Crime Fighting Call Center Agents 1 and 2 (pascual/bernardo) [kowtow]

I realize just now that I never get around to reviewing the first release. I first bought CFCCA not at a Komikon, but at Planet X.

(Which leads to me saying: komikeros, I am not kidding about this, make your wares available at the comic stores that will have you, because you never know who may first meet your work at a comic store or who would have plans to buy up all known issues. This has worked in favor of the Meganon releases, for example, and is the main reason why Trese is so well-known now.)

The series is generally what the title says it is, though most of the crime-fighting is toward otherworldly beings. A foursome of agents with a penchant for traveling out-of-town during off days find themselves magnets for trouble. It helps that all four have various innate though incredibly normal mad skills. You know, like the power to be incredibly sarcastic during panic moments, the skill to drink copious amounts of alcoholic beverage and be good enough to take out a zombie horde, the deduction to eventually understand you’re dealing with aswang…those kind of mad skills.

The dialogue is smart and snarky in the way of this yuppie, well-educated, stressed-out crowd. The art is some of the most highly detailed and most impressive currently around. And yet it does its awesome job without losing its sense of sarcastic fun and comedic heart. The Frank Miller inspiration is clear in every aspect of the work, and yet it’s still uniquely Pinoy all the way.

Eventually we need a movie or two about this material. It may even be a national hit.

Follow their online version over here!

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This time around I will be courageous (gentatsu) [guild mistral]

30-year-old Gabriel is a nice enough artist-type guy with a steady job but still no steady girlfriend. He does have someone he likes, but is too shy and too worried to make any actual moves. He asks for some help from an old friend, who only gives the wise advice to just say it. Which he does try to put into practice.

Very simple, and the author is the first to admit it. It’s in the execution where gentatsu proves he has what it takes to make more complicated stories in the future. The inspiration from Umina Chika is clear (this is not a complaint; the atmospheric, even-paced romantic style of the Honey and Clover author is a great place to be inspired). Nonetheless he brings his own personality and dreams into every page of this comic.

The art is definitely manga-inspired but is unique to the author. It simply aims to be his own comic, not anyone else’s and not copying from manga. All panels and speech balloons are neither too cramped nor too open-spaced, and has a good pacing of the story, giving Gabe’s thoughts and fears time to be properly expressed without overstaying their welcome.

It’s a good release, and I’ll be waiting for future installments of this simple love story.

Hipon Gamay 1 (rh quilantang/odree) [frances luna III illustration firm]

You must realize that I was rushing through Summer Komikon this year, so Hipon Gamay was one of the things I considered getting back then on the first surveying, but I forgot where RH has a table so this wasn’t bought. This has been corrected.

Hipon Gamay is a young ladies man who has found and lost love as many times as the zodiac has signs. Hipon gushes about a new girl he wants to date to his friends Tabo and Joey. But the girl, Amy, apparently is Joey’s relation. Yet Hipon wants the girl so very much that…….I’m not sure what exactly happened, but something happened.

(Um I think I just NOW understood what happened, but it took me four reviews of the last few pages. I will not explain further so as not to spoil. There are enough feelers and dropped clues, now that I think about it, and if the clues were more obvious it would have spoiled the joke. The way the clues were dropped was just right. I’m just that dense, that’s all.)

I’m not sure if this makes sense, but somehow Hipon Gamay gives a feel of BOTH RH’s style (as presented in Goodbye rubbit) and Odree’s style, even if this is Odree’s artwork, as a collaboration with RH’s writing. This results in a work that is nicely sparse in its paneling to good effect, while keeping a steady pace of the dialogue. But on the whole RH was right to pass the illustration to someone else, as the story suits Odree’s presentation style well. The art is consistently well-inked and detailed while maintaining a competent cute look. The typesetting is really good.

The buildup of the story toward its punchline is done well, introducing all the relevant characters well and giving us enough information about Hipon’s girl problems while keeping us entertained by it. The dialogue is smartly paced, the way most Pinoy conversations go, and is convincing without over-dragging.

Overall, yup, Hipon is in a hell of trouble…and I’m staying to find out how he gets out of it!

