Presented by Guillermo del Toro and written by Travis Beacham, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero serves as a prequel to Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ Pacific Rim.
Journalist Naomi Sokolov visits the Anchorage Shatterdome to interview Pan Pacific Defense Corps officers for a retrospective piece she’s writing about humanity’s battle against the Kaiju.
When she arrives, she meets Tendo Choi who reflects on his experiences during “K-Day” (August 10, 2013), the day of the first Kaiju attack in San Francisco. When the Kaiju Trespasser attacked he and his dock workers helped civilians onto boats to protect them from the monstrous beast. Choi then tells the reporter about his grandfather Yeye, who he managed to successfully rescue from Chinatown before Trespasser smashed it into oblivion.
This is the basic setup of the 112-page graphic novel by Beacham: Sokolov goes around interviewing key members of the human resistance, including Marshall Stacker Pentecost, and the rich, storied universe of del Toro’s Pacific Rim is fleshed out through a series of flashbacks. We glimpse a young Raleigh and Yancy Becket watching the K-Day attack unfold on TV while a young Mako Mori listens in terror as the first reports come across the radio.
The bulk of this prequel story, however, is devoted to Pentecost and Dr. Jasper Schoenfeld, creator of the Jaeger program. When the fourth attack hit Sydney, Australia, Schoenfeld was struck with a moment of inspiration when he saw his young son smashing and crashing his robot and monster toys against each other in his room. The key missing ingredient in fighting the Kaiju it seems was love.
The rest of Schoenfeld’s story involves former student and lover Caitlin Lightcap, whose Brain-Machine Interfaces would provide the backbone to unlocking the Jaeger program’s Drift process, allowing test pilots to engage in a neural handshake to operate the skyscraper-sized Jaegers.
Speaking of Pentecost, his K-Day memory takes place in London where he’s talking to his fighter pilot sister, Luna, on the phone. Lunda reveals that she’s at Vandenberg Air Force base, preparing to help the Unites States fight the strange beast attacking San Francisco.
When Stacker asks why, Luna says she volunteered – and reminds him of the United States coming to the aid of Great Britain during World War II. Luna dies on K-Day while trying to deliver a massive payload of Sidewinder missiles down Trespasser’s throat – thus leading to Pentecost’s haunted, stoic demeanor in del Toro’s film.
Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero is beautifully penciled by Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet, Pericles Junior, Chris Batista, and Geoff Shaw, with inks by Steve Bird, Mark McKenna, Pericles Junior, and Matt Banning, but ultimately this prequel novel is too short and fails to deliver the depth I was hoping for.
Marvel and Legendary Comics should have turned this into an ongoing series to compete with IDW’s Godzilla books. A hardcover graphic novel is an easy sell to fans of the movie looking to collect tie-in merchandise, but this story could have been better suited as a monthly comic or even a mini-series.
You do get a glimpse at some cool new monsters like Karloff, who gets its name because – you guessed it – the beast resembles Boris Karloff, but overall Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero falls short of being an epic, vital part of the universe Beacham and del Toro put on screen.
If you’re dying for more Kaiju vs. Jaeger action, this graphic novel offers a few little morsels, but ultimately you’re not missing out on much. Actually, Tales From Year Zero would make a pretty great animated series (similar to the Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: Clone Wars) but as a one-shot comic, it leaves a lot to be desired.