rapid reviews

Because I seriously need to think about work stuff, and these need to be finished. There are several titles still pending a long fangirly review thing, though.

A Tale of Redwood (R. Geronimo / Carlorozy) — The story follows the tale of Redwood the witch, who unabashedly eats organs and sells them. This is a novella release, not a comic. Um…there is excellent raw skill in the writing, but on the whole I think a beta-reader is needed. Something I can’t put a finger on makes the writing a little hard to bear after some time. The formatting and illustration, though, is top-notch, even professional-grade, such that the release presents itself like The Edge Chronicles or the Lemony Snicket books.

Mekanismo (Rafael Gumboc) — In 2211 the country uses Mekanismo (giant mecha) for its national defense, but groups are scrambling to get some pieces for their own uses. Undoubtedly a good-looking mecha komik is hard to come by among the indies (as most of them tend toward either being a mecha komik for kids, or prefer to have humans instead of robots). Indeed the art here is very good in its presentation of the mecha, and the pacing is really good. However the entire work still looks and feels like any of your usual Gundam manga, down to the presentation of the-one-angsty-rebel-reluctant-young-man-who-will-save-the-world plot device. Meaning: it does not feel Pinoy enough to me yet, even if it is set in the country. But, I repeat: VERY good mecha art, which deserves some good fans.

MakiNarya (Wilmar Logatoc) [Pazin-Tave] — Despite a last-minute attack on a science laboratory, Super Mechanical Human Cybo Project Maki is activated and comes to life. However, if Maki is so new, even if the skills were programmed into him he should not have been able to be that awesome that quickly, without at least having booted up first and done some diagnostics (like any good machine, even if cyborg). The rival characters are rather cookie-cutter as well, and majority of the dialogue reads like the script for a Tagalog dubbing of an anime. Believability aside, the paneling is decent, and the story pacing is not bad at all. The komik already has some well-deserved fans, but on the whole it definitely still needs some growing up to do.

The Man From the Planet of the Masochists (Luci) — A girl is reluctant to fully fall in love with a man completely without skin, saying he is from the planet of masochists, who had said skin painfully pulled away from them. You definitely can’t help but be impressed at the amount of muscular anatomical detail in this work (and as some will tell you, in regards to anatomy I am probably difficult to impress). It is also rather hard to fully like this thing. I understand that its intention was to shock somewhat, but my more rational side considers that the whole thing is inconceivably impossible and is not convincing enough to make us forget the impossibility. All this said, the comic is a metaphor of the pain love can bring, and it’s pretty good at discussing it.

Shadow (Reksoy) [Komikult] — Shadow is a likeable-enough wandering vagrant trying to get by every day while chasing down his meals and fighting thieves. It’s….okay, and the art does not have much to be faulted against, from one of the best artists in this group. And it is a nice funny thing to while away half an hour with. But aside from introducing Shadow and his lifestyle, not much happens to help us understand why we should care about this guy and why he should stay alive.

Republika (Paul Basinillo / Dennis Crisostomo) — In an alternate universe, colonists of the Philippines still don’t know what makes it tick. They suspect there’s a secret stash of extraordinary power, and people like are national heroes had their chances in protecting it. They’re now recruiting in the modern age. It seems to be clear that the illustrator works for the comic industry, seen in the way the characters are the presented and how the work is paneled on the whole. But for all the professionalism, the comic is not as incredible as expected. The pacing of the story itself is a little off, and the amount of information dumped on panels is a little disconcerting. Also, even if the work seems researched well enough, something about its presentation makes us question the accuracy of that research, as well as the believability of this alternate setting. It’s really, really good, as far as art and production values go. But on the whole it feels lacking and unconvincing.

Children of the Eternal Spring: Door Knocker Pendant (pansikoser) [Plurkian brotherhood] — I’ll just quote: “Two girls in a quest to retrieve a world legend, two children searching for each other, one pendant to cross their paths, and a door to take the children back to their homeland” is what the story is about. I…don’t see it in these two issues very well yet. The concept is very novel and deserves attention. The characters are interesting (though not named often enough so we know who are speaking). The world-build is quite nice. The character and world-build art is really, really good. But the author’s preponderance of trailing speech balloons tends to result in pages that are hard to keep up with. The paneling is rather hard to understand (but improves by the second book). On the whole, it’s really cute with a good heart and a great concept…but the komikero friends need to help in improving on its readability. Some aspects of it are better presented with color in the online version.

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The Last Valentine’s Day on Earth (abrera, et. al)

I’ve been having a depressing week, so I took a walk to The Collective (yes, I’m that near the place, and yet I rarely get to any of the exhibits or events), and went to Vinyl on Vinyl, where there’s a current Robotar exhibit. (It’s a really great Robotar exhibit, go look at it!)