Ninja Girl Ko! indie special (dimaano/sison) [gunship revolution]

It’s not a secret that out of everything Mangaholix produced, Ninja Girl Ko! is the one that messed with my brain. So when I saw Michiko fronting a booklet on a table, no question that was getting bought. I even squealed yay in front of the author.

The indie special gives quick summaries in the front of who Anton, Michiko, and the Kamao are. Very quickly, boring guy Anton finds himself suddenly with an interesting life with the last WWII Japanese straggler, soldier/ninja daughter Michiko.

This continues the tale of how these two slowly find out who the Kamao are, starting off with this small-busted arnis-fighter girl coming out of nowhere to challenge her, immediately after a well-drawn, well-paced WWE-grade fight. (Um, yeah.) But the booklet is solidly about Michiko, with Anton just making an appearance at the end. This is in contrast to the earlier material where they both get equal airtime, and Anton usually more than Michiko.

There are several important changes to the release, now that the author and artist have total control back. Much of this totally feels like a statement: “This is OURS, and we’ll do what we want with it, and we’re not apologizing.”

Firstly, the release is completely in English, not in the original Tagalog/Taglish. While very understandable, this does take a little away from the Pinoy-ness of the title. Thus, in the few speech bubbles he has, Anton now sounds Kyon-ish, no longer distinctly Pinoy-sarcastic.

Second is the free rein with the panty shots. Said panty shots come with a very well-executed fight scene, where it is clear that the artist likes that he CAN have his fight scenes and panty shots, thank you very much. Don’t worry, even with the free rein, there are very few gratuitous odd angles just for those shots.

Thirdly, the paneling is more solidly manga-style than in the previous releases, which is an improvement overall of the presentation. There is something that Kriss Sison gets right about the Pinoy manga-style, such that NGK looks Pinoy-made, and not trying-hard, even with all its manga sensibility.

Overall, I’m very happy to see that Michiko and Anton are still here and here to stay, because I’m one of those that need more of them. The changes with full ownership will only make this series better.

Kwentillion 1 (tan, chikiamco (eds.) ) [summit media]

Let us start off by saying this about one of the two editors for Kwentillion: the man is one of the staunchest fans of Tegen Toppa Gurren Lagann. That insane anime masterpiece which reminds us that anyone, absolutely anyone, no matter how small and insignificant, when given enough support and inspiration, has the potential to pierce the heavens, overcome the universe, and RAW RAW FIGHT THE POW-AH.

He brings that drive to this endeavor.

Way too many have probably said that this could not be done, that it would not sell, that it would not work. And yet initial sales are already proving the naysayers wrong. It turns out that many have also been silently waiting and hoping. We are thankful to Summit for believing.

Kwentillion does not aim to be the K-zone for young adults, nor does it aim to be the Candy for geeks. It aims to be a story and comics magazine, by Pinoys and for Pinoys. Kinda like Asimov’s for young adults, I guess.

The editorial immediately hints that the magazine will eventually open for submissions. The chosen selections set the bar they want to keep, and that bar is HIGH. This is not to scare anyone, but to challenge. (Enough of the Komikon Indie Tiangge authors are already in the caliber fit for the mag.) Because the Pinoy komikero and writer can do it, and these editors believe.

I actually like the balance of comics, fiction, and articles. The font used, while small, is very readable. Generally the layout for the text-heavy pages are easy on the eyes, though I tend to take a deep breath staring at the text wall I’m about to face.

Eventually I do want them to feature at least one multi-issue comic over several issues of the magazine, probably as the last one out of three every 2 months. Preferably these would be those who have already made names for themselves in earlier Komikons and deserve better public awareness.

Now for the individual comics (because quite frankly Andrew Drilon’s anything written or drawn leaves me too speechless to properly review, thus I won’t even attempt for The Origin of Spin-Man):

High Society (Chikiamco/Buena) has already been reviewed elsewhere and will no longer be covered by this review. Short version: I like it so very much. The shift from half-page-size to the current page-size only improved on it.

