the carlorozy catalog (carlo clemente) [kawayan]

During last year’s Komikon I had been impressed by Talaan ng mga Aparisyon, and liked its spunky heroine as well as its komik-ing sense a lot. So it was not a hard decision this year to acquire the short series I was already eying back then, Flipinas ’70. Then the rest of the stock also looked interesting. End result: I seem to have made a komikero happy by getting a set of the entire spread.

Among the current crop of komikeros Carlo Clemente has one of the most distinct art styles, balanced with a nearly impeccable sense of story, character, and pacing…even with all that highly-caffeinated action in his pieces. Even if he does take heavily from the bombast and exaggeration of several manga, his style comes out as originally Pinoy, especially in its eye for detail. Definitely his characters are Pinoy in their individual absurd ways, such that we tend to see ourselves (or people we know), past all the wham-bang. He also manages to find unique expansive stories and plots to make his own, across several genres even.

Darwin’s Association of Delicious Evilness 1 — Darwin, a frequently-bullied public elementary school student, seriously wants to take over the world as an evil overlord. Really. Of course he needs an empire first, so he starts to win over his seatmate Hazel. That in itself is not easy. Darwin’s sincere earnestness in his endeavor, for some reason, does not smack of being evil-overlord-ly, which makes all of this both interesting and humorous, and that’s the point. Hazel is normal, but the quiet way she takes in all this absurdity heightens the humor and gives Darwin a great counterpoint.

a certain artist’s journal — In a certain fine arts college, opposite personalities meet for a joint project and become friends. Girl: Agape Eisenheim, youngest in a line of (real nonsparkly) vampires, AND a spunky Japan-style goth girl. Boy: Michael Batumbacal, typical art and photographer guy who nosebleeds at pretty girls. The story is split in two and meets in the middle, giving the individual views of the characters for the same events. The sheer fact that boy-meets-girl is done with a vampire goth girl is unique enough; using this format makes it even more impressive.

Flipinas ’70
Near the almost-destroyed Malalos and Barasoin in the future, several orphan kids find a UPDiliman student activist. From him they learn that so many things are different now, primarily that the country is now under foreign dictatorship rule, and that they have been calling the country wrongly as FLIP-inas, not Pilipinas. People need to rise up and take back the country, and the activist is part of that movement. But the orphans have an operable robot they have been fixing up, and a rich girl with a grudge against everything elitist comes to help them. Between them all they just might shake up the government and make changes start to happen.
Clearly this is a sci-fi insane take on Dekada ’70, and yet all the craziness works in a believable way. The Bulacan in this story is still distinctly provincial, resilient, resourceful and hardy, even with all the sci-fi elements. The characters are over-the-top in the way Carlo is masterful at, but they are distinct and likeable. The mecha is Evangelion-style, thin-limbed and wiry, but is unique in its being so patchwork.
Sometimes the work info-dumps to meet its two-issue self-restriction, and this could have been handled better, but on the whole this is not a major gripe. The bombast is balanced out by a clear sense of paneling and pacing, so that the insanity almost never overwhelms the reader at any time. Also there are moments when the action calms down to give the readers adequate breathing time.
Overall this is a story that, if a Japanese person made it, we might already have a big-budget anime movie to watch from online. But this is Pinoy, so….(sigh)…I guess that will never happen. It’s a story though that will be understandable for foreign audiences if translated properly.

Of course he’s a komikero to look out for and keep encouraging. He’s at a level that should be encouraged to go big, if a publisher will have him. Find all his work. They may leave you exhausted, but they will not disappoint.

Saudade: a tale of love found and lost (kixmachina) [guild mistral]

Desmond and Daphne are childhood friends who had an opportunity to be more than friends. But real life intervened on both their families, forcing them to drift apart. Now as adults, and generally well-married, they meet again, wondering about what would have happened if they got together.

Overall the work gives the impression of being a bit too controlled, a bit too stiff, in its paneling and inking. It probably comes from the nervousness of a first-timer at Komikon when it was first released. Nonetheless the paneling is good, the pacing is fine, even better than some of those who regularly appear at Komikon.

Enough information is given about both major characters to make us feel for their plight and invest in their story. I am also glad that the spouses are not put in a bad light, that is, they are not villains, they are nice people, they are just unfortunate. I liked it that both characters were unwilling to drop everything in the name of love, thinking about all the practical things, and considering that the spouses do love them and they matter. The coming-together of both parties was also done well, without soap-opera drama, without major fuss.

It’s a nice, well-done first attempt at making a comic, and the author will only get much better from here.

MeelHeid Zetsubo (untalkativeboy) [guild mistral]

The days of despair are coming for a fantasy-type world, to be heralded by the Seven Heavens, a group of the best-skilled people of that world. A group of people are tasked to stop the Seven Heavens…if they could manage to get along long enough, and if they manage to find this girl Phage who is lost somewhere else.

