Trese 5: Midnight Tribunal (tan / baldisimo) [alamat] [visprint]

Since (I admit) I’m from the Mangholix era, I’m new to the Trese series, though I’ve heard about Trese and the Kambal for years, either from my cousin (who had been going to the Bahay ng Alumni earlier Komikons) or Paolo Chikiamco. So I’ve read the Trese series from the Visprint releases, and not from its indie manifestations. There’s nothing I can add to what has already been said about the first four issues, so I shall not. Suffice to say here: I am a solid fan. I like the smiley Kambal, I admire the frowny one. I loved their backstory.

Trese, of course, is one of the standing institutions of the Indie age of comics, the compiled adventures of Alexandra Trese, assigned babaylan-protector of Manila, sixth child of the sixth child of a line of respected babaylans. Trese is the unofficial police consultant for all things unexplainable by normal means, and she regularly keeps all the kapre, aswang, tikbalang, nunos, and other beings now hidden in the city all in line. Her bodyguards are Crispin and Basilio, twins with more than the usual nine lives and killing skill (the story of which is better read off the third compilation).

The fifth compilation, the second continuous storyline across a release, and the first completely without indie versions, deals with Trese suddenly having competitors in keeping the underworld otherworld in line. This is not good, because the peace between humanity and the other mythical tribes is a fine balance easily tipped either way. First is the Maverick Rider, AKA tikbalang Maliksi, still hankering for fast rides and attention. Second is the Judge, a higante-like being who acts like Judge Dredd but with less mercy. This is made worse by the fact that one of the national big-timers still has a grip on things, and is using it.

What I most appreciated is that by this point in the life of the Trese series, the Kambal are now solidly distinct from each other, and Trese finally has someone romantically interested in her. The romance is a trope, but one that is nice to have, since it makes her human, whether or not she accepts the advances. That the Kambal are now presented as separate personalities is great since we now like them for themselves, and not simply as The Bodyguards. Also appreciated is the fact that even the darkest-souled among the mythical tribes are not presented in a completely-evil light.

The story in Midnight Tribunal is also one of the tightest and better-plotted among the existing releases, weaving together three to four separate points to make a coherent whole. The tale moves along at a very even pace, with moments where the gas pedal is pressed to great effect then the brakes are pulled at just the right points.

The art, of course, continues to improve, if such a thing is possible, and this is seen with the improving detail of such important scenes as the end of the first chapter. But my words rarely do justice to art at this level, so I guess from me it’s enough to say that Kajo Baldisimo is still on top form with these releases. The Imelda lookalike and the bagets lookalikes are so much win, by the way.

This release makes minimal sense if you haven’t followed the series from the start, so do so. With that said, this is one of the best of the five known parts, and we all want to know more.

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