Gwapoman 2000 book1: Ang Huling Baraha (aaron felizmenio) [frances luna III illustration firm]

It is true that trade paperback releases have already existed in the Komikons, and titles like Elmer, Trese, The Filipino Heroes League, and Skyworld have cemented their places. But among the purely-indie groups, only Meganon has been doing this lately. So the fact that FOUR TPRs were released besides the second compilation of Mark 9chapter47 is quite the incredible thing. (The Gerry Alanguilan has properly blogged about why this is awesome, so I shall say not much more, but will instead get around to reviewing those TPRs.)

A short intro is necessary. Edgardo Liwayway, in his heyday, was the rogue superhero known as Gwapoman (part of the wider circle of Bayan Knights). He fell from grace and got incarcerated in Bilibid along with several key criminals…and never wanted to leave. Twelve years later, Alas Espinosa, alias Salamangkero, is one of the best thieves in the business, and he has the raw supernatural and trickster skills to successfully rob Gwapoman from prison. Yes, Alas will bust the Gwapoman out of jail. Why do this at all? Mang Tan, a Filipino-Chinese guy with connections to both Liwayway and Alas, needs both of them, as well as this girl Margaux, to form a unique team of crimefighters.

This summary is needed because the story itself is not as straightforward as this. The narrative alternates between Alas and Gwaps, following either the angst-ing and philosophising of Gwapoman, or the movements of Alas as he builds up his plan. Between them Alas’s background is also given. The story also moves back and forth across the timeline, and sometimes you’re not sure if you’re on what level of Inception. That aspect of the comic is what makes it both highly interesting…and also occasionally confusing. But this overall leads to a work that has rather good insight into life and disappointment, and forcing yourself to live with what life gives to you, without taking it as the only option.

The TPR is composed of: 2 prologues unique to this release, the 3 known issues, the concluding issue unique to this release, and the epilogue unique to this release. This is important to know, because those prologues and the epilogue fill in some holes present in the original narrative. If you have only the earlier Komikon releases, it’s still a good idea to get the TPR. For one thing, the twisting narrative, with its shifting POV and chronological order, makes more sense now that it is presented in close succession to each other.

There were two preview pages available with issue 3 (which gives the backstory of Gwapoman’s arrest) that are no longer in the TPR, and I’m not sure why they’re not there. The backstory given in the profile at issue 3 is also not in the TPR. If this is information that was in the Bayan Knights releases, it would have helped much if it were included in the TPR. Since I read the issue 3 release, I do know said backstory, but someone coming fresh to the TPR may find himself a little lost.

The dialogue is given in a Tagalog that generally flows well with a natural cadence (by this I mean it sounds right, like good spoken Tagalog, and does not give the impression of being stilted or being a translation from the English). Its feel for the seedier side of Manila is also pretty good. The banter between Alas and Gwaps is also really good, with their personalities distinct in the exchanges.

Felizmenio’s art is some of the best among the indies, and has generally pitch-perfect pacing and paneling. In many places, though, his preference for heavy inking leads to scenes that are hard to make out. But, I repeat, this is some of the best art that could be found among the indies, with fine attention to detail where it matters.

A word must be said, by the way, at how professional the TPR looks. FL3 got a really good book printer that they should stick with. But besides that, the layout for the front and back covers is just pro-grade, even better than some of books out there. A cover such as this will warrant respect anywhere, even in National Bookstore (if they want to give it a try).

Overall, the TPR stands like its protagonist, actually. Okay, the book is seriously good-looking, unlike its hero. It’s not perfect, but it has potential that is only starting to get tapped. Both Gwapoman and his series can only get much better from here.

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