Ok, confession time. There’s actually a literal mountain of new books on my bedside table waiting to be dissected (not unlike this time last year) but circumstances involving university work, personal commitments and complete, sheer and unadulterated laziness (which I blame on the pre-summer Australian heat) have gotten in the way of diving into new and exciting things. Those of you who prefer my current reviews rather than ruminating on old-hand titles will probably want to skip this weekend – and before anyone asks, yes, the Death of the Family review will be next week. Promise. Maybe.
Instead, let’s take a look at an indie title from earlier this year that I actually didn’t like. Y’see, I have a ritual every time Free Comic Book Day rolls around in May, which is to pick at least one book off the shelf from a title or character I’ve never read before. In 2011 it was Daredevil, and 2012 introduced me to the wonder that is Animal Man. Far from making a hat trick of awesome new books for this annual practice, 2013 provided me with Great Pacific.
Ok, I also picked up the first volume of Transmetropolitan which turned out to be an infinitely better FCBD New Series substitute, but Great Pacific was bought with the specific intent to keep my ritual going. So, for that reason, I can label it as having upset the trend.
The premise is simple – really rich dude whose name I cannot remember off the top of my head ends up dissatisfied with the corporate lifestyle, and opts instead to go into the eponymous Pacific Ocean and start his own country. Y’know, as you do. Unfortunately for him, the country he sets up is situated on top of a giant mass of floating plastic that has congealed in the middle of the ocean like the remains of several melted aquatic snowmen. Apparently this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (which is a real-world thing – go Google it and stare in horror at what you uncover) which the main character wants to colonise because…uhm…he really wants people to look at it?
I dunno, one of the big problems this book has – and trust me, there are several – is a distinct lack of coherency. Rich Guy settles on the Garbage Patch with his best friend Idiot Face in hopes of drawing attention to the situation in the Pacific Ocean, but the most that really happens on that front is that some weird government types not dissimilar to the CIA get sent to take him down. There are also some board meetings at Rich Guy’s company where they talk about ousting him from their board of directors, then some dude that Rich Guy knows turns up to take care of things, then there’s a giant squidtopus that may or may not be capable of understanding English, then there’s a tribe of plastic-mass-dwelling nomads who try to kill Rich Guy, then French mercenaries show up–
Stop. Hold it. What?
Stuff happens in this book, but it’s so disconnected from entertainment that it ends up being white noise. There’s substantial weight given to some kind of myth arc involving the aforementioned nomads and the squidtopus they apparently worship, but it moves by so quickly and is so very incongruous from the main story of Neo-Greenpace exploits that it almost feels like writer Joe Harris is telling two different stories. One of the blurbs for this story touts it as a science fiction story the same way some would consider An Inconvenient Truth as sci-fi; meaning it’s actual fiction about science, rather than with robots and Blade Runner-style hairdos. If that’s true, I can’t decide whether the fiction lies in turning a giant mass of congealed plastic into a floating island nation or in having Fremen-esque Native American tribesmen living on it. Because, however you slice it, the highly intelligent squidtopus is clearly based on fact.
I actually had to struggle to remember a lot of this book months after reading it, which is never a good sign. At least if it’s a terrible book I can remember details vividly, if only for the wrong reasons, and write accordingly. If it’s good I can sing its praises until my larynx resembles a mangled chew toy. Boring, middle-range books just sit too much on the fence to be interesting or memorable, and that’s the part of the curve where Great Pacific‘s story sits. I get the feeling Harris is trying his damnedest to give us an Aesop – possibly that littering’s bad? – but it becomes so overwrought and so buried in the almost farcical elements that it’s nigh-impossible to take seriously. Yes, we know the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is bad. Yes, we know humans are ass hats. Yes, we love squidtopus. Thank you. Now if you could give us some actual story, that’d be gravy.
Artwork isn’t much better. Martin Morazzo isn’t the worst illustrator I’ve seen in recent memory, but as with the story his work kind of fades into the background of my mind. The oft-mentioned squidtopus is nicely articulated and probably the most memorable part of the book, but there’s nothing that excites or makes me want to see more of it. There are plenty of books that I read almost solely for the artwork (such as anything by John Cassaday, even if it were to turn out that Daniel Way is the one writing it) and this would not be one of them. Big elements like artwork that fail to grab my attention don’t score well when I’m looking for B-list books to buy with my Christmas money.
Similarly, neither does the dialogue. It’s…well, how to put his delicately? It’s crap. I laughed a grand total of maaaaaybe once (and I think it was a scene involving that damned squidtopus) and the rest of the time scanned through the dialogue like a production line of photocopiers. Almost all the characters are either idiots, evil or both, and if it weren’t for a few distinct visual features – mostly delineated by age or hair colour, which aren’t great separators for remembering different characters – they’d all be completely interchangeable. Part of the reason I can’t remember anybody’s name is because they’re all flat, lifeless and unamusing characters that do nothing to stick in my mind. At least the two-dimensional villain President Truman in Manhattan Projects gave me things to remember him by. His fabulous headdress, for one. So I guess what I’m saying is that if characters want to be distinct in my memory, they need to wear an awesome headdress.
What I’m actually saying at the end of the day is that Great Pacific does nothing for me. It’s not offensive enough to land in the Bottom 5 of the year, but it doesn’t do enough to at least make me want to see where the story goes next. I will say, in deference to previous books this year like East of West and Lazarus, it actually does quite a bit towards somewhat standing on its own rather than being the opening chapters of a very long story. Problem there, though, is that I actually like those two opening chapters, while Great Pacific just bores me. It’s not the worst thing you could possibly read, but you won’t want to return for Round 2. Not, at least, while there are things like the new Thor series to read.
On that note, have you seen the new movie? How great was that ending? Especially that very last scene where-
PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS
BEST QUOTE: “[There’s] no anchor holding the plastic crust in place save the chaotic, unrelenting forces of the very Earth it’s grown upon like a cancer. Ain’t that a kick in the balls?” – Chas Worthington (the Rich Guy)