Among the regular things Vinyl on Vinyl has is this indie-released booklet from a group of artist/komik-making friends, the most luminary being Manix Abrera. The others are (by ‘alphabetical order’): AJ Omandac,Anjo Bolarda, Apol Sta. Maria, Bru Sim, Dan Matunina, Dang Sering, Kat Medina, Marcushiro Noda, Tof Zapanta, and Zeus Bascon.

Each contributor gave his/her interpretation of the given theme: the last V-day of Earth. Some present the end of the world, some the end of the universe, some just the end of love. Some present this universally, many present this on a personal level. One gives out what they wished they loved before the end, while another presented what loves are probable only when the sky is falling (such as the indian-mango and the star-apple). This, of course, results in quite a nice hodgepodge of art styles and presentations, ranging from the purely romantic to the sarcastic.

Majority of the presented mini-komiks and art panels do get their points across, though there are others that got much too esoteric…thus leaving me going, “huh?”. Nonetheless, there is no denying the skill and the quality of all the presented art in this little anthology. It is quite an impressive collection, and one can just wish there will be another anthology by this group of talented individuals.

Ambriel (yap, briquillo) [blindfold xomix]

This is the other indie Tagalog fiction release during the Komikon.

Ambriel is a mysterious young man with a bad case of amnesia: he doesn’t know who or where he is, why he is talking to otherworldly forces, or what they want from him. And apparently he finds himself in a wasteland that he may or may not have helped create. And he might have strong powers others are trying to control or release. At least, that’s how I understood it.

The major problem with the story is its lack of decent presentation of what it wants to be. So we read a lot of angst…..what is the why of it? So several powerful beings come and go and challenge Ambriel for some reason….what is the why of it? It is understood that info-dumping would not have been the right way to address this. But neither is this method they used of jumping from one scene to another, without taking sufficient time to explain concepts. Which is to say, the concepts of this booklet may have been better served in the comic format, instead of the short story, where we can see illustrations of the wasteland world and the characters, and scene-jumping is natural.

(And yes, I realize that I have been told this same comment of my own work, countless times.)

Another misgiving I have is the inconsistency of the name capitalization, and the rather-frequent typographical and/or punctuation errors that escape. Yes, to grammar nazis these things matter and may spell the difference between a sale and non-sale.

All this said, the use of the language is smooth-flowing and readable. It’s neither deep Tagalog nor casual Tagalog, but a rather good use of literary Tagalog, peppered with science fiction English loan words. It’s very easy to get immersed in the main character’s angst and confusion, reading along without tripping (besides at the aforementioned typos).
The booklet may also have been better served by a better presentation, with assistance for binding at the copy store. Even staples will do. With a text-heavy booklet, it’s easier to lose a thread of the story if the pages are arranged wrongly.

It’s my opinion that the authors might have a chance at the big publishers with their writing style, but they must, must, fix their core issues. If they do, who knows what will happen. Hopefully something really good.

Wala Pa No’ng Internet! (cordero / columna)

Unlike much of the stash, this one is Tagalog fiction, a long-ish short story with illustrations.

Before I continue, be advised that the book has elements which make it R18, so be cautious in leaving it in accessible areas.

The indie book gives the story of ten-year-old probinsyano Everlito Samson, and his simple adventures in finding first love in a 17-year-old city girl who becomes a neighbor, back in the Martial Law era of the 1970’s. It reminisces about a simple love back when life was simpler and slower-paced.

The Tagalog used in the book is casual, and shifts regularly between referencing the 70’s and referencing the 2K era (complete with mentions of Justin Bieber). The casual, conversational Tagalog makes it readable. (This is a high compliment; I have trouble reading in Tagalog.)

But it is the pacing and balance of the piece that made me finish it to the end. Simple events bear meaning in the infatuated eyes of the young main character. The author never loses sight of the POV, keeping it always at the level of a man recalling events as a boy.

Descriptions never go overboard and are all presented in typical Pinoy fashion, referencing entertainment. All the side characters are unique individuals you appreciated knowing as you would know a neighbor. There is not a shred of speculative fiction in this piece; everything is realist. Yet it is completely relate-able, romantic, and heartwarming.

The illustrations are classic-komiks style, quite appropriate for the content and add to its charm. The layouting is appropriate for its material, although I hope there would be more space between each line the next time, only so it’s not too hard on the eyes. Copy-editing of the material is also very good and much appreciated.

I want more indie books like this. I hope others would make them!