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As Pacific Rim: Uprising approaches, it’s time to revisit everyone’s favorite mecha vs. kaiju franchise. Sure, you can rewatch the original movie. But what about the expanded universe?
As we’ve come to expect from director Guillermo del Toro, a lot of worldbuilding went into Pacific Rim. It’s ripe for spinoff materials (and fanfic), inspiring three comics so far. They’re short enough to read before the new movie comes out on March 23, so we’ve taken a look to see which ones are worth buying before the new movie and why.
Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero
Written by Pacific Rim screenwriter Travis Beacham, this graphic novel covers the first year of kaiju attacks on Earth. While most of the characters in the movie seem almost superhumanly smart and badass, they had to start somewhere. For instance, the technician Tendo Choi (Clifton Collins Jr.) was actually a ferry boat employee when the first kaiju appeared in San Francisco, showing how extraordinary circumstances can uproot a seemingly normal life.
Tales from Year Zero introduces younger versions of the main crew, including some welcome background for Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), and an origin story for the Jaeger program. While the art lacks the visual imagination of the movie, you can definitely hear echoes of the famous “canceling the apocalypse” speech in Stacker Pentacost’s dialogue.
Final verdict: A run-of-the-mill tie-in comic. Worth reading if you want to know more background before rewatching Pacific Rim, but ultimately we wouldn’t recommend it as a sci-fi/action comic in its own right.
Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift
Published in 2016, this is a true expansion of the Pacific Rim universe. Rather than focusing on characters we already know, it introduces a new Jaeger duo: the husband and wife team Duc and Kaori Jessup. With line art by Marcos Marz and colors by Marcelo Maiolo, it’s more aesthetically in line with the movie—exploding with color and powerful combat scenes, with moments of tenderness and whimsicality between the action.
Rather than just providing additional background on the movie (which is, let’s face it, the main point of Tales from Year Zero), this four-issue miniseries really digs into why we loved Pacific Rim. The kaiju/Jaeger fights are cool and imaginative, framing a story about Pacific Rim‘s most interesting conceit: the soulmate-like telepathic partnership between Jaeger pilots.
When Duc and Kaori first meet, they’re drift-compatible but don’t even speak the same language. We get to find out how they fell in love and became one of the greatest teams in the Jaeger program, bonding while fighting kaiju and sharing their memories in the drift.
Final verdict: Definitely the best Pacific Rim comic, with exactly the right balance of stylish visuals, epic battles, apocalyptic anxiety, and romance.
Pacific Rim: Aftermath
This six-issue miniseries is still in progress, acting as a prequel to the new movie. It obviously won’t be essential to follow what happens in Uprising, but it fills in some of the gaps between the two movies. It also introduces Stacker Pentecost’s son Jake (John Boyega), the most anticipated new character.
Although we see a few hints of Jake Pentecost’s role in the upcoming movie, the main highlight here is the worldbuilding. As a backdrop to its main action/adventure story, Pacific Rim introduced some intriguing ideas about how the kaiju attacks would impact human society. One was the creation of a kaiju-worshipping cult; another was the black market for kaiju specimens. Aftermath explores how these ideas evolved after the attacks stopped because the world definitely didn’t go back to normal. This is a post-apocalyptic landscape of a new kind. An entire generation of people grew up expecting the world to end, and when it didn’t, they had to figure out a new way to live.
Final verdict: Like Tales from Year Zero, this comic fleshes out some backstory that didn’t fit into movie. Recommended if you’re interested in Pacific Rim‘s internal history, Jake Pentecost’s backstory, or finding out what happened to Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) after the first movie.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor