Infatuated with Ayn Rand, Great Pacific’s debut issue is nothing short of self-righteous. While the interior of the front cover provides a necessary infodump on the Pacific Gyre (the real clump of garbage floating in the Ocean), the closing line of that summary sets the stage for the pages to follow: “One man, Chas Worthington, sees an opportunity.” In fact, that is all Joe Harris and Martín Morazzo see as well.
Effectively, this environmental aberration, which the next issue blurb dubs “New Texas” (based off its size), is teased as the next great step in colonialism and capitalism. In a flash forward, billionaire heir Chas is lying in a pond, torn up and alone. He gets squawked at by a two-headed seagull, and then arises for a spread showing the enormity of his surroundings. Jagged, chaotic, and looking like it could give one tetanus, the island is recognizable with its abundance of plastic bottles and other human refuse. Yet, the way these quotidian pieces come together is very alien. There’s an epic, John Cassaday scope Morazzo gives to the Gyre, suggesting time and Mother Nature eventually turn a mound of trash into something beautiful. It briefly captures the otherworldly charm of Paul Chadwick’s The World Below.
Like that woefully cut-short series, Great Pacific is really about exploitation. Previously uncharted worlds being explored in the interest of the mega-rich. The crew in World Below often found themselves against creatures that took control of them in some form or another (parasites in one issue, humanoid lords in another), and questioned their own motives for exploring the unknown. Great Pacific, however, just see exploitation as a new way forward (when really it’s the old way of standing still). Harris writes Chas as well-intentioned corporate maverick, with shades of Tony Stark and Garrett Hedlund’s role from Tron: Legacy (Chas pranks his company, too). His eccentric playboy lifestyle, however, leaves him with a sickly uncle and his boyhood friend Alex as the only ones to take him seriously. It’s through this plotline, and a secret plan to take the Gyre, that Great Pacific shows its Objectivist colors.
As with all Randian protagonists, everything Chas does is really about himself. Hunting with a Kenyan tribe, testing a safer method of oil extraction, even visiting his uncle is about him and his legacy. Harris, through narration and dialogue, opines regularly about having to “take what is not offered.” Morazzo even draws Chas, the uncle, and Alex with the angular features of a Steve Dillon character (their enemies are given more rounded faces) to complete the image of Rand’s captains of industry. Chas’ quest parallels Atlas Shrugged, with its rule-breaking tycoon squirreling away to a remote location and telling the world to screw itself.
Great Pacific’s endorsement of Chicago school economics (“It doesn’t take a bleeding heart to save the world, goddamnit. It takes a profit motive.”) is backed up with Chas being told how great he is by people we’re meant to identify as “the good ones” (those angular features). Like Dan Slott’s soon-to-be Superior Spider-Man, Chas is depicted as the greatest in spite of everyone else’s opinion, but clearly desiring they get in line to praise him. Rather than address ethics or larger philosophical questions, as in World Below or The Massive, Harris and Morazzo choose a boy’s fantasy of conquest and riches (notice that the only woman with a speaking part is a secretary giving exposition; the rest are off-page freeloaders). It recasts their haunting, existential opening in a more triumphant light–the boy seizing his destiny to become a man.
What results is a comic typical in an industry obsessed with rugged individuals. Any ethos is cover for self-congratulation, every good a careful marketing ploy. In this regard, Great Pacific is every bit the insular product of the comic industry’s gated community as superhero title from Marvel or DC. More refuse for the Great Man theory’s trash heap.