Avatar: The Last Airbender theory explains the most mysterious villain
Combustion Man was a unique firebender. One theory explains why.
Before Zuko and Aang became reluctant friends in Season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Fire Prince hired "Combustion Man," a firebending assassin nicknamed by Sokka, to finally kill the Avatar. Combustion Man was relentless and ruthless in his mission, tracking Avatar Aang and attacking him whenever they crossed paths.
However, Combustion Man’s firebending abilities were unique. Instead of using his hands to control his powers, the assassin launched fire attacks from an inverted eye tattoo on his forehead. With that in mind comes a thoughtful fan theory that reveals a new layer to Combustion Man’s mysterious backstory.
Reddit user sweetcaleb suggests that The Last Airbender’s Combustion Man was actually mute. It’s not a farfetched theory considering the assassin never actually speaks in any of his scenes. Zuko mentions that the hired hitman is good at keeping secrets and the theorist deduces that it’s because he can’t speak them aloud. That said, the theory offers further evidence as to why Combustion Man’s mute beyond his non-speaking role.
Avatar: The Last Airbender reveals early on that rage and hatred fuels firebenders. We know that many firebenders (Azula, Zuko, and several others) tend to yell before unleashing their firebending powers. Conversely, when Zuko stopped being so angry, he was briefly unable to firebend properly. However, a big part of mastering firebending seemingly comes from being able to control one’s breathing. In lieu of voicing anger, Combustion Man is seen taking a deep breath before blasting fire from his eye tattoo.
Speaking of his eye tattoo, there’s reason to believe that Combustion Man mastered the Light Chakra, which is located on the forehead and deals with the shedding of illusion. It’s possible he gained new insight regarding firebending, inventing a new way to master his abilities without the use of sound, but by coming up with breathing techniques to fuel his abilities. This is comparable to Toph mastering metal bending by realizing it’s simply another form of Earth and so it’s possible the assassin may have come up with combustion bending as another form of firebending.
The Inverse Analysis — There isn't a ton of information about Combustion Man beyond his being an assassin. However, based on the fact that he never utters a single word onscreen or responds to voice commands leads to the possibility that he is indeed mute and/or deaf. It’s also a notable point considering even the most inconsequential characters have said at least a sentence or two when interacting with the Avatar and his friends. (Avatar is truly the best at one-line characters.)
One could argue that Combustion Man is so focused on his mission that he didn’t have time to make small talk or quips. After all, he’s an assassin who was being paid by Zuko, an important figure within the Fire Nation. However, the fact that Combustion Man practices his firebending skills so differently from every other Fire Nation citizen — and all without saying a word — lends credence to the theory of him being mute and adds context to an otherwise one-dimensional villain. It’s never been confirmed on the show, but it’s definitely something to think about.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is currently streaming on Netflix.