Jul 16, 2013

[Comics] Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero

As discussed in yesterday's review of the movie, I totally enjoyed watching Pacific Rim. It's a great summer blockbuster that celebrates giant robots fighting giant monsters and little else. It's simple and direct to the point without becoming stupid and insulting. It knows what it wanted to be and it set out to accomplish precisely that - and quite well, too.

While reading up on the movie and its massive Jaegers, I found out that a prequel comic had been released for the movie as well. Given the movie does end up depicting events much later in the war, I have to admit that I was rather curious about learning more about the world that the writers had created for this movie. And you have to admit, the opening sequence certainly set up an interesting picture of this near-future world, although it was certainly the quick and dirty version that one tells on the fly. It was just enough to set up the movie but not quite enough to truly sate our appetites.

But movie prequels are certainly a mixed bag, what more comic book adaptations of popular fiction. Movies and comics are completely different forms of media after all and we have different expectations for each.

I just wanted more giant robots.

Synopsis: Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero is a prequel comic written by Travis Beacham with art by Sean Chen. His art style is decent enough, but don't set the bar too high just because Alex Ross did the cover.

The book is about 120 pages so it's more like a comic book annual than a single issue. And just like a comic book annual, the book covers three different stories set during the start of the war with the Kaiju. Each story focuses on a key individual in the way, and eventually the movie when you really think about it.

K-Day is centered around Tendo Choi as a journalist comes to interview Tendo and learn more about the beginnings of the way. Thus he talks about where he was when the first Kaiju attacked San Francisco and he raced to save his grandfather.

Turn of the Tide focuses on Dr. Jasper Scoenfeld, a non-movie character but the man credited for conceiving the Jaegers in the first place. Thus we learn about how he tried to figure out a proper defense against the Kaiju and how his son's toy ultimately inspired the idea of giant robots. What else would make sense, right?

The last story is The Bond as centered around Marshall Stacker Pentecost and he talks about how he left the combat arena and became an instructor of new Jaeger pilots. And naturally this lead to him eventually handling the rather wild brothers Yancy and Raleigh Beckett, who later become key players in the movie.

Despite the distinct nature of the stories of the comic, they writer made sure to have a lot of cross-referencing going on. Thus while he hear about how Tendo survived the attack on San Francisco, we all get these jumps to glimpse what the Beckett brothers were doing when the news broke and even the very young Mako Mori. And we continue playing the game of how only these characters are important given that it was Stacker Pentecost who helped test the first Pons headset to try and control the robot mechanisms.

I get the value in wanting to highlight the movie characters more, but at the end of the day sometimes it does not make much sense to cut away to see what two kids were doing at the time that the apocalypse was starting, so to speak.

And while I respect how this is prequel comic set at the beginning of the way when the Jaegers were still being developed, it still felt like a major letdown not to have a lot of Jaeger fights in the comic. I mean come on, would it have been too difficult to feature some of the Mark I's facing off against the first Kaiju? Did we really need that last story that talks about the bond between brothers and ultimately the connection needed in the Drift? When I pick up a comic book that promises to be set in a fictional universe that features giant robots killing giant monsters, I expect to get my giant robots!

Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero is par for the course for these movie-related comics. In other words, it features information that is nice to know but not necessarily essential to your enjoyment of the movie itself. And given the prices for this comic start at $19.99 for the digital edition on comiXology, I don't think you're getting good value for your money here. Still, the book at least deserves 3 non-Jaeger stories out of a possible 5, just to show I appreciate their efforts to expand on their world-building.

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