Cubie ‘n Bouncy Out of the Box (jeciel gaerlan)

The Cubie n’ Bouncy book was already out and praised much last November Komikon, but at the time I was running out of funds and passed on it as one of the for-kids comics. The mistake was corrected last Summer Komikon.

Cubie and Bouncy are a box and a ball, respectively, toys of John’s family. Cubie is generally depressed, Bouncy is generally optimistic. Both get thrown around and misused then loved then well-used in equal turns by the family, who sees them for the inanimate objects they are. The humor is taken from their very human feelings about being manhandled and mishandled then properly handled. The series are the compiled four-panel strips available on Facebook.

John’s family is actually quite nice, and so are their pets, but all of them are just clueless about the feelings of their toys. Similarly, Cubie and Bouncy don’t fully understand the motives for the human actions. This disconnect accounts for most of the comedy in the series. It also works out as cute and adorable, because both sides are just confused, but neither is sadistic. Along the way there are many little insights into family life that gets across, which also adds to making this series very likeable.

The art style is quite clean and smooth, and works really well in color, so the higher production value of the full-color book presentation is definitely appreciated. The lettering for the dialogue is nice and understandable. The author has a great sense of comedic timing, both for visual gags and wordplay.

Overall it’s a series more for parents with young kids than it is for kids, because it presents life in the eyes of a parent of young children. It’s understandable enough that a kid in the higher elementary grades will get most of the jokes. It’s a nice family-oriented comic series, and more compilations will be really nice.

The Dark Colony: Mikey Recio and the Secret of the Demon Dungeon (tan/guerrero/tapia) [alamat] [visprint]

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for waiting.

Mike Recio is your ordinary half-hipster (Trese-fan!) orphaned college kid, living with his rather eccentric grandfather who insists that he wear this medallion, practice swordfighting every day, and that Mike take him to this particular church every month (driving while saying the rosary the whole trip) for a special ceremony. Like any eighteen-year-old with some sort of life, Mike objects to all these old-fashioned ways. That is, until this particular Black Saturday, when he is suddenly thrust into a demon attack, and forcefully included into the secret lives of his relatives: the Recio clan are demon hunters.

Once again, the Alamat legends show us how it’s done. You have an interesting character, bored but intelligent and insightful, who doesn’t take everything at face value, therefore not belittling the intelligence of the readership. You have interesting supporting characters, and you give them enough airtime to show their personality and skills, and why the reader should care when bad things happen. You have a mysterious plot setup, one completely immersed in local folklore, but giving it a terrifying twist. You maintain a good pace through a great script, that first takes us through the plot, suspends the disbelief, then plunges you into the action with force. You top it all off with awesome, detailed line art, full of action and emotional movement, with some awe-inspiring one-pager panels. You know the adequate length you want, and defend it, and stick with it, and prove that you need all those pages by giving a great story. And this is just the first part.

As with most of the Alamat releases, the insight into the Filipino human is what makes this story memorable. The demon-slaying is all very nice, of course. But you remember it because of the strained interaction between Mike and his grandfather, the strain of the old against the new, then the realization, when push comes to shove, that minor irritations of life are minor and family will always be family with us Pinoys, something we will defend to the death.

This is what is so fun about the current indie age: you see the entire spectrum of komik creation currently in the country, and can enjoy it at all levels. Alamat, of course, as the forerunner, is at the top tier, breaking old walls and paving the way for the creators coming after them. They prove what more can be done with the komik genre. Through their work, they challenge what is now and what is still possible.

I am running out of things to say, and that is a compliment to such great work. It’s readily available at National Bookstore outlets. It’s definitely not for kids, so don’t make that mistake. But it’s a great addition to the Visprint line, and many will be waiting for the next installment.

rapid reviews

Some people have been asking about pictures, and I do apologize for not having them. I do understand how they can be useful. I only have a celphone camera, though, and uploading is something of a chore to me. I’ll have some eventually.

Again: I just don’t have a lot of words for them, but I liked most of them.

Bathala Apokalypsis 1 (David Hontiveros / Ace Enqriquez) [Alamat] — Twins Andrew and Leonardo Carreon are separately doing life-altering things on an auspicious evening. Andrew Carreon is superhero Bathala, helping relief efforts after an earthquake, and stopping an organization from toppling world peace, again. Leonardo is the first to be uploading himself fully to the internets. But first of all, they are brothers, and the events of the evening will topple the family bond, as it causes cataclysmic effects in the country. This emphasis on the personal bonds and the family ties are what makes this story strike with devastating force, with the superhero aspect only secondary. It is also what makes this story the uniquely Filipino story that it is, this focus on family that can never be considered separately from what is work and country. The art of course is awesome and highly-detailed as expected of this comic group, though there are points when the inking came out too heavy. Overall it’s a welcome twist to the Superman archetype, and a well-delivered powerful one, for being so down-to-earth.

Codename: Bathala 2 and 3 (Jon Zamar / Judd Abinuman / insert story art Aaron Felizmenio) [Point Zero] — The middle parts of the 4-part story covers villain Zona, who actually is a nice strong woman tricked into joining the wrong side. The third instalment has Zona’s backstory with Kumander Estatwa (Bathala’s immediate predecessor, and the current mayor, in the roundabout way we generally get mayors). The stark difference between Abinuman’s clean lines and digital inking, against Felizmenio’s rougher line work but high detail, initially creates a clash in the brain. But you can’t help but admire both styles, which both deliver the stories with good effect. The story itself is interesting, and no longer as straightforward nor derivative as the first issue. I am now invested, and will continue to follow until the final part.

Neox 2 and 3 (Jomar Bulda / Rustico Limosinero) — Neox and his friends get unexpected upgrades after helping some neutral bots, but these are immediately put to the test against another strong and powerful bot. The detailed mecha artwork continues to impress in these issues. The pacing and the paneling have improved much since the first issue, and the characters are given enough airtime to distinguish themselves. It’s still a kid-oriented story, but it’s still done well enough to be interesting even to grown-ups.

Ang Hinirang Haku-Haku (Anino Karimlan) [Ikos] — This also suffers from the problem Tarangka also had: giving an interesting premise, but stopping too soon. A small village is feared for its warriors, but one chosen in several generations is the most feared of all, and his coming is prophesied to cause problems in the world. All well and good, and rendered adorably and capably with good detailed art and great paneling. But too little important information is given, to make us invested and interested to keep up with the story.

Rizaleot (Earl Jan) [Inkjinks] — In an alternate-universe 1500, the Spaniards have taken control of the country, with the citizens losing hope against the tyranical rule. But sometimes there are rumors of independent mobile suits operated by Pinoys. One such Orvho, the Rizaleot, is passed on by a mysterious fighter, to a boy barely holding on to life. If you consider this a fantasy world (because the costumes in this hail from 1800’s-era Spain, with medieval-era armored suits), the whole thing is rather interesting in its unique way, with rather impressive art, good pacing, and understandable paneling. It’s manga-style, but it is fully aware that it wants to be Pinoy komiks, reflecting this in the presentation. Overall, quite a nice thing, and worth the follow if this is up your alley.

PosBots (Eric Ella / Hannah Seguerra) [Robots and Cereals] — In a zany take in the Indiana Jones adventures, a certain Walden teams up with Crazy Mango Man and Abonimable Marshmallow Man, to save a sleeping princess and hopefully get a lot of treasure. The mascots are adorable yet insane, the princess (once they wake her up) is quite spunky and interesting, the Mr. Walden is crazy. The whole story itself is a mad roller-coaster ride of getting into one mishap after another, and depending on your taste that is quite the good thing. Something happened with the printing, or something happened in the inking, or this is a clear choice by the illustrator, but many of the lines are not as distinct as they should be. As long as you’re here for the fun and the boom, not so much for the story, this is quite the fun thing that may be worth following.

rapid reviews

I apologize for the silence. The whole of May has just been exhausting.

Again if it got a rapid review it just means I don’t have a lot to say. I may still have liked it a lot.

Sixty Six (Russell Molina / Ian Sta. Maria) — This story has been getting well-deserved rave reviews elsewhere, for it hits very effectively on two levels. Senior citizen Celestino Cabal has resigned himself to his painful life, lovingly caring for his wife, slowly declining from Alzheimer’s. He’s starting to lose hope about his capability of going on doing this, especially when time is catching up to him, and his mildly-hidden super powers, as well. The combination of the well-paced story that mixes slice-of-life with the superhero genre, incredibly rendered by the Skyworld artist, makes this thing devastating in its simplicity.

Langit Lupa Impyerno 1: Night Riders (Fidelis Tan / Kiko Dans) — Dan missed the last usual jeeps for the night and finds himself flagging down and riding the most unusual jeepney ever, with the longest and strangest route: earth, heaven, and hell. Only this writer, well-familiar with the comic genre as well as speculative fiction, can pull this off without losing the seriousness nor miring itself in it. The great inking and paneling completes the package, improving on the believability of this premise, delivering the comedy in just the right amounts, at just the right moments.

Pineapple Secret (Power-J) — Maypine Sigjuan is an athletic diver, heiress to a Bukidnon pineapple plantation, and a pineapple connoisseur. All of these things make her the best person to find out about a small pineapple-smuggling operation under her father’s nose. Definitely it’s manga-style in its presentation, but what makes it likeable is that it’s thoroughly Pinoy in theme, characterization, and mindset. The story moves along in a way you’d expect a Pinoy to think, the characters react the way you expect most Pinoys to act. It helps its cause that it’s drawn well and paced well, some notches higher than several of its peers.

The Deadly Fists of Lucy Patweetums 1 and 2 (Julius Villanueva) — Lucy has moved to Stanford Lee Academy of Much Learning, hoping it would be her last move, hoping that her past would not come to haunt her. Tough luck, though, for on her first day of school the school fighters already test her skills as a kung-fu master. Lucy is one very spunky girl who doesn’t need a man, so cutie Cocoy Arcangel is seen as an equal and not as love interest….which is a cool change from the usual. Kung-fu movie references also abound, but this doesn’t descend into comedy without plot. Highly likeable concept and lead character aside, the series shows the Life In Progress author as capable in page-type paneling and art, showing more of his skill in detail work than tends to be shown otherwise.

The Lam-ang Experiment (Co /Ballesteros, Cruz, Layug, Magpantay) [CreaM] — There is no denying that much heart and soul (and Marcos money) went into this comic project. It shows in the art, the digital coloring, the high publication values. There is no denying that the scifi world-build for this series is quite good. But the problem with this work is intrinsic. None of the characters latch on to you, not even the main characters, nor the mascots. None of these characters, who should be Pinoy, feel sufficiently Pinoy. The pacing is a bit too dragged out, such that space battles occur for too many pages without moving the story forward. Finally I still feel almost none the wiser of the original Lam-ang legend than when I started. (Meaning, I’ve learned a thing or two about folklore characters from the Trese series and from the Mythspace set by how they are used in those comics. That did not happen to me here, even if they gave a quick summary.) I did learn about Ilocos delicacies from the final page, so it’s not a full letdown. The concept behind the project was very well-intentioned, but the execution in this one could be better.

The ‘Verse komiks (hontiveros / various artists) [alamat]

I’ll be the first to be highly scared of reviewing the Alamat releases, because, you know, Alamat is legend, in name and in reputation. You have to admire all the work this pioneer group is doing to further advance the indie age, to a point where it is nationally accepted. You also admire how the group chooses to remain true to its roots, by continuing to release indies in the standard format they helped to establish.

Similar to Mythspace, the ‘Verse is a set of stories all written by David Hontiveros, but rendered by various artists. Each one builds on the other, such that it’s rather helpful to get all of them to fully understand the overall story.

Life is split into two worlds, the diabul (where angels and demons reside), and the oikoumene (where humans live). Life is good when these planes don’t meet, but they often do, sometimes with disastrous effects. It is the job of a select few, half-breeds, immortals, or dimension-crossers, to keep both planes intact, to keep the characters in each plane from causing trouble in the other.

The individual comics deal with specific characters between the worlds, and how each one deals with their unique problems.

