Avatar imagines a world full of possibilities. A patchwork of cultures, myths, and histories crafted into a magical place where nations are defined by the ability to manipulate the elements. Fantastic in every sense of the word, but somehow believable.
The real magic is how believable Avatar feels. It would be a mistake to assume everything in Avatar is high-flying, low-risk adventuring, though. At the risk of sounding like Tenzin, the world has rules. You might be able to catch a ride on a flying bison or encounter a massive serpent lurking in the sea, but those experiences will probably be less common. Likewise, it’s easy to find a person capable of throwing flame, but it’s far more rare to see one able to channel the true beauty and power of firebending without learning from the dragons. In this expansive world so full of mystery, there is still a sense of normalcy that applies to everything.
This is also a world full of exceptions. As far back as the lore goes, Avatar is full of people achieving great things by challenging norms. From the first in the line of Avatars to the latest in the cycle, this is a story brimming with people for whom the rules don’t apply. Characters who are more powerful than the rest, who change the way we think of what’s possible. The kind of people who can make sweeping changes because they will it.
Without further ado, here are 20 Times Avatar Characters Were Ridiculously Overpowered.
20 the Last Airbender: Aang, Siege of the Northern Water Tribe
During Book One “Siege of the North” tensions between the Water Tribe and Fire Nation came to a head. Admiral Zhao, obsessed with domination, stormed the Northern Water Tribe with an armada and assumably hundreds of infantry. This was one of the first times we saw large-scale military action in the show and things looked bad. Then Aang ended up unconscious... Then Zhao successfully eliminated the Moon Spirit, cutting off the waterbenders from their power.
Not only does Aang enter the Avatar State, but he also merges with the Ocean Spirit. The combination is more than enough to wipe out the Fire Nation ships and infantry single-handedly. Let’s not forget, this is all a matter of days after Aang arrived at the Northern Water Tribe to properly learn waterbending. It was great, but pretty OP.
19 The Last Airbender: Combustion Man
Take a look at the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s fresh, yet familiar. We expect to see the swords, the bows, and the spears. The story even makes the idea of throwing fireballs and raising platforms from the ground feel natural. Even letting off a bolt of lightning fits. Then there’s Combustion Man.
When the ominous figure hunting Team Avatar fires his forehead cannon it feels jarring. That’s not just because of his explosive greetings, either. Combustion Man is effectively a firearm. He’s capable of shooting across long distances with impressive accuracy. We also see him creating several quick explosions at short range. While the ability to concentrate is a prerequisite, that weakness doesn’t change the fact Combustion Man is the guy with a multi-function rifle in a medieval world.
18 The Last Airbender: Uncle Iroh
Quiet, meditative, and wise, Iroh boasts a different kind of power from most on this list. Iroh may seem like an odd choice, but after reflecting on his deep wealth of knowledge and breadth of skills, it’s hard to imagine anyone more powerful. This old tea aficionado is well-equipped for just about anything. Caught in a city under siege? Lost in the spirit world? Confused about the morality of betraying your family to aid your friends? Iroh has the answer, personal experience, and ability to help. Who needs Google when you’ve got Iroh?
Iroh is the Dragon of the North. Capable of breathing fire, shooting lightning, escaping prison (multiple times), and communing with spirits. Along the way, he successfully tracks down the long-lost Avatar and turns an exiled prince into the fire lord.
17 Legend of Korra: Korra
Go back to when the first episode of Legends of Korra was released. Maybe you just rewatched The Last Airbender and you were finally ready to start the next chapter. Within five minutes this Korra does what Aang took three seasons to do.
Korra bends water, earth, and fire. As a toddler. That’s an extraordinary first impression. It also seems pretty overpowered after seeing Aang struggle just learning a second element for an entire season. Even if you let that slide, this being a modernized world full of new counter-bending tech and bending skills, Korra’s ability to rapidly outperform Aang continues. She redefines how humans and spirits interact, going so far as to merge with the Light Spirit to take on Vaatu.
16 The Last Airbender: Hama
Hama is on this list for two reasons: First, because she’s the first of her kind and second, due to the nature of her abilities. As far as we know, Hama discovered the ability to bloodbend. She trained this skill to enable her to escape a Fire Nation prison and it’s suggested she has used it cautiously ever since. That gives Hama the element of surprise in any situation. You simply can’t counter what you didn’t even know was possible.
Waterbenders are titans during a full moon. As a subset of waterbending, bloodbending is similarly amplified. The ability to cause a person to twitch turns into complete control like a puppeteer manipulates a puppet. TLDR; Hama is the overwhelming threat you never expected.
15 Legend of Korra: P’Li
If Combustion Man is like having a rifle in ancient times, then P’Li is like adding a scope and laser sights too. Let’s be absolutely clear about something. Combustionbending is hard. We don’t mean “Aang struggling with the fear of hurting those he loves most” hard; Mastering combustionbending means having the ability to focus, channel your chi, and direct that energy in a way that's effective and safe (for you).
