Mukat volume 2 (mel casipit) (mukat comics/fl3)

Prince Eric, Jani, and Sapok are in Abraria, resting and restocking on supplies for the continuing journey. But the powerful mage Patro has stolen many human souls and awakened Samal, a strong demon with the ability to possess humans. The only people who even have a chance to stop Patro’s damage in Abraria may be just these three, plus Yeyen, Samal’s guard-mage.

These are the 2006-2008 material, just a little before Mel’s successes at the Komikons. The raw-ness is still visible in the written-in speech balloons and the occasional uneven illustrations. But in this set, you see the rising quality of his comic art, and you cannot help but be beyond impressed. The set is filled with action scenes and panels that are rendered wonderfully with high detail and the feeling of high-impact motion. Many of these scenes, of course, were clearly derived from the way manga does these things. Yet the way they are utilized in the series is beyond imitation, but are signs of an excellent artist still experimenting with his craft.

Also visible are Mel’s improvements as a storyteller, for the pacing in this set is much better, and laying-down of information is spread gradually across the chapters. Patro properly comes out as dangerous and crafty. Sapok’s cheerfulness and friendliness while hiding secrets is better presented. Jani’s strengths in battle are highlighted, along with a family history. Eric’s fighting skill combined with humility is expressed very well.

Mukat is still most likeable because it is what it is: the work of a developing artist, pouring heart and soul and craft into something he totally believes in. It’s fun because it suddenly tangents into local comedy, into in-joking (surely the Sherwin of Abraria person, Sapok’s ‘besprenz!’ is a classmate in real life?), into info-dumping, then dips into action, into being YuYu Hakusho (Ghost Fighter), then Pokemon, then well-thought fantasy, then something else. All of this without losing the course of the main story, and continuing to show character development. It won’t work in this current stage of Mel’s comicking career, knowing what he already knows and having improved his craft so much since then, now that he knows better control. But it was awesome and totally fun back when it was written. Because he had fun, so do we.

Overall, we continue to see the artist’s journey in this series, and you continue to be impressed at how Mel Casipit kept pushing himself to improve through the years. As a time capsule, and as itself, Mukat continues to be a key part of the new indie age, in its own cheerful happy way.


Patintero volume 2 (kai castillo) [fl3]

Owen and the Red Flames have managed to prove they have what it takes. When a group backs out at the last minute, they suddenly have a way into Patintero Urban, more or less the X-games, underground league of the sport. But success is getting into Marco’s head, too many people are looking at blind player Owen with disbelief, and their first challenger the Chaos Bolts are a harder fight than they expected.

The big question now is: will the cutie Chester Okada now have commercial-modelling gigs?! You know, like for Gatorade or NIke or Bench, or picture articles at Esquire and Cosmo? ^^v

In a big leap of faith, Kai Castillo has dared to show the second part of the series immediately in TPR form, without initially creating individual folded-paper issues. The gamble has paid off. Because this is the only running sport komik (in contrast to the many fantasy, scifi, school-story, and zombie komiks), the rules are different for his running series. By deciding to go direct to TPR, he was free to develop a whole game, from its planning stages to its crucial final minutes, across the equivalent of three folded-paper issues, without disrupting continuity. Therefore, you keep reading and following the action as it unfolds, without wondering if you’re missing something because of lacking an issue. You can’t believe you’re following patintero like it were a tight basketball game: intense and unpredictable, even if you kinda hope the main characters will win the day.

Giving pauses where chapters stop and start are his versions of an important sports website for Patintero Urban. Do not skip them; read them because they give clues to undercurrents related to the running game. They are short enough not to wear out their welcome. That said, if the “website updates” will be continued, they should really be given a final grammar check before publication.

The rapid development of Kai’s art style also shows in this release. There are plenty of detailed action poses and more variations in “camera angles” all throughout. Inclusion of markers or paints to the heavy inking also adds more dimension to the art in general, especially in the second half. The main characters are also easier to tell apart, and enough repetition of the names in dialogue are given now (without overdoing it) so I can properly distinguish one from the other.

And you definitely know something great is being done here when you feel the fangirling mode coming on while reading. The crazy feelings you reserve for big manga or anime, for popular TV series. Owen is being so awesome! Chester is cute and so cool! Where do you get posters of Chester to put on the wall, please! When are we getting fanart! When are we getting, gasp, fanfic! The characters are latching on to us. It’s a good thing.

So keep it coming, sir. Give us backstories, give us game arcs. Keep it coming.

The CW180 comics rapid reviews [502 komiks]

(I’m sorry, I’m not sure if it’s 2.5 komiks or the komiks from room 502 or something else, so if I got it wrong please just comment)

Carljoe Javier managed to pull off probably the first formal comic-writing subject with units in the country. Several of the releases at the Indie Tiangge this year are the results. I managed to get four of them. (There are also probably other komiks related to this class but were released with other comic groups, but I am not sure.)

