Twins Andrew and Leonard Carreon hold the world in the balance between them. Andrew is the international superhero Bathala, while Leonard’s interwebs personality is allied with the alien force trying to take over the world. Between them, the cultish militaristic organization pulling the strings on the ground, and the powerful angels also trying to take over the world, Apocalypse is totally here.
The first thing that hits you is the simple unnerving that this is NOT Superman, that it’s set with the Philippines in the center of the action (instead of the margins). It first strikes you as strange, since you’re so used to your comic heroes coming from either the States or Japan. Then it overwhelms you as awesome. A powerful entity, being looked up to by the entire planet. And it’s not Manny Pacquiao. Wow. It’s strangely empowering, oddly inspiring. The story is grounded on the Biblical/Hebrew concepts of apocalypse, and yet it is given a unique Pinoy twist, without it being overly bogged down by becoming too nationalistic. The simple fact that such a Middle Eastern concept is being played out on our shores, with our countrymen being the main controlling forces of change (not the Americans, not the Chinese), is quite the feat.
The story is played on both a grand scale and a personal one, such that family ties have the potential to affect the entire planet. Meanwhile, these strong forces themselves have personal impact of the people loved by the main characters. Andrew’s actions as Bathala may affect his girlfriend. Personal misunderstandings between Andrew and Leonard have the potential to destroy the world. Andrew’s bitterness against not being told everything about himself colors his choices. Leonard’s jealously at never being the favorite clouds his judgment. Both things sometimes make them decide in wrong directions, which creates impact on millions of lives on the ground. Andrew’s humanity may possibly weaken his chances against alien forces and strong angels. The fine balance of these aspects makes the story epic and relatable at once.
The tale is grim and dark by its very nature, and yet it has a lot of moments of well-placed action and drama, and some moments of sarcastic dialogue exchange. The action is paced at just the right speeds to let us see the overall worldwide impact of the situation, as well as to get us acquainted with the major players. The fact that it is presented with some awesome detailed line art, one that has understanding of both modern and semi-classic comic styles, makes the work every more powerful.
David Hontiveros is better when his words are distributed in speech balloons, given out in small blocks of text, and presented as illustrations (incredibly and very capably by Ace Enqriquez), rather than when they are paragraphs and paragraphs of words (which are good, do not get me wrong, but do get wearying after some time). This long story is one proof of this, a great testament to his imagination, concept-building, and character-creating, without getting bogged down by too much rhetoric.
Overall this is one of the strongest releases by Hontiveros for Alamat. Two to three more releases are expected to complete the seven-part saga, and you cannot help but root for both Bathala and for his creator.