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.