It is appreciated that the mentor allowed them to use whatever format and whatever art style they wanted, as long as they told a coherent story within the given parameters. Javier’s preference for the more alternative comic styles is palpable, but the individual creators were allowed to be themselves. The quality of either the production or the art reflected the newness of the creators and the involved artists (some are familiar names from UP Grail, many are absolute first-timers). However, the mentorship also gave the creators a proper sense of story structure within the comic form. Therefore many mistakes newcomers make regarding scripting, story pacing and panel presentation were corrected at earlier stages. It is hoped that the subject is allowed to continue, and that more writers would benefit from it.

Kapitan Bayaran (Joanne Cesario/Michelle Bacabac) — Albert suddenly has the power to read minds, and his dormmate Miguel sees a business opportunity in him. It’s all fine at the start, and extra money is good, but things suddenly turn ugly, and Albert finds himself in over his head. Both the story and the art style are deceptively simple, but both are unique. Both are rendered and paced well, such that it ends with a nice, bittersweet, satisfying ending. While steeped in the UP college culture, it’s relatable and fun no matter where you are from. It’s smart and bitingly insightful without being condescending. That fact is much appreciated.

Losing Center 1 (AJ Nuque/Clarisse Culla) — A young man arrives in heaven, only to find out that he has lost his heart and needs to find it back on earth before gaining acceptance. The authors promise more parts, therefore this just gives an introduction of the situation. That said, there is sufficient buildup of both the situation and the main character to get us interested and invested. Some of the dialogue was cramped into their speech balloons, and some of the rawness of the illustrations makes the comic half endearing and half annoying. But these are minor problems, and overall the comic is planned well, sufficiently sarcastic about religion without being insulting, and quite likeable.

Goons (Joey Pastrana/Mary and Hinchel Or) — Jesus Leon applies as a goon for Erik Vega’s Illustrious League of Villains, but it seems like everything he knows from the Henchmen manual is wrong, or everybody else is breaking all the rules. The whole thing is filled with jibes at the villain stereotypes, both local and international, and is therefore quite fun that way. But with someone on board this project who works with Gunship Revolution, I think I expected a more refined end-product (better typesetting, better scanning/GIMP-ping, somewhat better pacing), at least more evaluation from its seasoned people. That said, it was quite the fun read, hitting all the stereotypes without losing its sense of humor.

Candido’s Apocalypse (Nick Joaquin adapatation/Cyrene Ela/Natasha Ringor) — Everybody Bobby sees is naked to him. This, of course, makes him irritable, as if Pompoy Morel and his gang don’t have him irritable enough already, and ready to snap. This is based on a Nick Joaquin novella. (a nice summary and background can be found in the review here).. and if more of the Joaquin novels were given the comic treatment, there is a higher chance they will be read more by the non-literary crowd. The visuality of the comic medium strikes home the important aspects of the story, which then makes one interested in reading the original material. This is the strongest release among the output comics, and not because it is an adaptation. The paneling, artwork, and typesetting are all sharp and clean, well-detailed when necessary. The correct decision-making during scripting in what to put in and how emphasized the story well. Therefore the core text did not drag down the visuals, and visuals were used rightly when it would do it best. When nothing else would do, the core text was used and highlighted by itself on a blank black page, giving importance to the prose without losing the visuality. It was worth the added expense for a better final comic presentation, with a color cover and sharp printing/photocopying. I hope high grades were given.

Work In Progress 3 (pacheco/pavon)

Eli is starting to actually enjoy being a working young adult, but he still feels that something is missing in his life, and in the life of his friends. When pretty comic-geek girl Katie comes back in his life, he hatches a plan to both get her affection and to get a part of himself back: he would make an indie komik again. That is, make a komik from scratch, and sell at Komikon. However life is different and practical now, all of his friends have work, and it’s not so easy as it sounds.

It’s rather clear that the series is partly the author and illustrator thinking about the same problems in real life, and these are, partly, their answers to themselves. In its quietly light-hearted way, it addresses big questions and thoughts: Is money all that matters? Should we follow our dreams, or follow reason? Can we and should we do both? How much of our interests should we give up, in favor of practical needs?

In answering these, WIP shows us not just Eli grappling with his thoughts and choices about them. This instalment contrasts this with the individual responses of his friends. It is presented better as two or three stories are woven together, by letting the dialogue of one scenario proceed while showing the events in another. The individual choices are presented without necessarily favouring Eli’s (even if he is the lead). They are simply and pragmatically shown as the legitimate choices that they are. It is appreciated, though, how these varied choices are brought together toward a united decision.

The yellow palette is comfortable on the eyes, and emphasizes the increase in detailed line art now present in many of the panels. In general the art is coming into its own, showing its distinct style, clean and defined, expressive in both the quiet and emotional moments.

Overall Work In Progress is showing itself with continuing warmth and increasing depth, while retaining the light-hearted feel. We do want to see this barkada succeed, and for the comic team to keep this up.

Noodle Boy 1 (herras/pascual) [meganon/fl3]

Otaku boy meets cosplayer girl. Ramen-liking boy is interested in can’t-properly-cook-ramen-who-works-in-ramen-shop girl. Call-center-agent boy has been dumped before and is reluctant to love again. Clueless girl is new to being alone in the city, does want to have love in her life but doesn’t know how it will happen. But fate brings them together in the same apartment and the same interests. Maybe sparks will fly for them too.

