In the hundreds of years of existence there have been intermittent wars between humans and engkanto. Because of politics within the council of leaders among humans, the new war begins, fuelled by misunderstandings and misinformation. Among the key leaders of the engkanto in Kahilwayon is Idaranggian, a powerful warrior who wants peace, but has to keep up appearances. Stuck in the middle of the human politics in Komara Mantapoli is Suleiman, son of one of the key leaders, and wanting peace instead of power. But the fate of both peoples are controlled by a whole cast of characters, (purebloods on both sides, half-breeds on either side, purebloods on the opposing sides of their races, childhood friends now enemies, and key individuals with special native powers), all with various motives and intentions that could either destroy or save them.
The 390-page hardbound volume is the definitive collection of the Digmaang Salinlahi series, arranged in story-based chronological order (not strictly the order of release). If you have the earlier compilation, I will still encourage getting this one, which collects the newer releases of the Bayanihan Center Komikon years. It was a good risk taken, for the collection is worth its price, as it is now nearly impossible to collect the individual releases made across ten years.
Within these many pages are some of the best work of the second generation of indie komikeros (if we consider Gerry Alanguilan and Alamat the first generation), an epic labor of love among friends and comrades across many years. Almost all of the artists cited (Keso, ‘Taga-Ilog’ Melvin Calingo, Jhomar Soriano, Judd Abinuman, JM Valenzuela, more recently Mel Casipit, and others) have moved on to international professional work partly on this awesome portfolio, and/or have used skills learned from the international markets to make this work more awesome.
As previously noted, the diversity of awesome talent, all with original art styles, sometimes makes individual characters difficult to recognize across the chapters, even if they all follow the same character sheet. But since the story is given in chronological order in this compilation, the variations are easier to understand, and it is easier to know who is who.
The presentation in story-chronological order also gives you a sense of the ten-year history of the series, for the quality of individual chapters varies depending on the year it was created, thus demonstrating both Jon Zamar’s and the particular artist’s stage of improvement. For instance, the first created chapters, positioned in the middle of the book, show less refined (but still awesome) work by Taga-ilog, as well as somewhat-uneven (yet already awesome) script pacing from Jon Zamar. The last, most recent chapters show the developed current style Mel Casipit uses, and the more even script pacing from the author.
Having the series in close succession also shows you the scope of Jon Zamar’s imagination, creating this world that is completely Pinoy without being derivative, while being detailed and developed. All the characters are interesting and well-made, with motives that are understandable and convincing, with doubts, fears, and convictions. The main character, however, is the conflict. While there are lead characters, none of them particularly stand out above the overall situation. Rather, major characters are given even airtime within the story. Both sides of the conflict are presented fairly, showing the good and problematic evenly. This overall creates a story worth following. It’s actually good enough to be created into a local television miniseries.
The use of Tagalog in the series is lyrical and expressive, used by an author highly familiar and comfortable with it, making you appreciate the beauty of the language. The words are deep, but none of them are used in a clunky manner. All the dialogue runs smoothly and never feels forced, even if the sentences are long and the words sometimes require a mental Tagalog-English dictionary. This makes reading through Digmaang Salinlahi rather slow going for someone better at reading English, but rewards you for the effort.
One wishes the covers of the individual releases were replicated for the compilation (many were, but not all). Also the compilation is in black and white, thus the incredible coloring that happened for some of the releases are lost. But these are minor setbacks compared to having the whole story available in one place.
Overall, if you want to sample some of the best komikeros of the Culture Crash and early Komikon years, telling an incredible, distinctly Pinoy story by a major proponent of the indie komiks era, invest in this volume. It is properly a part of local komiks history, and shows the massive potential of the movement.