One movie reviewer commented that the Pacific Rim movie watched like a sequel to a previous movie that the filmmakers forgot to make. This was possibly due to its quick prologue, which summed up the movie’s tagline (“To fight monsters we created monsters”) via disaster montage and then fast forwarded to the present of the movie’s story.
The graphic novel prequel Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero by Travis Beacham aims to fill the gap left by that prologue. As audience goes, it’s primarily for readers who think Pacific Rim was the best use of Hollywood resources EVER, but also agree with that reviewer in that the film could have used a bit more character development and backstory.
For those who are unfamiliar with Pacific Rim, here is its premise: Enormous monsters called Kaiju have come to earth through an inter-dimensional rift and plan on wiping out humanity because plot. Lacking any effective defense, humanity builds giant robots called Jaegers to fight them, and then they wail on each other for two hours. There is more to the story than that, but ultimately it comes down to “GIANT ROBOTS VS. GIANT MONSTERS,” and if you’re looking for more than that, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero is not for you.
As the graphic novel’s title suggests, its story begins when the first Kaiju attacks and proceeds to cover the development of the first Jaegers, along with the emotional tumult that the characters go through when creating them. Overall, it’s a better-than-average book. For a story that moves as quickly as it does, it manages to pack in a lot of good character moments, with some of the most memorable characters being those who don’t even get that much page time (Not to say that they’re characters that will be memorable beyond the book—because they won’t—but they’re neat while they’re in the story). When characters from the movie eventually show up, their actions and dialogue are consistent with those of their movie selves. This is even true of fan-favorite Stacker Pentecost, the subtle bada** whose appeal in the movie was so intrinsically tied to Idris Elba’s performance. The art is a bit higher-quality than one would expect of a simple movie tie-in—stylish, with a few really good, high-action panel arrangements—but nothing spectacular for the reader spoiled on most recent comic art. It’s a quick read, and worth it if you already like Pacific Rim. However, how much you like the graphic novel itself will depend upon your reaction to this final point: There’s almost no Jaeger vs. Kaiju action in this thing.
This is logical, since the Jaegers only barely exist at this point in the story’s chronology, but readers who were hoping for continuous giant-monster-face-punching action like that seen in the movie will be sorely disappointed. The few combat scenes that exist are well-illustrated, which somewhat makes up for the general lack, but ultimately, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero is more interested in its characters than its Kaiju. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I didn’t notice the lack of action until I’d finished the book, I was so distracted by everything else. Still, it’s a bit jarring in retrospect, since so much of the movie’s appeal rests in its over-the-top action sequences.
Ultimately, though, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero is a good little read. It’s not likely to be remembered, even by the movie’s most enthusiastic fans, but it’s a fun way for a fan to spend an hour while wishing for Pacific Rim 2.