Unlike the other mentioned title, this one does have the feeling of wanting to be a manga, just done by a Pinoy. This is the mindset that has to change and shift. Being manga-inspired is one thing; wanting to make a manga with all its trappings and tropes as a Pinoy is another. It’s one reason why American manga-style comics generally don’t work either. In this case, this results in a work that has confusing paneling, characters who give characteristic lines, and action scenes that are not explained well.

The world and the characters are interesting enough, though the characters are a little hard to know well, with the way some of them look similar or move similarly to each other. The inking and typesetting, as well as the art presentation, are indeed competent.

If manga-style is indeed your thing, it’s not a bad story and release. But we should stop being what we are not, and embrace what we are. I may still give this series another chance in November, though. ^^v

SSM! Jet 1 (silent sanctum manga)

SSM has been releasing anthologies for a while now, but this is my first one, and it had to be the one where the running theme was it had to be ‘kiddie’. Of course, this is not to say that the compilation is for children. It is not.

Most of the work was done by Dark Chapel, and all are comedic and sarcastic at once, to good effect. “The Justice Legion in ‘Bagong Computer’ ” has his take on superhero leagues, going out of their way to get a secondhand computer plus parts. ”Dr. Hook in ‘Nadagitab’ ” has the villain on his off-time, enjoying, well, some fish. “Fronknonoy” is the life and times of a small Frankenstein, late for school, and on his crazy way to quickly get there.

In some places the art got too cramped and thus confusing, but on the whole it’s smart, distinct, and funny. Mentions of FB, Angry Birds and DotA are definitely for the win, especially when in reference to superheroes.

This comic veers toward the comedic side of the komiks spectrum. But this is the nice thing about the rising komiks wave: it has a place for everyone. If this is your kind of thing, it will definitely not disappoint.

Never Heard webcomics august-december 2011

We conclude this wave of komiks reviews by paying attention to a door-handle calling card handed out to me during the Komikon. A group of komikero friends, some of the better and best in the local business, they got together and made this website with generally-3-to-4-panel comics. All of them started around August and are continuing to the present.

Lucky Coin (mel casipit) — A cute simple story about a guy who finds a lucky coin and subsequently gets a string of funny lucky events happening to him. The coloring is nice, the illustrations are really adorable, and the events are almost always funny. The sequence wherein the setup is given during one post and the punchline given in the next post is a nice touch.

Reese (wan mananita) — Comic-geek broke guy meets drunk girl at the LRT station. Drunk girl is surprisingly spunky, but guy is oddly drawn to her (and is reluctant to leave her alone in that state). So proceeds a weird exchange between them. Both Reese and Robert and interesting characters, and you want to know more about them, whether or not they end up together. The coloring over the illustrations are a little heavy, but in general it’s not a problem. The paneling is balanced between the illustrations and the dialogue.

Noodle Boy (paolo herras/tepai pascual) — Call center agent and mami-loving boy meets next-door girl while she comes up her apartment with a load of clothes. Poor boy is forced to catch the girl as she trips on the stairs, and thus begins a relationship. Tepai’s art away from the Meganon material shows her continuing improvement as an artist, and her work does look really pretty when colored. The story is delivered through the illustrations (I haven’t seen any dialogue yet!), and delivered well.

Invictus: Land of Amaria (kai castillo) — From the author of the Patintero series, and also has the distinct art style of that longer work. Now that the art is colored, though, it’s quite nice to look at. Much of the first posts are world-building and information-giving, plus initial story grounding, but it’s done really well (and I’m immediately envious how well he does it.) The world presented is rather your typical fantasy story, but the style and pacing draws you in and makes you want more.

The Minkowski Space Opera (aaron felizmeno) — The story with the most impressive line art among the five, it’s set in a science-fiction world where people are after habitable planets. The first order of business: convince a firebird to leave his territory to some new colonizers. Of course, not happening, but it’s quite funny how they try. The two main characters play off each other quite well as a duo, and the comedy is sarcastic throughout. The paneling is highly impressive in this one, utilizing the 4-panel comic format to best use.

On the whole its the meeting of great komiks art in one website, you can’t go wrong giving it a try and following them all.

Tabi Po english issue 1 (mervin malonzo, adam david translation)

It’s impossible to have not heard of Tabi Po by now, but it’s possible to not have read it yet. This was my situation, and when I found the chance at Komikon, I finally decided, what the heck, I really should be reading this already. I got the Flipreads release at Komikon, as translated into English by Adam David, with the illustrations rendered into grayscale.

Suffice to say that if you know your Tagalog, do yourself a favor and read in Filipino, free of charge on the website. Adam David did a really good translation, that is true, but as in most languages, some of the original feel of the work is lost in translation.

As a work, the material is definitely distinct from all the rest in its use of watercolors (digital or otherwise), instead of the usual pen-and-ink. Whenever possible the story is given through the art, and such incredibly haunting art it is without being horrific or gothic. The author is not afraid to utilize nudity when necessary, but does this with an appreciation for the body, not for the shock factor. It tends to use whole pages for panels, to incredible effect.

