The GeeksverseREVIEW | Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero (Legendary Comics)

REVIEW | Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero (Legendary Comics)
Published on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 by
In the the wake of last week’s release of the Pacific Rim DVD/BD and NECA’s Pacific Rim Series 2 action figures, we revisit the film’s prequel graphic novel, Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero. Is it a worthy read or is it forgettable cross-marketing dreck? Read the review for our take!
  • pacific_rim_tfyz_coverStory: Travis Beacham
  • Pencils: Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet, Pericles Junior, Chris Batista, Geoff Shaw
  • Inks: Steve Bird, Mark McKenna, Pericles Junior, Matt Banning
  • Colors: Guy Major, Tom Chu, Dom Regan
  • Cover: Alex Ross
  • Format: 112 pages, full color, hardcover
  • List price: $24.99
  • Sale date: 05 June 2013
  • Publisher’s description: PACIFIC RIM: TALES FROM YEAR ZERO serves as a prequel to the highly-anticipated motion picture—Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ Pacific Rim.  Chronicling the very first time Earth is menaced by incredible monsters known as Kaiju, these inhuman beasts rise from the ocean depths and threaten to extinguish all mankind! Witness the race to develop massive robot fighting machines called Jaegers, each one controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. This action-packed book features many of the key characters from the film as we follow them in their early careers. Written by Pacific Rim screenwriter himself, Travis Beacham, and with del Toro’s hands-on supervision, this volume is beautifully penciled by Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet, Pericles Junior, Chris Batista and Geoff Shaw; inks by Steve Bird, Mark McKenna, Pericles Junior and Matt Banning.
  • Preview gallery:
  • NOTE: This book was personally purchased by the reviewer

Movie tie-in comics get a bad rap from critics and readers. And in many instances, that reputation is deserved. Certainly, we’ve seen our fair share over the years of movie tie-in comics (as well as their close cousins, television series and video game tie-in comics) that are little more than compiled storyboards, competently made but nonetheless unimaginative graphic adaptations that neither take advantage of the unique storytelling techniques available to the comic book medium nor provide justifications for their existence beyond their being a part of some perfunctory multimedia marketing strategy. The worst of these adaptations and spin-offs embody what Alan Moore once said in a 2008 interview with the LA Times regarding the lazy conflation of film- and comics-based approaches to storytelling:

If you approach comics as a poor relation to film, you are left with a movie that does not move, has no soundtrack and lacks the benefit of having a recognizable movie star in the lead role.

As the publisher’s description text states above, Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero is a prequel to the Guillermo del Toro-directed film and is written by Pacific Rim co-creator and co-screenwriter Travis Beacham (Dog Days of Summer, Clash of the Titans), so any concerns that the graphic novel will feature a workaday, mercenary spin-off or a wan adaptation of a screenplay are mitigated to some degree right off the bat.

Tales from Year Zero is structured somewhat like an anthology, albeit one with a frame story that has the point-of-view character, journalist Naomi Sokolov, interviewing three members of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC), the multinational military organization tasked with defending the planet from the invading kaiju. Each interview serves as a launchpad for extended flashback sequences that are the anthology’s three comprised sub-narratives, “K-Day,” Turn of the Tide,” and “The Bond”.

Like a proper prequel, all three stories focus on providing the historical background for the film it supports, giving extended elaborations of events and concepts that are pivotal to the worldbuilding conceits of the film, but it is to Beacham’s credit that characterization is not simply set aside in favor of dry exposition. This is never more apparent than in “Turn of the Tide,” which spotlights the scientists who developed the technology that allows Pacific Rim‘s protagonists to control the Jaegers, the giant mechs that are all that stand between the human race and death-by-kaiju. An interesting account of Jaeger technology evolution with a number of extended action sequences, “Turn of the Tide” is also an affecting story about romance in a time of war that exposes the reader to the core emotions that empower the men and women of the PPDC and allow them to do what needs doing, regardless of personal cost, in order to protect the world. Not to sound sappy and overly sentimental, but love in its many guises really is one of the central themes of Tales from Year Zero (and I’d contend, Pacific Rim as well): platonic love, romantic love, a parent’s love for his/her child, the unconditional love a child has for his/her parent, and the love for one’s fellow man that arises from the realization that we have so much in common with each other and that our differences are so very insignificant in the face of the vastness of the universe. Yes, the people of the PPDC are in pursuit of that pat action-adventure movie end-goal of “saving the world,” but Beacham succeeds in making them sympathetic actors in what is in some ways a fairly standard sci-fi melodrama by emphasizing that their motivation is born of personal fears and hopes that anyone can relate to.

The art on the title is executed well enough, although it’s not what I would describe as particularly stand-out in terms of rendering style. It seems to me that the veritable squad of pencilers and inkers charged with illustrating the book—the three stories in the book don’t get detailed credits as far as who drew which pages—were asked to maintain a unified aesthetic, with the end result being something of a homogeneous and somewhat generic overall look. Despite the art team’s efforts however, the seams delineating artist changeovers show in a number of instances and are outright distracting in a few cases where one artist’s depiction of a character is noticeably different from one by another artist (or the even worse, but thankfully rarer, cases when one artist’s depiction of one character looks like another artist’s depiction of a different character), requiring the reader to scan the dialogue to confirm the identity of the character—that’s not the kind of basic problem with the art one wants to see in a premium-priced hardcover. This complaint aside, the art is generally effective at the task of storytelling.

Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero is a reasonably entertaining standalone reading experience, more so than many movie tie-in comic books, primarily due to Beacham’s ability to make the reader care about the character arcs of the people who populate the book’s narratives. That being said, it is as a companion piece to the film that the volume truly shines: It provides additional background and character information that I initially thought would be ultimately inessential to my enjoyment of Pacific Rim, but now that I’ve read it, I feel like I’ve gained a much better and deeper understanding and appreciation of the film’s story and its characters. That’s probably as positive an endorsement as I can give to any movie tie-in comic.

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