The Last Datu (Tan/Baldisimo): In a futuristic/fantastic dystopian world the daughter of a human datu and an enkanta has to fight her way to find answers, and maybe save her world from complete destruction by netherworldly invaders. What I most appreciated is that fact that it’s not about the world Budjette made and Kajo fleshed out, though that is very intriguing. It’s about the main character, finding her answers and her heritage, and thus, finding her place in the world, no matter how painful it will be to know. Kajo brings his incredible line art and paneling to the piece, which stands out so well since it utilizes more lighted or daytime scenes as compare to the Trese series.

Poso Maximo: A Fair Trade (Robert Magnuson): There’s something strange in your neighborhood. Who you gonna call? This World War II vet Poso Maximo who can’t make sunny-side-up eggs to save his life and keeps a monster menagerie in his house. For a fee he will get rid of whatever stalks your toilets and/or makes noises under your bed. This gives one such commission by a little boy with a bad toilet-monster problem. Since Magnuson is a veteran of children’s books, the comic comes out very adorable and cute, while trusting in the intelligence of the readers to understand much of the no-dialogue panels. Poso Maximo comes out very likeable, interesting, and memorable, even in the one-shot comic given here.

Sky Gypsies (Dimacali/Bumanglag): Just, OHEMGEE. Atahah Kalluman, thank you for making this comic exist. Professional-comics-grade, highly-detailed pen-and-inking abound in this work. Paneling is beyond competent, it’s worth international publication. The story itself is also awe-inspiring, highly believable and well-delivered. In the space-bound future, foreigners are still taking advantage of our countrymen as cheap labor. In this case, the Sama-Laut of the Badjao tribes are now used as space fishermen/miners for rare interplanetary minerals. But the father-and-son team given here remind us of why we’re Pinoy and why no people, no matter how rich and powerful, can completely own us. It is so completely sci-fi, and yet so completely native Pinoy. It is a major injustice to this work why it has no international presence.

On the whole, it’s a strong first release, and we could only want more. I hope that my fellow countrymen do not disappoint Budjette and Pao, by giving them more awesome work to release.

Ang Sandatahang Banga (tilde acuna) [qbccc]

The full name for the work is “Ang Sandatahang Banga (o Kung Bakit Maraming Banga sa Elbi)” If I’m not mistaken it was first released in the Better Living through Xerography event, and comes well recommended by Adam David.

Apparently one of the recent moves by the UP Los Banos university administration is to have a lot of clay pots out as decoration on campus. This, we find out, is a conspiracy to have an army of otherworldly controlled beings ready at a moment’s notice once the tiyanak leader beckons. The only beings capable of stopping this incoming invasion are a foursome of statue beings that come to life when you’re not looking, who may take the forms of your smarter-than-your-average college student. They are the institution statues of the UPLB (like who is fondly known as the ‘Oblette’).

This being a product of students of the UP system, the work makes no apology for being political and anti-administration. The effort in combining art, photography, fiction, and political statement into one coherent work is not lost on me. The presentation of the theme is also really good, with an even-paced buildup toward the message it wants to make. All of the diverse elements of the crazy story eventually meet to deliver the political punch the author wants.

However some of its impact is somewhat lost on me, as the work is, overall, too packed with text. It takes some patience to make sense of what you are reading and what is going on. This is a style that does have its following, I realize that. But for a more general audience I would have preferred more pages and less compressed panels.

The art, as well as its text, is unique and forces you to pay attention, by its starkness and its ‘f-cked if I care’ attitude. The superimposition of art on top of photography heightens the effect of the line art, which in turn helps make sense of the text.

Overall, I’m probably not the best audience for the politically-motivated indie piece such as this one. But if you are used to such nuances, this is one very good example of this style of art with a message. Try to find it during the next BLTX event.

Salmon Komiks 2 (rojo, palmares-garin, palmares)

The girls who managed to sell their first issue recognized me and thus begged nicely for me to get their second release. I did like their first one, so I obliged. Much like the first time, the yuri-oriented cover is just, well, the cover.

We shall discuss the one-shots individually.

Suntok sa Buwan (Sab Palmares): A boy who grew up on the Angel Locsin-era Darna as well as Kamikazee’s song keeps wishing to see his hero in real life, even if his life is typical. But one day on the way home from the sari-sari, he runs into a thug, wishing even harder for his sexy hero…who suddenly obliges. The art is consistently good, more complicated and detailed than it was for the “Hello” oneshot. The paneling also has more variety.