Agyu 1 and 2 (illustrated by Vinnie Pacleb) — Elias Sandoval is a fighter, for the diabul (as the legendary Agyu) and the oikoumene (as the legendary MMA fighter E-rex). He can do so because he is half-enkanto. This makes him recognized by both planes, but accepted by neither. This gives the story of his origins and how he has tried to cope with his dual life since. The art and its pacing and paneling are incredible, demanding attention at each page, moving the story along well. There are a few points where the coordination between the script and the art falters, but this is rare. There are also some points when the direction the story takes gets confusing, as it shuttles back and forth from past to present. But generally it’s a solid piece, and makes you feel the pain the character goes through.

Kadasig 1 (illustrated by Ian Sta. Maria) — This is the release I missed last November, as it was gone by the time I arrived. Kadasig is from the Skyworld series, and as an immortal arbiter of the world he sometimes fights in its battles. In this case the Agyu Elias takes in a being more than he can handle alone, so Kadasig steps up to intervene before things get really ugly for both planes. The drop-dead-gorgeous Sta. Maria art is totally here, highly detailed and awesomely inked through and through. There are several pages of conversation where the speech balloons get too cramped, in order to fit all of the dialogue. There are also some pages where the heavy inking and detail work feels like an information overload to me, but this is a minor complaint which others may not find to be a problem. It’s totally worth your time. More Kadasig is always worth your time.

Tatsulok: A Vision of Dust 1 and 2 (illustrated by Xerx Javier) — Involved in this world of two planes are many half-breeds, including Lucio Portador (a half-demon) and Miguel Samson (a half-angel), who live in the oikoumene world but have skills from the diabul world. Normally they are on opposite sides, but both of them have a joint interest in the succubus Lora, who is escaping from her and Lucio’s otherworldly boss. The printing is a little weaker compared to the other two releases. The art is classic in its presentation and paneling, which is not a bad thing, for in the detail work and in the backgrounds it shows the strengths of that style to awesome effect. The snarky and sarcastic banter between the three main characters moves the story along with a great pace. This has the most straightforward thus most understandable story among the three releases.

The world-building notes and the author notes present in all the releases are interesting, yet they also feel somewhat like too much information. Some of them are also hard to follow after a while. That said, they do give better insight into the stories and the inspirations behind the worlds.

Overall they are fine releases by legendary komikeros, putting their best feet forward with a story and script that best delivers their strengths. All are worth your time and investment. It definitely shows you why the Alamat group is the stuff of legend, and why they will stay that way as the indie age marches on.

Dragon Kid volume 1 (lady storykeeper) [bokimkatje]

I’ve read Dragon Kid on and off, thus in a very bad random order, over the years, wherein I honestly did not understand what was going on. Also, this was the time in my life when I would not give manga-style a fair hearing. Therefore, having the first 5 issues in correct order, now with a better mindset, is a welcome thing.

The adventurous draca (female dragon) Keiko Shoda mischievously goes into the lair where Lord Kuronaga, enemy of the Dragon Haven, is imprisoned. Her tail gets caught in the chain. When she pulls away her tail, she breaks the chain…and releases Kuronaga back to cause havoc in the Dragon Haven and the Mortal Realms. Keiko is banished to the Mortal Realm as punishment and for her safety. But Kuronaga’s 12 Nights are on her tail, and her only other protection besides her raw hidden potential is the ordinary human, school fighter Bayani.

This is the thing, aside from the great manga-style art with impeccable inking and very coherent paneling and pacing, that makes this series stand out among the manga-style komiks. It openly admits its country of origin. This is a story from the Philippines, set in the Philippines, and steeped in its culture, making no qualms or apologies about it.

Bayani is solidly the boy who gets in trouble with the law for all the right protecting-the-peace reasons. Bayani has a lolo. Keiko and Bayani get into an arnis school, led by a Mr. Suave lookalike. Bayani goes to a typical Pinoy school. Yes there are plenty of manga-type tricks, like sweatdrops, large eyes, and head veins. There are also plenty of Chinese and Japanese names sprinkled throughout the work. The use of the Chinese zodiac derivatives has been done before, but is done nicely here. However, never do you feel that this story is trying to be something it is not. It uses the manga style, but it will never be manga, it will be Pinoy komiks.