P’Li is one of two individuals who meet these criteria in the series. Besides that of that, P’Li even has the cognitive strength to direct her bending as if the explosion is following the target. Even though P’Li is ultimately defeated, her passing came after putting our heroes to the test.
14 The Last Airbender: Toph
Perhaps the idea of a blind little girl from a rich family being too powerful sounds strange. To that, let us remind you this is Toph Beifong. Faced with the inability to see with her eyes, Toph learned to see the world in ways we couldn’t imagine. Toph Beifong, the pampered child born in the heart of the Earth Kingdom, the reigning champion in an underground wrestling ring.
When imprisoned in a solid metal box, she created an entirely new way to bend and busted out. Toph Beifong doesn’t just challenge the common imagery of people we consider powerful, she is arguably one of the most formidable benders around by the time she’s 12 years old.
13 the Last Airbender: Fire Lord Ozai
Fire Lord Ozai is the kind of villain you learn to fear long before they make a physical appearance. It takes whole seasons for us to even see Ozai’s face, but we are very familiar with his work. Zuko’s scars. Brutal fire nation soldiers. The prisoner camps. What Ozai does is a clear enough message that he’s a serious threat with great power that extends across the world. Just think about it. Ozai has the resources to send entire armadas to chase legends and pacify villages.
In addition to all that power, Fire Lord Ozai is an impressive martial artist and a master firebender. The clout of a king and the force of a warrior. Even without the military force, Fire Lord Ozai is a titan capable of competing with a fully realized Avatar.
12 Legend of Korra: Yakone
While perhaps not the crowned leader of a nation, Yakone enjoys the political force of a bonafide crime lord. He is the biggest and baddest of his ilk at a time when Republic City still enjoyed Avatar Aang’s protection. Such was his grip on the city that the Avatar himself focused on ending his reign of terror. When Yakone was finally arrested, he revealed the ability to telepathically bloodbend, without a full moon.
Yakone is a crime boss with the ability to turn you into a puppet with a single thought. Maybe we’re mistaking absolutely scary with overpowered, but either way, Yakone earned his spot on this list (and successfully gave us all nightmares).
11 Legend of Korra: Amon
Amon is control incarnate. He is a natural leader who can win many battles with rhetoric and charm. If it comes to violence, he’s a skilled martial artist, a prolific waterbender even capable of telepathic bloodbending (like his father, Yakone). Finally, if that’s not enough, he’s even skilled enough at chi blocking that he effectively take away your bending. Already Amon is a force to be reckoned with.
Now consider Amon is the leader of a like-minded movement. Quickly and with considered precision, Amon hundreds to take violent action against benders and the oppressive government supporting them. He armed these soldiers with tools to disable benders with as little as a slap of the hand. The only thing worse than a telepathic bloodbender is one with an army.
10 The Last Airbender: The Fire Nation, Sozin’s Comet
When Sozin’s Comet finally arrived we witnessed a satisfyingly climactic scene. Fire Nation airships soar over the lush green forest below, soldiers step onto the balconies around the vessels, then each a massive flame fans over everything. Behind each airship is a path of ash following in its wake. Suddenly the Phoenix King Ozai’s plan to “burn the Earth Kingdom” sounds very literal and very possible.
The sweeping destruction is even scarier when we consider how weak most Fire Nation soldiers generally were in the past. Let’s just say these aren’t the guys breathing fire or flying around with fire spouting from their heels. With that comparison fresh in mind, we think you’d agree that Sozin’s Comet makes the Fire Nation grossly overpowered.
9 Legend of Korra: Dark Avatar
The same series that gave us down-to-earth enemies like Zhao, Amon, and Kuvira also delivered the Dark Avatar (Or UnaVaatu). Unlike the aforementioned baddies who relied on armies of men and women roused by their cause, the Dark Avatar is a more cosmic threat.
During the Harmonic Convergence, the Dark Spirit Vaatu entered into Unalaq. Their combined abilities became even greater. Vaatu gained a physical body as well as the beginning of a pattern akin to the Avatar Cycle. Meanwhile, Unalaq saw his abilities as a master water and spiritbender improve greatly, not to mention the fact he gained the ability to enter a sort of Dark Avatar State complete with energy beams. In short, the Dark Avatar is the kind of enemy that even Korra was barely equipped to handle.
8 The Last Airbender: Ty Lee
Acrobatic, agile, and uniquely skilled at martial arts, Ty Lee is more threatening than she may at first appear. There’s a reason she’s a part of Princess Azula’s inner circle. Some of the deadliest characters revolve around the princess and Ty Lee is no exception. Take away the backing from the Fire Nation, she can still outperform benders and soldiers alike.
What makes Ty Lee special is her knowledge, skill, and demeanor. She understands how chi flows through the body, feeding one’s ability to bend as well as to move. Impressive speed and precision honed over time allow her to disarm master benders and professional soldiers alike. Finally, Ty Lee maintains a chipper attitude you can feel anytime she’s around. As a result, most don’t take her seriously when she may well be one of the biggest threats on the battlefield.
