M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action adaptation of the popular cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender (shortened to just The Last Airbender) was a box office success, but a critical bomb last year. Fans of the original TV show should be glad then to hear that the Last Airbender mythology will live on – not, per se, in the form of Last Airbender 2, but in the animated series The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra.

Original Last Airbender TV show creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzk revealed their plans to develop a spinoff series last summer, and now we got a first look at the show’s namesake – the new Avatar Korra.

Here’s the official synopsis for Legend of Korra:

“The Legend of Korra” takes place 70 years after the events of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and follows the adventures of the Avatar after Aang – a passionate, rebellious, and fearless teenaged girl from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra (voice of Janet Varney).

With three of the four elements under her belt (Earth, Water, and Fire), Korra seeks to master the final element, Air.  Her quest leads her to the epicenter of the modern “Avatar” world, Republic City – a metropolis that is fueled by steampunk technology.  It is a virtual melting pot where benders and non-benders from all nations live and thrive.

However, Korra discovers that Republic City is plagued by crime as well as a growing anti-bending revolution that threatens to rip it apart.   Under the tutelage of Aang’s son, Tenzin (JK Simmons), Korra begins her airbending training while dealing with the dangers at large.

Check out the first image of Korra (via Speakeasy) below:

The hand-drawn animation style on display in this image looks to match that of the original Last Airbender TV series, which was often quite admirable in its own right. While the element-bending action sequences in the original show seemed to intentionally mimic the choppy style of Japanese animation (read: anime), they were still impressive – arguably more so than the CGI-drive battles in Shyamalan’s big-budget adaptation, as it were.

It’s a wise move on DiMartino and Konietzk’s part to design Korra as being quite distinct in personality (and gender, naturally) from Aang, so that she doesn’t come off as merely a rehash of her predecessor.

The shift from the hero’s journey storyline of Last Airbender to the more complex plot of Legend of Korra – maintaining peace in a world where there is no longer a single enemy to remain unified against – sounds promising as well.

The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra is expected to begin airing on Nickelodeon in early 2012.