‘Great Pacific’ Recycles The Real-Life Garbage Vortex Into a Sci-Fi Tale of Survival
On sale now from Image Comics is the first issue of Great Pacific, a new ongoing monthly series that reimagines the real-life horror that is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a massive, miles-wide pile of manmade plastics, chemicals and other debris floating in the Pacific Ocean — as the setting for a modern science fiction adventure. Created by Joe Harris and Martín Morazzo, the book follows the young heir to an oil fortune who seeks to cut his own path by conquering the monstrous gyre, which in Great Pacific is represented as an actual island of refuse twice the size of Texas, and founding his own sovereign nation. Unfortunately for him, what awaits the ambitious young billionaire on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is much more dangerous than just trash.
Just by virtue of its premise, Great Pacific serves to educate its readers about the very real and shameful situation in our oceans. Positioned in the waters between Hawaii and California, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — also known by cool sci-fi-style names like the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and the Pacific Trash Vortex — was created when human consumer waste met with the uniquely cyclical ocean winds and water currents of the region. More of an “archipelago of trash” than the island-like form seen in this comic, the vortex extends deep beneath the waters of the Pacific and is a major threat to ocean wildlife (and, consequently, to humans). The patch was previously the subject of a comic with Rachel Hope Allison’s I’m Not A Plastic Bag, a graphic novel that depicted the trash as a sympathetic, anthropomorphic character.
However, it’s obvious from just the first issue that Harris and Morazzo see Great Pacific as less a cautionary tale about the environment and more as a proper sci-fi survival tale in its own right. To that end, issue #1 is almost totally dedicated to introducing us to Great Pacific’s protagonist Chas Worthington, the 21-year-old heir to one of the biggest oil companies in America. Chas is disillusioned with the nihilistic state of American enterprise and wishes to model himself after Morgan and Rockefeller, who he saw as business leaders who made fortunes by solving problems that affected everybody. Because he’s seen as something of a lightweight by the company’s board of directors and the media at large, Chas tries to promote the business of cleaning up the mess the oil industry has made, and develops some revolutionary technologies to do so. But after setbacks cause the powers that be to dismiss him, Chas undertakes a secret plan to colonize the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
There’s more to Great Pacific than what I describe here. The story spends time creating a world in which such circumstances seem plausible, and we see in issue #1 that there are clandestine forces working against Chas for as yet unrevealed reasons. Future issues of Great Pacific see Chas discover that he’s hardly alone on the island of trash, and that threats to his survival go beyond the strange people who already live there. I’ll be reading to see what happens next.