I also appreciated this take on the local aswang, in contrast to all the aswang tropes we’ve been fed all these years (a cross between the western witch and the western vampire).

The pacing of the work is deliberately slow, as it is presented as autobiographical, and yet you can’t help but keep flipping pages/clicking for new pages, as soon as you take in and savor the awesomeness of each page and panel. It takes its time with the character development, and it does not matter if it’s deliberate and slow, you relish each moment.

Totally, after Elmer this is the work that deserves international success, so point your friends to Flipreads/Amazon/iTunes and/or the free Tagalog version.

Puso Negro (james palabon) [section six comics]

Well, this is one of those releases that stand out simply because it’s not as derivative in its style and content as the others, even if it does take from indie-type comics.

The comic contains four chapters presenting days in the life of Puso W. Alabang and his friends/neighbors. Unfortunately for the people around him, in true urban-Manila style our protagonist says what he wants to say, no matter who gets harmed or hit. The comic is full of that snarky in-your-face comedy some of our countrymen are well known for, and the author is properly immersed in that culture.

As mentioned the art style is as snarky as its content, deriving more from a rock and indie culture more than anything else. Thus it’s half-cartoony, half appropriately detailed, all distinct and all angas. The presentation of the booklet is impressive in its glossy-paper cover and offset printing.

Overall it will work really well for a particular kind of komiks fan, and may not go as well with others. But no one can deny that it’s one-of-a-kind and stands out.

The Monkey and the Turtle, Director’s Cut (wilvic/arjin) [salimpusa]

I think this is one of the other attempts for the Komikon Comic Creation contest, which is an adaptation of “Si Pagong at si Matsing”, that famous Jose Rizal retelling of a fable.

This is quite the in-turns cute and crazy, and totally current-Pinoy rendition of the story, complete with a turtle going “Rock on!” waiting for an iPhone 5, and going “Okay sa olrayt!”. I also liked it that the turtle is not all-that nice in this characterization. Renditions of the monkeys and the turtle are all cute and full of personality.

The distinct art style present in Ibalong is also here, which is characterized by a nice digital inking technique, clean paneling, and good typesetting. The dialogue is better balanced in this one, so the amount of storytelling is evened out between the dialogue and the illustrations.

It’s clean, pro-grade, cute and funny. This komik team can only improve even more.

Ibalong: Lupain ng mga Hiwaga (argin lerit) [salimpusa]

The comic was made as an entry for the Summer Komikon and then sold as an indie in the November Komikon. The story is a retelling of the Ibalong, an epic legend. Handyong, leader of a tribe, takes it on himself to face the Oryol one-on-one, after the creature defeated too many of his warriors. But he finds out that the Oryol is not your typical muscle-bound humongous beast of a creature, and requires different tactics.

The art is really likable, clean, well-inked digitally, and original to the author even when it takes from the manga style. However I did find that the comic relied too much on its script, such that too much is said in the speech balloons, to make the story finish in the 12-page limit of the Komikon Comic Creation contest. The comic does not appear cramped by it, but because of this the dense-ness of the speech balloons get emphasized. The pro-grade paneling, presentation, and printing is also much appreciated.

Handyong as presented here is a nice enough guy, which is good to see. That is, he’s presented as cute, capable, a gentleman, and not just a muscle-bound leader hunk. When Oryol is presented, she too is not an all-bad baddie, and that too is appreciated.

Overall it’s a good piece that did its job well in the 12-page allotment, even if it was rather cramped by it.

Neox (limosinero/bulda)

I’m probably the wrong audience for this comic, it’s that kiddie. But it’s quite likeable, and I’m rather glad I bought it.

Neox is one of several kids who can shift into mechanized personas, and thus help to keep the peace in a scifi world. But understandably, a lot of their enemies are a LOT larger than themselves, putting them into a severe disadvantage. One of them is the baddie presented in this first issue, Darkpause.

The art style and presentation is a cross between Dragonball and Tetsuwan Atom (Astroboy) with a dash of maybe Transformers and Megaman and Pokemon, which is appropriate seeing that it’s targeting a younger audience than the usual Komikon audience. The contrasting helmets between the three characters is appreciated. The paneling is simple that brings it points across. The illustration and inking is clean in its kiddie-ness, yet sufficiently detailed with its mecha, which is good to see.

This one also my usual pet peeve of a character page at the back, giving information that should be included in the material instead (maybe in future issues, granted, but within the material).

One thing I appreciated is how they ended this issue…[spoiler]…without a clean win. It makes the characters vulnerable, and thus interesting that I want to find out more. I know it’s also quite the trope, but it’s done well here.

It’s highly possible I won’t go on to read more of this, because honestly I’m not the best audience for it. Yet I can safely plug this on mecha fans and younger komiks fans. It’s interesting with interesting characters, and it’s worth the follow.