The Filipino Heroes League book 1 (paolo fabregas) [visprint]

Aside from Callwork, this is the only other non-indie comic I got from Komikon (meaning, this is a Visprint release). I totally don’t regret it. It was fun stuff!

Short version, the series promises to be something like a Pinoy Watchmen. If you thought Watchmen had the right idea going, imagine if the Watchmen had to deal with Manila traffic, politics, and practicalities of poverty, and you would have this series.

Long version: a series of political assassinations are wrecking havoc on the president’s ratings, since all the killings are of opposition politicians. Someone is definitely behind it, and it’s up to the FHL to find out exactly who is pulling the strings. But the government-supported and thus government-funded league is so short on funds that: Kid Kidlat sidelines as a pedicab driver and doesn’t have a decent costume; most other league members are OFW’s; the country’s genius kid inventor lives in the squatter area; the league’s HQ is a rundown shack in front of the equally rundown arts center in the CCP complex. Worse, they have to fight against rival league the Republic Heroes, who ARE funded nicely.

The art shows effective detail without overdoing it. Paneling and typesetting are professional and tight. The fact that the writer and artist is the same person helps in maintaining the balance of dialogue and illustrations in delivering the story.
As a plot-driven story the characters are given enough airtime to be distinct and individual, but characterization such as backstory is too sparse. This will probably be corrected in future issues, though.

A part of me also wishes that the story were delivered in Taglish, instead of in full English, especially for areas that could have been better said in Tagalog (for instance, all of Maker’s swearing would have been more effective in Tagalog). It raises the language to an educated-middle-class level, which reduces some of the grittiness of both characters and story. But it is obvious in the whole production that international release is being aimed at, so I am not complaining too much.

I am grateful that it downplays the over-arching statements the comic does give about the state of the nation and its people. It does not shove the statements down anyone’s throat; rather, it heightens focus on them and leaves you to think about it.

But all of these things said for and against this series, I was left impressed and intrigued by it, and will eagerly come back for more.

Starchild and Jagannath (kevin ray valentino)

This must be said: I’ve personally tried my hand at making a boy genius. I’m a fan of Dexter and Numbah One (Jimmy Neutron, not really) and Bean. Sir, the author of this comic, Fallon is quite underdone.

The back page of the comic gives more information than 20 pages worth of comic. Fallon Starchild, apparently a steward of Earth, goes planet-hopping with Jagannath to keep the various planets in harmony and peace. The comic demonstrates one example of how 7-year-old genius kid Fallon goes about this.

Even if he’s a genius, and even if he’s sarcastic, a kid should act like a kid at some level. Fallon does not. He acts like a pre-teen, a 12-year-old at the least. Why he is close enough to Jagannath to call him/it ‘Jay’ is also not explained in favor of the chase scene.

The art style does show potential, though, and so does the paneling and typesetting. With a little more encouragement and support from veterans of the komiks game, this series can get even better.

Save (danny acuna)

This is created by one of the veterans of the komiks industry, and with right good reason.

Save is pretty much a DENR save-the-environment brochure, moaning the times gone by and pleading to stop what has already begun. But it’s wonderful to have illustrations of that bygone time in front of you, so pretty even in black-and-white. You can’t help but think twice about what you do about the world when you are reminded of its beauty through such wonderful realistic drawings.

The style and the presentation is very dated by now, but it still has plenty of merit. It is still an incredible example of pro-level paneling and drawing.

Why is someone like him NOT a National Artist, and in a more comfortable station in life, and still resorting to drawing for hire, still selling like a kid at an indie tiangge table?! Our government is so totally messed up.

Cadre [polyhedron]

Written by Emil Flores and illustrated by his comic-making friends, Cadre is a series principally about a US-born Pinoy who chose to work in the Philippines instead as an NBI agent. I picked up two of four of their releases.

Amerikanong Hilaw — The first core story in the series, introducing the main character and some of his reasons for being in the country in the first place. The classic-Pinoy-komik style illustration suits the serious cop story feel being aimed for. The self-publishing on glossy paper does justice to the illustrations.

Cadre: Classified — This has three short stories illustrated by three different artists, about three different members of the Cadre team. Ranging from adorable and funny to sad and brooding, overall the release is uneven but likeable on the whole. (Don’t do what I did and read this without going through the Shuriken Duet issues, which this heavily references.)

After having several komiks about supernatural situations (and especially after marathoning Zombies in Manila), having a comic without ANY supernatural elements is a welcome change, and is also needed among the many stories Pinoy komiks are telling.

Zombies in Manila issues 1-4 [scratch comics]

The comic IS indeed about what it says, but that merely scratches the surface of quite how incredible this is.

A nationally-funded project has gone terribly awry, causing a zombie epidemic within the populace. It is up to a small group of defenders to finally end the carnage, find the cure, deal with the most hated president in the nation’s history…..and protect the Pambansang Kamao?! (Seriously, they have to. No kidding.)

The fact that there are funds that support this effort is a major draw-in (the presentation is one of the best ones among the indies). But ultimately it’s the wonderful balance of the highly-detailed macabre art, the professional-grade paneling, the generous supply of speech balloons, and good characterization that makes the series memorable, no matter your persuasion about the zombie genre. The comedy strips at the end of several issues are fun too.

The characters themselves (yes, even their take on the Manny), are very interesting and distinct. All of them are very human through the gritty tale. Sufficient backstory is given on the major characters by around issue 4, and one for the Manny is expected eventually. Overall the story is probably heavily inspired by Sin City and comics of that kind, but the localization is a great one.

