There are those out there who would have you believe that Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 masterpiece, Pacific Rim, has no place in the realm of comic books. Plain and simple. These are the same individuals that will tell you that Image Comics is the last bastion for creative ideas, that DC and Marvel titles are phoned-in books that only persist because of the publisher’s respective legacies, and that established franchises without an origin in comic books are only interested in the medium as a means of increasing their brand’s footprint. Not unlike the subject of its title, Legendary Comics’ miniseries Pacific Rim: Tales From the Drift is neither a superfluous “cash grab,” nor a paragon of franchise adaptation. Like the Drift, the comic exists somewhere in the nebulous confluence of the two.

This confusion is apparent, starting with the issue of attribution on the title page itself. It touts the pedigree of being “presented by” the film’s director (del Toro), with the “story” from Travis Beacham, the film’s screenwriter. Complicating this is the addition of Joshua Fialkov (The Life After, The Bunker) as the actual writer of the book. Anyone who is sufficiently capable at “reading between the lines” will naturally question the level of del Toro and Beacham’s contributions beyond the creation of the source material, but said speculation (be it warranted or not) comes with the territory.

Marcos Marz's covers are absolutely gorgeous.

Marcos Marz’s covers are absolutely gorgeous.

Concerns of whom to praise/damn aside, the miniseries thankfully does not lazily transpose the film into print, or eat up pages regurgitating scenes readers are more than familiar with. Given the original film’s conclusion (as well as the week-to-week uncertainty of a sequel materializing), Beacham and company opted for a narrative that takes place roughly three years after the first kaiju attack, and a decade before Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) rejoins the PPDC as a Jaeger pilot. Not that the book spells this out in painstaking detail; it took several context clues, some basic math, and a visit or two to the Pacific Rim wikia to properly contextualize this series.

So while those who eagerly lap up “canon morsels” will get an opportunity for such, Fialkov is careful not to alienate readers who have paid the price of admission, to watch the unparalleled spectacle of giant robots rocket punching and plasma blastin’ monsters of a proportionate size into a viscous gooey mess. Thankfully, Tales From the Drift has a laissez faire approach to the action sequences, leaving them largely free of captions and speech bubbles, onomatopoeias and the like. Concurrent interaction between the Jaeger pilots is smartly handed via embedded sub-panels, which leaves the large-scale action uncluttered, allows for facial emoting, and generally keeps things from veering towards a Transformers level of confusion. Simply put, Tales From the Drift understands that “action sequence” is not synonymous with “sensory overload.”

Yup, for those interested, this book has a whole lot of this going on.

However, it bears mention that Fialkov and Beacham’s miniseries, much like the film, is more than a gussied up bout of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, with Tokyo as a backdrop. Ultimately, it’s about the brave souls that voluntarily strap themselves into these weaponized colossi, and the quest for “Drift compatibility” between them. Those familiar with the film will recall that the Drift is a mind-melding state in which pilots share the neural load of the Jaeger, as well as their memories and thoughts. As one might expect, this connection is most readily established between family members…but as Raleigh and Mako demonstrated, sometimes this bond transcends the usual suspects of genetics and blood, culture and upbringing.

While that undoubtedly made for a compelling film, Beacham’s biggest blunder is that Tales From the Drift comes across as a bizarre act of self-cribbing. This go-round, the Caucasian male is named Duc, and the Japanese female is named Kaori. Both have previously served in some capacity against the kaiju threat, and both have serious questions regarding the other’s capability to be a successful Jaeger pilot. And yes, once they enter the Drift and consequently bear their souls (and minds) to one another, they learn to work as a team. Sound familiar? Perhaps excessively familiar? In addition, the narrative of these first three issues also borrows heavily from the story arc of another of the film’s characters…which wouldn’t be as noticeable if they weren’t actually discussed with the character himself. From a “big picture” standpoint, the story of Tales From the Drift feels more like a microcosmic retread of the film than its prequel, a reshuffling of the parts and elements that made up the movie…to the point that the trajectory of next month’s final issue almost feels unavoidable.

Of course, one can still salvage a predictable plot if its execution is trusted to a fantastic writer, and Joshua Fialkov is certifiably such. From page one onwards, Fialkov’s script is a completely dialogue-driven affair that shirks any temptation of narration or contextual captions of any sort. It’s a move indicative of a seasoned scribe, one trusting of his audience’s intelligence, as well as his art team’s ability to deliver. He also understands that if there’s one element that the film frequently discussed but rarely explored or visualized, it’d be the Drift.

It's just insane that this is the very same artist. Marcos Marz is the real deal.

It’s just insane that this is the very same artist. Marcos Marz is the real deal.

Fialkov hones in on the darker aspects of this manmade construct, notably its reality-blurring properties and the perils of becoming too deeply entrenched within the simulacrum. Indeed, sometimes with the turn of the page, sometimes within the same panel, the book fluidly slides in and out of the Drift, without any blatant indications. As a reader, one’s left to piece together this cleverly jumbled up narrative, and discern reality from memory, as Duc and Kaori attempt to do the same. Admittedly, it can make for a first read that’s equal bits jarring and disorienting, but one has to believe that’s exactly the intended effect Fialkov was shooting for.