After School Delight (Nica Rojo): A girl gets coerced into leaving a note at a boy’s locker, only to find that the boy is REALLY cute…but one she has absolutely no feelings for. What does she do if the guy suddenly turns on her? The answer is convincing and yet also surprising. The suspense factor is pushed nicely and paced well to help deliver the ending. This reader is grateful that the use of shojo flowers were minimized, and the art style has improved such that the token cute-boy shot actually works.

Happy Birthday (Kat Palmares-Garfin): A vertically-challenged young lady has had enough of the short-person jokes and ribbings, and seriously contemplates taking her life. Comedy balances out the theme of the story, and gives hope in the end. The artist has improved from the first issue. The art…I can now tolerate the art, even like it. Also the work is more evenly paneled, without using speech bubbles beyond their natural capacity, and leaving enough space for us to appreciate the characters.

This threesome make up one of those groups that understand the point: you can be manga-style but be yourself. The art and presentation continues to improve.

Keep up the good work. You’re all free to beg for a sale again in November.

Skyworld (ignacio / sta. maria) [alamat] [national bookstore inc.]

I HAVE NO WORDS SUFFICIENT TO PROPERLY DEAL WITH THIS.

This series has been shelved. Totally shelved. Shelved with honor. Beside where I put Elmer and Zsazsa Zaturnnah.
I now understand the cult following, and the willingness of its following to pay any price for each of the individual parts in earlier Komikons.

Make sure you’re Pinoy. Make sure you’re over 18. Make sure you have an open mind and an un-queasy stomach. Make sure you know who Alexandra Trese and the Kambal are (because they’re supporting characters). Make sure you have P500 to get both volumes, thus all 4 parts.

If you have all these, go purchase, immediately if not sooner. It is flat-out awesome, both in the writing and in the art, and deserves international attention and national acclaim. It is that incredible.

Zombinoy (yleana/cruz et.al) [pelikomiks studios]

It runs in the usual way, but in the Pinoy setting: Big bad virus epidemic spreads through the nation before it knows what hit it. Soon the undead roam the streets and start the usual humans running for cover. The art also works in the usual way, heavily influenced by the classic-komiks style. Very well-illustrated art it is, too.

What sets it somewhat apart from other zombie stories (and in particular the predecessor Zombies in Manila) is its fully-Pinoy addressing of the issue. Most of the release discusses the military, religious, and political implications (American intervention, anyone?) of the zombie epidemic, with an even pace in the scripting and paneling that does not impose or info-dump on the reader.

The writer was not afraid to go grand with big political names, but also made these grand political characters very human. He was also unafraid to go small and make the zombie attacks deeply personal, as a chase happens while a boyfriend and girlfriend are threatened to split up.

The presentation is also quite professional, and if the group has enough drive they have enough going for their release to be a regular placement in the local comic stores (they should try it, for better exposure).

Pilak: Ang unang aklat (chua/barrios/valiente) [artasia studios]

It says something about my lack of information about local showbiz that the name “Jeri Barrios” did NOT ring a bell with me. His face looks familiar, though. I’m happy to say though that the guy is not just a pretty face. He has a good scripting and komik-ing brain that makes this story come to life. What I’m saying: this is not an star vehicle, and that’s how it should be.

This is one of those komiks that are as classic-komiks as they can get (even the Tagalog used in this is quite classic), but it serves this theme well. High fantasy tends to look good in the classic-komik, Western-inspired style. A successor to a kingdom below the world barely survives a last-minute mutiny by being given a special amulet and being thrust into another dimension, to wait for re-activation of the amulet. Several thousands of years later, in Pinatubo-ravaged Pampanga, an orphan boy sees the amulet and awakens Pilak into a world totally changed, but with the same goals of finding the people he needs to restore his kingdom. Preferably, before the rock monsters are excavated by local government.

The art is classic, and the digital coloring complements it, such that it gives a classic feel without the bad paper. The presentation is professional, the printing has no fault. It also deserves place in the local comics stores, and the group should consider it.