I’m not one to read about zombies, and though I had seen this series even last summer, I haven’t taken it up. I picked up all issues based on plugs from Pao during earlier Komikons, and I am glad that I finally read through it. I repeat, no matter what you think about zombies, this is one of the finer examples of what Pinoy komiks can possibly do, and you should pay attention.

Gwapoman 2000 [obvious productions]

Another of the disciples of the Sacred Mountain, and their encouragement shows in this. The story is graciously peppered with profanity, fair warning.

In a twist from the usual superhero story, Gwapoman is a new-ish superhero who practically does not have a costume. While he’s muscular, he’s gritty and not handsome per se. And he’s far from likeable. Very snarky too. The enemy he’s after, former carnival illusionist Alas, is actually more down-to-earth, a criminal with a good heart and reasons for turning to crime. The story is how Gwapoman and Alas know each other, why they have a grudging respect of each other, and if they will ever make the other see things his way.

Both the pen-and-inked and the pencil-drawn art are done well with excellent typesetting, scanning, and cleaning, as well as printing. It’s hard to believe that the author is still in school (as he says), with this level of skill. Action panels are executed really well. Speech balloons are distributed in the right places at the right times. A copy editor with an eagle eye is needed, though, because several typo errors for both English and Tagalog make their way to the final copy.

Characterization of both Gwapoman and Alas is good, and the twist from the usual hero and villain stereotypes are appreciated. I do rather like it that Gwapoman is unlikeable, but rather good at his job.

I’m interested (more about Alas, though, alas….), and may come back for more. ^^v

Kanto, Inc. issue 2 (point zero)

Taga-Ilog, his better half, and friend Kilayman join forces for this one.

The hapless adventures of over-smart Gwen as new house-person of a rich eccentric continues, this time giving a little more background into Ami the sour little girl gamer. Gwen wanders around the house and accidentally brings out her doppleganger. This causes some hijinks that Ami’s special skills finally deal with. (Angry Birds and even the Pasig series cameos appear, enjoy!)

Kilayman’s line art is still very incredible, highly detailed and very professional-level. Absolutely nothing is left to be said of how balanced the art, typesetting, and paneling are in this series. The reaction bits will always be awesome. Most importantly, this is one of the best examples of taking from east and west and yet being totally Pinoy.

The issue gives us an even better understanding of Gwen and how her brain works, besides giving us a better insight into Ami. The comedy is still pitch-perfect.

This is one of the titles with the standards to aim for. Sit up and pay attention. ^^v

The Marvelous Mega Woman (ernest caritativo)

This guy is the other doctor at the tiangge tables that day, and is obviously a big fan of the Megastar, as the comic will show (she is thanked at the end).

If the comic is to be believed, a doppleganger for 80’s-era Sharon Cuneta has been sent to earth from a faraway planet and did not know her real parents. She grows up to be, well, the Mega-woman, famous singer, actress, political wife, superhero. She battles the forces of evil both locally and inter-dimensionally, until she runs into a particularly tough villain who makes her believe a life as 2K-era-large Sharon stuck in the slums. (And, yes, a doppleganger for KC Concepcion is also here.)

The art style and paneling hails from the Carlo J. Caparas era of comics and older, which compliments the renditions of Sharon. But the author is not beyond using digital art skills for details and backgrounds. The comic is also benefited from the out-of-pocket printing on glossy paper.

Shari Sharona as a character is somewhat different from her original, and that is a really good thing. The villain is cookie-cutter, but you’re here to stare at Shari look too much like Shawie while kicking butt. Just for that it deserves at least a read-through.

Ang Morion issue 1 [nest comics]

One of the groups with an alliance to Sacred Mountain (they plug Bayan Knights after all). I bought the first of several issues by now, to give it a try.

A Morion is a local rendition of a Roman guard, ie., during a reenactment of the crucifixion for the Moriones festival. The premise is the main character of this series takes up the Morion costume, that uses a mask for the face of the Roman guard, as his superhero costume. The guy inherited a magic amulet from his grandfather that seems to give him superhuman strength and bulletproof-ness. He’ll have to learn his skills fast, because a group of otherworldly beings are out to destroy the country in more ways than one.

The alliance with the pros has been useful to this series, because it shows rough professionalism (meaning, Cat’s Trail is obviously done by a pro in the business, Ang Morion is clearly done by a non-pro but done really well, at par with Mark 9:47). A little more sharpness of the inking will probably be better for it, as well as more separated speech bubbles (in several places the dialogue does not change speech bubbles for sentences with separate thoughts). This said, the drawing style, more western superhero-leaning, is good, the action sequences are executed really well, and the balance between dialogue and art is really good. The main character also promises to be somewhat angsty and interesting.

I want to get to the part when the lead takes on the costume, but we’ll see if I’ll keep on with this title.

Precinto 13 [alamat]

The work of Budjette Tan, David Hontiveros, and Atan, it’s a story independent of Budjette’s Trese series but has characters from it. (It does have Alexandra Trese cameo-ing! ^^v) They can probably be considered side-stories.

The release is two short stories (“A Domestic Disturbance” and “Premeditation”) about what kind of cases an unusual police precinct has to deal with; the murders are complicated by fantastic elements. Both stories are given not in the eyes of the police but in the eyes of the people involved in them. Both involve children, which makes them hit harder.

Indie it may be, but it is still an example to the higher end of the spectrum of Pinoy komiks. It keeps a western comic style very generous with the blacks. Paneling is tight and professional. The pen-and-ink is beautiful even when it is gritty. The typesetting font is unique and easy to read.

But you already know this team, there is not much else I need to say to highly recommend this on you.