump and I can think of a few who deserve a little love and air time. And with Avatar: The Last Airbender enjoying a resurgence thanks to its migration to Netflix in anticipation of a future live-action series (anticipated air date: who the hell knows, die in a fire COVID-19) I thought it would be nice to take a little vacation from capes and tights to introduce y’all to some characters who might conceivably pop up at some point.
Let’s start with…
Preferred Weapons: Hook swords
Affiliations: Freedom Fighters, Team Avatar
When he was 8, Jet watched the Fire Nation military forces burn his village. His parents were killed in the attack, leaving Jet orphaned and dedicated to defeating his enemies even if other innocent lives were lost in the fight. Organizing other Earth Nation refugees into a guerrilla army he named The Freedom Fighters, Jet harried Fire Nation forces, even going so far as to plot their destruction by flooding an occupied town. Jet’s meeting with Team Avatar was accidental; they converged on a Fire Nation camp at the same time. Katara developed a crush on the rogue immediately while Aang was happy to meet new allies; Sokka, our beloved himbo, was not fooled and remained suspicious.
Sokka’s instincts were proven correct when Jet and his band attacked an elderly civilian, but as Aang and Katara were not there to witness the assault, they believed Jet’s lie about a poisoned knife. When they went to find him later, however, they stumbled across his plan to destroy the dam. They attempted to stop him from doing so but failed and the town flooded. Sokka arrived and let his friends know that he had been able to warn the villagers in time for them to escape.
But Shiri, I thought you said this was a hero column!
Hold on, I’m getting there.
After the flood, Jet and two of his companions realized they had taken things too far and decided to start over in Ba Sing Se. On the way there, they met two fugitives, a young man and his uncle, with whom they stole food from the Captain and distributed it to the other passengers; Jet explained to the young man that he was attempting to make up for things he had done and now regretted. Alas, after seeing the older of the duo heat his tea without any access to fire, he realized they were from the Fire Nation and his old prejudices came surging back. He made several attempts to expose the duo as fire benders and then challenged them in public hoping that one of the fugitives would have to fire bend to save their lives. Too bad for him; Zuko was also good with a broadsword.
Yeah, I know. Hang in there.
The Earth Kingdom cops arrested Jet for disturbing the peace and then brainwashed him and then set him free to roam the city where he eventually ran into Katara during Team Avatar’s search for Appa. Sokka saved the day yet again (see, himbos aren’t dumb they’re just sensitive) by realizing that Jet had been brainwashed, and that realization was enough to help break Jet’s programming. He lead team Avatar to Appa, where one of the Dai Li used a trigger word to force him to attack Aang. Aang snapped Jet out of it. Jet then attacked the chief brain washer to allow Team Avatar to escape.
He was wounded badly enough that Katara was unable to heal him.
Does death make him a hero? No, it does not. We don’t do that here, especially not in a universe where Zuko’s redemption arc lives. Jet is a hero because he tried to do the right thing. In the end he failed, but honestly? He was a kid. He didn’t have an Iroh or a Gran Gran or a bunch of past lives guiding him. He did the best he could in a world that threw a whole bunch of crap at him when he was way too young to know how to handle it and he tried. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.