7 Legend of Korra: Avatar Wan
Wan began as a young man in poverty. He made due stealing food from the rich and sharing the spoils with his family. At this point, he was quite normal, if a rather good acrobat. However, the moment he joined the hunters and left his village he became unique.
Wan essentially stole the ability to firebend. For his crime, he was banished, leading him on a journey that would earn Wan the ability to bend the other elements and even befriend the spirits. Considering no human had the innate ability to bend the elements, instead, they needed to borrow the ability from the lion turtles, that already made Wan more powerful than most. Add the fact that Wan ultimately merged with the spirit of light, Raava, and it’s hard not to see him as a god among men.
6 The Last Airbender: Avatar Kyoshi
Glimpses of Avatar Kyoshi appear throughout The Last Airbender. We see paintings, plays, warriors bearing her likeness, and even memories of a few of her exploits. Through all of this we know one thing for certain: Kyoshi was a beast.
As if being the Avatar wasn’t enough, Kyoshi was an all-around remarkable warrior. She was physically intimidating, highly skilled, and had no qualms with taking down her foes when necessary. Had Ozai or Amon faced Kyoshi there’s a good chance neither would have made it to prison. What really earns Kyoshi’s spot on this list is her confrontation with Chin the Conqueror. While rolling through the Earth Kingdom claiming land, Chin came to the Avatar’s homeland. When diplomacy failed, Kyoshi simply split the land in two -- literally creating Kyoshi Island -- and ultimately eliminating Chin.
5 Legends of Korra: Vaatu
Vaatu is an entity that exists outside the constraints of time and mortality. Strictly speaking, this ageless spirit has no objectives or motives. Vaatu is chaos and darkness. As one of the oldest spirits known, it should go without saying that Vaatu cannot die. Indeed, to truly defeat the spirit of darkness one must trap bind them, knowing full well that one-day Vaatu will return. Avatar Wan locked Vaatu into the Tree of Time. Avatar Korra purified Vaatu (locking them in the spirit of light, Raava).
If that doesn’t humble you, consider that the stronger Vaatu becomes the more chaotic the world grows. Rebellious spirits become an everyday danger and, even if you want to fight back, learning how means discovering what happened thousands of years ago. Good luck with that.
4 Legend of Korra: Lightening Benders, Engineering
As the show progresses offshoots of the primary elements start to appear. Benders begin to uncover the ability to bend metal, blood, and perhaps most influential to the story, lightning. Lightningbending changes the tone of the show in The Last Airbender. Its introduction pushes Zuko to force himself to learn the skill, develops Uncle Iroh’s connection to his nephew, and ultimately changes the way Aang views his role as the Avatar. The ability to wield lightning is clearly a powerful force. After all, one strike nearly took out Aang.
Imagine our surprise watching Mako end a day of work at the factory. It’s a short scene, but one depicting several benders beaming lightning into some kind of engine. The power to strike down a full-fledged Avatar is being used to help power some warehouse. Talk about overqualified.
3 The Last Airbender: Azula
In many ways, Princess Azula was before her time. She enjoyed the clout of a royal in the Fire Nation, which in 100 AG had power across the world, and could bend in ways that would impress anyone. Azula is cunning, cold, and capable of observing how a situation can be used to grow her political and personal advantages. She even successfully catches Uncle Iroh in her schemes and manipulates everyone from Zuko to Aang.
Most important of all, Princess Azula surrounds herself with talented allies. Her team includes a proto-chi blocker and a noble with the knife throwing skills of a practiced assassin. Taken all together, Princess Azula would be a challenge for anyone. It’s worth noting that Azula nearly eliminated Aang using her mind for strategy and lightning bending.
2 Legend of Korra: Chi Blockers
The first actual chi blocker we encounter is Ty Lee. She left a wake of soldiers incapable of moving, let alone bending, outside of Ba Sing Se. Healers had no idea what they were facing and to say her impact in battle was felt would be an understatement.
Decades later the ability to chi block has spread. It’s a symbol of defiance against benders with many trained in the art mirroring Ty Lee acrobatic style. As if more chi blockers isn’t enough, a majority of these folks are equipped with gloves able to electrocute opponents with a touch. In action, these unnamed henchpeople regularly overwhelm Korra, Mako, and others arguably more capable than the original Team Avatar were when they faced Ty Lee. While we rank them as overpowered, we also don’t really mind the challenge.
1 The Last Airbender: Admiral Zhao
Zhao is hungry for glory and happy to perform monstrous deeds in order to advance his position. We see him talk down the exiled Prince Zuko using both his clout as a military officer and his skill as a soldier. It’s both of these qualities driven by an insatiable appetite that makes Zhao excessively powerful.
Zhao defines himself by his power. Time after time we witness Zhao deploy soldiers who quickly reduce forests to ash and villages to rubble. During the Siege of the Northern Water Tribe, Zhao leads an entire armada that nearly destroys the city were it not for the Ocean Spirit and Avatar Aang (basically divine intervention). The fact this need for power successfully eliminated the Moon Spirit is a testament to how powerful Zhao truly was.
Can you think of any other times a bender was overpowered in Avatar? Let us know in the comments!