The November Komikon release has the batch of 4-panel webcomic episodes that were part of NeverHeard, as well as new material, now formatted in page-type panels. The first part brings the boy and the girl together. The newer second part knocks them onto the same path, as the girl’s cosplaying ramen restaurant makes an appearance at an anime convention, with disastrous results.

I expected a story like this out of Tepai Pascual, who openly admits her roots in manga and anime fandoms. But getting a script this funny and this tongue-in-cheek from Paolo Herras (indie film world awesome person, prizewinner in several countries, etcetera, etcetera) is unthinkable. And because it’s unthinkable, it’s incredible.

The story works with a full awareness of the local anime fan culture, complete with an almost pitch-perfect rendering of your usual anime convention. It maintains that awareness of being Pinoy, without trying to be something it is not (which is the common mistake of younger manga-style creators). But it takes the view of young adults coming to terms with the fact that youthful interests have to merge with grown-up practicalities. Therefore it is a more mature story compared to its contemporaries, even as it maintains its lightheartedness.

It does derive plentifully from manga tropes, but as has been mentioned before, at this current stage of her art Tepai is now past imitating. She is now highly original, yet remembers her roots. So the irony of the art is clear and understood for what it is, adding humor to the situation. This combination of heart, humor, sarcasm, and insight makes the work highly likeable and interesting, even if it keeps the course of the boy-meets-girl story.

I want a TV movie, or at least an indie short film, please. If that isn’t happening, waiting for more of this boy-meets-girl story with a twist can’t be a bad way to spend time until Summer Komikon, yes? Because more hilarity, more fun, and more crazy geeky romance is expected of this series, and we want to know more!

Talaan ng Alaala ng Digmaang Salinlahi (jon zamar/various awesome artists) [point zero]

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.

Mythspace: Liftoff 3 and Unfurling of Wings (paolo chikiamco / various artists) [rocket kapre]

Once again the awesome author/publisher Paolo Chikiamco has been nice enough to give us a preview of the Mythspace releases this November Komikon.

Again, Mythspace is a group of one-shots and multi-issue comics that are based on just one worldbuild filled with planetary kapres, tikbalang, nuno, and mananggal, plus humans, and illustrated by some of the current best in the indie komiks business.

The last two of this current set will be coming, and both are reviewed here.

Liftoff part 3 (illustrator Koi Carreon)

Bros manages to survive the direct attack on his life, mostly due to a mysterious something that latches on to him, and well-prized by the planetary factions. However he has to rapidly find out what the thing can do, because he may not be able to keep his second life for much longer. Also, he has new allies among his former enemies, whose lives are also in immediate danger.

Much of the incredible space-fight art that made Koi memorable as a komikero is in full view in this final instalment. So much understandable, well-choreographed, well-defined panel art is everywhere, making your heart pound at all the right moments.

Of course it helps that even if you can’t remember or don’t know the names of the main characters, you are given a clear picture of their personalities, making them relatable despite being renegades, bounty-hunters, and wanderers. Therefore when terrible things happen, or threaten to happen, you want to root for all them, not just the human.

The finale is nice, clean, and very distinctly Pinoy, leaving you satisfied and glad you finished all three instalments, and yet wanting more.

Unfurling of Wings (illustrator Borg Sinaban)

Introduced in the Mythspace preview, this one shot is being released only now in the third batch. It was worth the wait.

Can’t-seem-to-fly tan’gal (manananggal) Ri-en, geeky human Books, and tough nuno Zo are all orphans trying to survive on the residential space station Tangent, by hook or by crook. They overhear plans of a high-level Tan’gal to acquire a legendary something. The teenagers mount the totally insane but totally smart plan to outwit criminal masterminds and steal the legendary something for themselves. Why even try? It may be their last chance to save their father-figure Ka-ang from his core nature.

A portion of Unfurling of Wings only makes full sense after reading an info-dump in Liftoff Part 3, so it’s best to probably acquire them both. A small part makes better sense if you have read Humanity. This is both the strength and weakness of the Mythspace stories: each depends in some way on the others for full comprehension.

That said, as a stand-alone story Unfurling of Wings is a wonderful one-shot work, which comes in with good pacing, introduces everyone with good timing, then leaves at just the right moment. Within nearly 40 pages of material is enough story to make us relate with Ri-en and her friends, understand her world and situation, and give us a foolhardy jewel heist. In short, all awesome.

Since the work is also made for an older audience, Borg Sinaban’s skill at both well-made foregrounds and well-detailed backgrounds are on display, better than in the Pilandok comics. Emotions are clearly expressed, high-action pages are executed understandably. All this, without ever overwhelming any of the panels, showing enough detail but with sufficient restraint, all for the purpose of best delivering the story.

Overall, yes, go find the Rocket Kapre table on Komikon day and find the two new releases, and get the other earlier ones if you haven’t. This is solid, strong work by a great author in his element and in his full form, in tandem with some of the great artists Komikon has revealed. No matter your inclination in your komiks, you can’t go wrong with this series.