Thankfully, while this non-linear narrative might test the will of those who prefer an “A to B to C” reading experience, and others may balk at its likeness to its cinematic forebear, Fialkov’s no-nonsense dialogue makes for a page-turner that’ll at least have you reaching the back cover before raising any complaints. And while it’s true that other works by Fialkov (such as The Bunker or I, Vampire) tend to demand more on the letterer’s behalf, his “less is more” approach for Tales From the Drift works well. Especially one in which the two main (and largely, only) characters are not only husband and wife, but have also poked and prodded into the deepest recesses of each other’s minds. This sort of connection not only allows for a large amount of direct or unspoken interaction, but also frees Fialkov of the obligation to engage in any sort of expository conversation, the likes of which would hinder the book’s pace. Simply put, he knows you’ve watched the movie, and isn’t about to bog down his book to offer up a refresher. Want a refresher? It’s called Pacific Rim.

panelwork

I absolutely love how the panelwork reflects the chaos and disorder of the action scene.

Of course, this book’s breakneck pace, or its constant distortion of reality wouldn’t be possible without a stellar art team (which can be difficult to wrangle when you’re as small as Legendary Comics happens to be). So while it’s true that penciler Marcos Marz (Blackest Night: JSA) hasn’t had the “in-demand” workload, or possesses the name recognition that artists such as Chaing, Capullo, or Staples do, he’s a perfect fit for what Tales From the Drift demands. That’d be someone who is capable of rendering the nuances of human emotion as well as gigantic robot-on-monster violence. Usually in a scenario such as this, something has to give, and it becomes painfully evident just what is well within the artist’s wheelhouse…and what may not come naturally.

Marz’s work, however, will have one flipping back to the credits page just to ensure that Legendary didn’t bring a different artist on board for the Drift/non-Jaeger sequences. They didn’t. The same guy that delivers the kinetic big panel pages of gracefully streamlined Jaegers in action, is the very same individual that presents us with an ethereal and dreamlike depiction of the Drift. The breadth of Marz’s work is not to be understated. Equally impressive is Marz’s execution of Tales From the Drift’s diverse panel work, which runs the gamut from neat 2×3 pages, to ones laden with overlapping asymmetrical panels of varying sizes.

The artwork by Marz and Maiolo is absolutely stunning, and I love the subtle fading out of the Drift in those last two panels.

The artwork by Marz and Maiolo is absolutely stunning, and I love the subtle fading out of the Drift in those last two panels.

While Marz’s work was a pleasant surprise from a relative unknown, it was Marcelo Maiolo’s consistently stellar (and flagrantly underrated) color work that perfectly accented every panel. Sure, we got Maiolo’s signature move: accentuating panels by desaturating all color, save one solid tone (a technique that was breathtakingly utilized in his Green Arrow run with Jeff Lemire). While the flourish isn’t blatantly overused in Tales From the Drift, it’s better suited for Andrea Sorrentino’s pencils.

Still, Maiolo’s Midas-like touch manages to radiate throughout the issues in subtler ways. One example would be his ability to articulate the claustrophobic panic of the Jaeger cockpit through the blinding neon displays and viscous swirling solid color clouds of radioactive gas, and it’s enough to give one pause before enlisting in the Pan Pacific Defense Corps. Another would be his use of unnervingly serene pastels for the Drift, bringing calm as well as a hard shift to the book tonally, while his use of grays for the spectral Jaegers and kaiju in the backdrop grimly hint at the reality that awaits.

Maiolo's colors just add so much atmosphere to this book.

Maiolo’s colors just add so much atmosphere to this book.

Ultimately, Pacific Rim: Tales From the Drift #1-3 does manage to give us a glimpse of that bizarre realm that exists somewhere between memory and reality, past and present. However, these wonderfully imagined sequences are only moments within an overarching narrative, one that, as delightfully scrambled as it is, is not entirely made up of original parts. On several occasions, Tales From the Drift comes across like the architects of this miniseries played a game of Mad Libs with Pacific Rim’s script…and didn’t even bother changing several of the blanks from their default “answers.” That’s not to say that Fialkov, Marz, and Maiolo didn’t salvage what they could from this initial premise, as it’s an engaging read that’s lavishly illustrated on all fronts. These days, Pacific Rim fans will likely appreciate any revisiting of said franchise…but while there’s no doubting the devotion of Tales From the Drift to its source material, its contributions to said lore are somewhat questionable.

Overall Score
92 %

The overarching story leaves something to be desired. However, Fialkov's script is a riveting read that's bolstered by stellar pencils on the part of Marz, and topped off by Maiolo's unique color work.

Story 84%
Writing 93%
Pencils 95%
Colors 95%

About The Author

Growing up, Nick White dreamed of a career with the Chicago Bulls. This is because he was young and stupid, and his parents were of the "you can do ANYTHING" mentality.

When he was older, and probably not a whole lot smarter, Nick purchased Alan Moore's From Hell on a whim (that in itself probably says a lot). He was astounded to find that comics were as bizarre and twisted as his beloved Twin Peaks. After that he bought Batman: The Black Mirror strictly on the cover's aesthetics (Who the hell is Scott Snyder?" he said) and hasn't looked back since. Except, of course, in situations that necessitate such.

When he's not "busy" playing Castlevania or harassing Zander about what he ought to be reading, Nick continues to work on his makeshift shrine to Jeff Lemire.

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