I’m learning to beware comics where the main draw is some wacky new concept. I’m all for seeing new ideas and trying to be original but a fresh concept on its own does not a story make. The line between “hook” and “gimmick” is largely down to how well it’s implemented- you can have the best hook in the world but if you have no idea what to do with it then your story is still gonna suck. Far more importantly, it’s rarely the concepts that sell a story. Most of my favourite works have plenty of new and original ideas in them, but they’re never the main point- they’re a backdrop against which a personal, interesting story can be told. They’re tools for shaping your world into something cool, not the end result. Neuromancer is often cited as being the book that defined virtual reality and made it into the trope it is today. But that’s not why it’s my favourite book, no, it’s my favourite because it isn’t even a book about virtual reality. It’s a book about a ridiculously elaborate heist and an insanely deep ploy by some evil AIs, which just happens to feature cyberspace and a whole bunch of other stuff as an added attraction. A good yarn with a human heart to it should always been the main draw of a story, and unfortunately Image’s Great Pacific really fails to deliver on this, despite having some interesting ideas to throw around.
The hook/gimmick is that in the near future the earth is so polluted that a new landmass has been formed somewhere in the pacific comprised entirely of non-biodegradable waste dumped into the sea by short-sighted oil companies. Protagonist Chas Worthington is the heir to one such business empire, but feels compelled to take a stand against pollution by faking his own death and staking out the garbage island as his own independent nation. So far so good right? Well, not really. First of all I have no idea why Chas decided to go and live on a mountain of waste. Maybe I missed something but how exactly is that going to achieve anything except make him smell a lot worse? A bigger problem is Chas himself. One of the most irritating protagonists I’ve encountered in recent memory, as a character he is also a lazily and badly put together mish-mash of a whole host of better characters. So he’s the heir to a massive fortune who secretly works for the good of the humanity, but the rest of the world views him as a drunken billionaire playboy. Remind you of anyone? Worse, he’s not even remotely believable. He spends most of the volume calling everyone “darlin’” and making lame wisecracks about whatever mortal peril he happens to be in. Plus he’s ginger. That shouldn’t bother me, but it does.
Once Chas has been dumped on the dump island and the sole interesting thing in the premise has happened (which is done by the end of issue 1), Great Pacific solves the problem of what to do next by trying to do a million things at once. Chas and his posse have barely set foot on the rubbish isle before they are beset by a conveyer belt of random enemies: a giant squid, a hot French chick, pirates, navy seals, indigenous peoples etc. Ok the giant squid is pretty fun (when is putting a giant squid in a story NOT a good idea?) but HOW THE HECK DOES A RECENTLY FORMED ISLAND OF FLOATING JUNK HAVE AN INDIGINOUS POPULATION? These bouts of action and bad wisecracks are separated by cutting back to the rest of the Worthington clan sitting in meetings talking about share prices and stuff, which is as perfunctory and dull as it sounds. Even with these interludes Great Pacific still feels breathless and out of control, as we’re flung from one nonsensical set piece to another. I get that non-stop action adventure can work well- if you do it right you get something like Saga where tension builds and releases brilliantly and twists and turns are really felt because you’re given enough time to absorb everything. Here I was just impatient for all the unnecessary fight scenes to bloody well finish so that some actual PLOT could happen. There was just so much stuff happening that at no point could any actual stuff happen.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Hey, at least the art is ok! Sort of? …Right? Aside from the characters, none of whom have facial expression even vaguely resembling actual human emotion, the drawings are well done. It certainly doesn’t look like anything else out there. That’s probably because no one else would want to look like their comic is set on an endless sea of rubbish, but whatever. I’d be lying if I said the look of the comic was pleasing to the eye, and I guess that’s the point. Still, if you’re going to set your story on a floating landfill in the name of environmental commentary then fair play to you, but you’re going to spend a heck of a lot of time drawing old tires and milk bottles, and also your comic is going to be UGLY. And also, there isn’t a whole lot of environmental commentary going on. So far, there isn’t really a lot of ANYTHING going on.
Ok, its early days. Great Pacific does have an original and promising premise and I’m inclined to give most first-in-series’ the benefit of the doubt since it could well develop into something interesting. But taken by itself Volume 1 really didn’t do it for me. I guess if someone bought me volume 2 I wouldn’t be too disappointed, but I can’t say I’m chomping at the bit to see where the story goes next, despite quite a cool cliffhanger at the end. Whilst calling Great Pacific a great big pile of rubbish would be going a bit too far, given the subject matter it’s too perfect an opportunity to pass up, so here goes.
Great Pacific is a great big pile of rubbish.