Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero
Tales From Year Zero is a trilogy of linked short stories, written by Travis Beacham, the screenwriter of Pacific Rim . They do exactly what the title implies; exploring the immediate aftermath of the Trespasser Event, the development of the Jaeger program and the start of the Kaiju War. A raft of artists have contributed work to the book and the only mildly frustrating thing about it is they aren’t credited anywhere outside the end papers. Don’t get me wrong, they all do good work and their styles mesh remarkably well but it’d be nice to know who did what.
That aside, this is a great piece of work. The story follows Naomi Sokolov, a reporter assigned to cover the Pan Pacific Defence Corps’ members even as the organisation is being cut away beneath them. In doing so she not only interacts with the set up for the movie, but also three of its characters. As she talks to them, she learns about the dreadful events of K-Day, the human cost and why these people fight.
You’ll get plenty of giant mecha vs Kaiju smackdown here, but it’s the people, I promise, who will stay with you. Opening with Tendo Choi, a member of the central control staff, Naomi’s story follows him through the horrific events of K-Day, his attempts to save his grandfather and what happened to San Francisco. She uses the name of her piece, “Why We Fight” as a question and Tendo’s answer tells you everything you need to know about him and the human cost of the war. It’s a quiet, sombre opening and it’s clear that this is not the standard giant monster movie.
Doctor Schoenfeld, the inventor of the Jaegers, is up next and his answer is very, very different. This is the most upbeat of the three pieces, a story of romance during war time that focuses on Schoenfeld, old girlfriend Doctor Caitlin Lightcap and the role she played in the early war. Unrequited, and extremely requited, love collide with the main science fiction ideas of the movie in a story that’s equal parts sweet, brave and oddly tragic. The human cost Tendo talks about is present here, but in a very different way. Schoenfeld is a man at the top of his career and he knows it. He’ll go no further than this and the real breakthrough was made by the one person he loved and lost. It’s a delicate, complex story that folds in the Jaeger control mechanism, the relationship between Schoenfeld and Lightcap, love during wartime, a fist fight with a kaiju and Stacker Pentecost.
Pentecost is the connective tissue between each story as well as the book and the film. He’s also in the spotlight for the final story. It combines the themes of loss, love and duty that run through Choi and Schoenfeld’s, turning them into something new: honour. It follows Pentecost through his forcible removal from active duty, the adoption of his daughter and his new role as head of the Jaeger pilot academy. Characters from the film are scattered through the story but it’s Pentecost who you keep coming back to. His quiet, dignified approach to everyone from Naomi to his charges is equal parts compassionate and authoritative and the authority he has on screen is also there on the page. Where Choi and Schoenfeld use the pain of their wounds to motivate them, Pentecost builds a new life for himself and finds the strength to face his old one. It’s a gentle, poignant way to end the book that, once again, somehow manages to fit a giant mecha/monster fistfight in as well.
Tales From Year Zero is a fantastic compliment to the movie and a touching story in its own right. The art teams all turn in great work, Beacham has an instinctive eye for page design and dialogue and all three stories have some real emotional punch to them. Why do we fight? Everyone has their reasons, all excellent. Three of the best answers are in here.