Generally I am handicapped about two kinds of komiks: the ones from the Culture Crash era (because I’m new to komiks in general and started during the Mangaholix era) and the ones affiliated with Gilbert Monsanto. The second being all the komiks widely or narrowly associated with the Sacred Mountain team and/or Bayan Knights. Which is a lot by now. I was able to track up to the first three releases of Bayan Knights, but life happened, Sacred Mountain kept releasing new issues, and I found myself impossibly too late to catch up. (Nonetheless this will start to be fixed already in the near future at a Planet X near me.)
Another handicap is that my orientation is anime and manga; that is, my heroes are typically normal-muscled and young, and with powers that need honing with hard work even if inherent. (Case in point: I am a solid fan of Himura Kenshin, who is one of the smaller and more unimposing heroes of comics history, having to rely purely on native skill and hard-earned experience.) What I know of the Western side of comics, I know from TV shows and movies.
Kalayaan, therefore, got pushed back so often, me being intimidated by both the presence of so many released issues and it being a superhero story. When I found this compilation at a National Bookstore, though, I decided it really should be getting read already. So it got bought.
After helping genetic engineer Rhea Calalang out of a tight situation, John dela Vega, a well-built young man from a poor background, cooperates with semi-dangerous Project Kalayaan. Rhea wants a superhuman to deal with the nation’s wrongs as a personal vendetta, John just wants to help people as a somebody. But as new hero Kalayaan gets the attention of some alien and foreign bad guys, this may not be as simple as they both initially thought.
Granted the first four issues show the early stages of the Kalayaan story, so I’m pretty sure whatever problems were present art-wise in these (messy paneling, cramped speech balloons, proportion problems, pencil lines that make it to final) have been improved in later issues. Gilbert Monsanto was very right to see much potential in these first releases, and to give his full support. It was rough, but the idea and the plan were more than right.
I have a few objections against Rhea being such a damsel-in-distress in key points, but all the same I appreciate that Rhea is the boss of the operation, not the waysided princess-love-interest. Also appreciated is John’s background, which is definitely Pinoy. It’s not rich-boy traumatic, neither is it absurdly-poor-pity-me depressing, the way it is with most Western comics. I loved that John’s weakness is himself and his past, not some external factor. It makes him relatable and human. The story of course runs like your typical superhero story, with bad guys causing trouble now and then, but this angle to the superhero and his love interest is a twist from the usual and makes you want to follow despite the stereotypes.
This therefore leaves me with a big financial and logistical problem: I need to find eight more issues of this thing to finish. Because I’m invested now, and I want to know more.