The Guillermo del Toro 2013 feature Pacific Rim was easily one of the most fun movies to come out in the past few years. Taking influence from tokusatsu, Pacific Rim was an original, optimistic, and diverse action movie where giant monsters were trying to destroy the world and humanity came together to create giant robots to stop them. It embraced its concept wholeheartedly and delivered wonderfully both in story and in visuals.
Unfortunately, the same cannot really be said of the first issue of Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift.
The second Pacific Rim comic to come out after the graphic novel Tales from Year Zero, Tales from the Drift tells the story of Mark-1 jaeger Tacit Ronin and its pilots Duc and Kaori Jessop. The comic opens in the middle of a fight in 2016, where the Jessops are struggling in a fight with a Kaiju named Itak. As the two fall out of consciousness during their drift, the reader is treated with flashbacks to the incident that caused the two to meet.
There are parts of the comic that are really neat. The panel layout during the fight scenes with Itak is really interesting and keeps a good flow to the comic. Maiolo’s colors are gorgeous and really give atmosphere to the story, especially the reds and blues that surround the Jessops in the Conn-Pod. The Jessops are the true centerpiece of the comic though. With their constant back and forth and old married couple style bickering, it’s easy to see how they became jaeger pilots in the first place and their story will be worth coming back for future issues.
However, everything else about this comic feels kind of phoned in. There’s nothing particularly offensive or terrible about it, but there’s nothing that makes it truly stand out on the comic shelf either. The art by Marz is this weird painterly style that doesn’t seem to commit to details. Well, there are details where it counts, like with the fight with Itak and whenever the Jessops take a hit, but most of the comic feels like it was put through some sort of filter where you can remember the shapes of things and faces, but not quite the details. That would be cool if it just only applied in the drift flashback sequences, but it feels like that for the entire comic.
Plu, there’s nothing visually that distinguishes the Drift from the rest of the comic. Yes, film and comics are different mediums, but it feels like Fialkov and Marz missed a good opportunity to do things with the Drift that the film couldn’t do. Play more with color. Add inconsistencies between how Kaori remembers it versus how Duc remembers it. Put them at risk of “chasing the rabbit” and play with the visuals of memory. Practice some non-linear storytelling as the Jessops bounce around their own memories of each other. Instead, the reader is treated to a bland run of the mill flashback sequence that, while it tells a lot about our pilots, adds nothing to the lore of The Drift. And this is supposed to be the core of the miniseries?
The story also feels a bit weird for a first issue, as if you’re coming into a story already in progress. There’s probably some expectation that you’re already a Pacific Rim fan reading the story, so you don’t need a rundown of how everything works, but to already toss into a losing fight feels strange and like you’ve somehow missed an issue before it. Tales from Year Zero is a graphic novel with mixed reaction from critics and fans alike, but it at least used framing devices to its advantage to tell its story and re-introduce the reader to the universe. Tales from the Drift just feels like it’s resting too hard on the source material.
While there are some potentially interesting characters and nice use of color in the comic, Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift #1 feels like a whole lot of nothing. It’s visually uninteresting and doesn’t seem to want to take any risks storywise with its core concept. It’s not even empty calories. It’s just a straight empty canteen in the desert that is a world without a sequel to Pacific Rim, and that’s somehow even more disappointing than if that canteen was just filled with Kaiju Blue.