Comic Picks By The Glick

Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero

July 28, 2013

Regardless of its status as one of this summers many high-profile financial disappointments, I loved “Pacific Rim” and would recommend that everyone check it out on the big screen because a lot of its appeal is going to be lost when it comes to the home market.  Hell, if you can see it in IMAX 3D, then I’d say you should do just that because director Guillermo Del Toro really managed to capture the scale and impact of the Jaeger/Kaiju fights in all their over-the-top glory.  It’s the extremely rare film that I think can be enjoyed for its spectacle alone.  As for the human elements, they were perfectly unobtrusive and didn’t get in the way of the action.  It’s those elements that are spotlighted in this hardcover prequel to the movie written by Travis Beacham, the co-writer of the movie.  You might question the wisdom of picking up such a collection based on that, except I found this in one of the half-off boxes at Comic-Con.  I think I got my money’s worth here, however...

Though not an anthology per se “Tales From Year Zero” has as its structure the journey of one Naomi Sokolov as she interviews many of the principals of the Jaeger program as part of a “Why We Fight” piece.  From there, we learn about the start of the war on K-Day as Tendo Choi relates his efforts in evacuating civilians and his grandfather from San Francisco.  One Dr. Schoenfield tells her about the breakthrough that led to the creation of Jeagers and the female doctor who discovered what the drift system needed in order to work.  Then she hears from Stacker Pentecost himself about his first encounter with Mako and the Raleigh brothers’ start with the program.

This collection is advertised as being “Presented by Guillermo Del Toro” and he’s even listed as a supervising editor on the front cover.  It’s even noted in the “script to page” extras at the end that the director had to approve the script and art at every stage.  That, and the fact that this was coming from someone directly involved in the film made me optimistic for the final product.  You might recall that I described the human elements as “perfectly unobtrusive” and now it feels like a mistake to have expected anything more from the people directly responsible for fostering that impression.

I wouldn’t say that the writing here is bad -- generic is a better word to use.  The situations and character arcs on display here have all been done before and done better as well.  Without their ties to the larger mythology of the movie it’d be hard to recommend anything here to the casual reader of graphic novels.  Still, Beacham keeps the action moving and does a good job of laying the groundwork for the movie.  Much like the film’s cast, the writer doesn’t embarrass himself.

As for the five artists on this book, they get the job done but their work really doesn’t do justice to the source material.  Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet, Pericles Junior, Chris Batista and Geoff Shaw all contributed to the art and except for a few cases their styles pretty much blend together.  I think Batista did most of the Raleigh brothers sections while Chen did the ones involving Sokolov, but other than those parts the work here feels fairly anonymous and generally unspectacular overall.

Considering the visual impact of the film, this is a huge letdown.  I left the film feeling a sense of awe at the battles I had just witnessed and nowhere was that present in this graphic novel.  All five artists are capable storytellers and that’s it.  The art in this book feels like there was very little imagination behind it or any kind of stylistic invention to match the source material.  That said, the fact that five artists were required to illustrate about a hundred pages of art makes me think that this project didn’t have a lot of lead time and that everyone involved was under a very tight deadline to get this out before the movie hit theaters.  That kind of thinking almost never produces quality work and you can clearly see that on the page.

Still, this is a “Pacific Rim” graphic novel made by the people involved in the movie so if you’re like me then you’re going to get some enjoyment out of it.  Keep in mind that it’s currently available only in hardcover for $25.  I got my copy for half of that and as you’ve just read I still felt the need to point out its many issues.  Make of that what you will.

Jason Glick

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