So while Dragon Kid does follow the standard patterns (a spunky girl rubbing a nice but hotheaded boy the wrong way; characters that want to get stronger to better fight evil; a simple thing starting a terrible big thing; bad guys who grandstand; etcetera), the way it’s done here does not feel awkward, even if derivative. It feels familiar, but not foreign. It’s very likeable and fun that way. It definitely helps that all the characters are relatable, imperfect, spunky, and fun. It shows the families of both Keiko and Bayani, which makes you realize how much family is a big thing in our culture, and how important they are to making the person.

All in all, Lady Storykeeper is one of the best practitioners of the manga style (I may have said that before), and it shows in this compilation. She is one of the best because she knows she’s a Pinoy first of all, and proud of it.

Hero Kitten Kuting Magiting 1 (robert magnuson) [omf hiyas]

By the time I got to the Summer Komikon, all I found was the ‘Sold Out!’ sign with the adorable Kuting Magiting drawing. Yes, apparently all 100 prepared copies were sold that day, which tells you how respected Robert Magnuson is, and how immediately resonating this little comic is that it spread word-of-mouth on the day. What I have, therefore, is the Free Comic Book Day PDF release, from Flipreads.

During a rainy night, a college professor narrowly avoids hitting a soaked little kitten with his car. He decides to take the kitten home with him. Kuting is so incredibly adorable and sweet, with enough spunk like a good cat should have. His pet dog initially sees a threat to his position and decides to take action, but he soon realises that the cute kitten is definitely NOT your ordinary stray cat.

The comments by Static Cat in the Kitty Letters section of the book does have a few legitimate points. Being the first chapter of this story, the kitten is just presented as a simple kitten, with just enough of a glimpse into Kuting’s potential power to keep us interested. Also, it is indeed more about the professor’s pet dog than it is about Kuting. These are not weaknesses of the story, and the comic-book-loving dog is quite the likeable character himself. The dog is relatable, in wanting to get rid of the newcomer to keep his status, and is thus likeable for having such a human quality to him.

The comments by the Mystery Duck is also highly legitimate (these two are regular characters of the newspaper comic Shirley’s Pets, where Kuting Magiting was first seen). Despite being so straightforward and simple, this little story makes you want to go “AWWWWWW SO CUTE!” and share it with everyone you meet.

Of course, it’s so adorable, sweet, and compelling despite being so simple because Robert Magnuson has his comic techniques and comedy techniques down perfectly. Keeping use of speech balloons to the absolute minimum focuses your attention on the action. The pacing is exactly right to keep the suspense and to deliver the key points. The art is simple but well-detailed in its crosshatching and inking techniques.

This is a lot of words for a little story about an extraordinary kitten. All the mounting hype about this story is completely deserved. This story is definitely worth the get and the follow. Share it with a pet lover or a child in your life. Love it yourself!

The Filipino Heroes League 2: The Sword (paolo fabregas) [alamat] [visprint]

Being a REAL superhero when you’re considered the enemy: it’s more fun in the Philippines. Soon after the president declares Martial Law, everything descends into chaos. The chaos is mostly fuelled by mutants and former superheroes running the show from the shadows. Adding flames to the fire are the funded Republic Heroes. The severely outnumbered and outclassed Filipino Heroes League have only one recourse: to kidnap the president. And even this move does not destroy terrible plans already in place.

EDSA in this decade, with mutants, is what the second volume has. The volume openly expects that you have read the first and are aware of the situation: that the real heroes are not necessarily the ones in the best costumes and best equipment. This full understanding of the great resilience of the Pinoy given limited resources continues in this volume. It also includes the practical understanding that corruption is normal and expected in this country, which of course alters the situation. No one is completely good, no one is fully bad, as it should be in good stories. It’s fun that way, this story, that it takes in such realities and works around it.

There are minor missteps here and there in both the art and the text (sir, it’s a tourniquet). The technique employed here to differentiate ostensibly speaking in Tagalog versus speaking in Pinoy English was hard to follow. But on the whole the coordination of the art panels and the text delivers effective thematic blows at just the perfect moments. All the main characters are given adequate airtime to show their personalities, skills, and motivations. The balance between action, suspense, romance, comedy, sudden plot twists, and comments about the state of things continues to be almost perfect.

This is, of course, one of the ways the Alamat group is pushing the limits and breaking the walls. It’s doing a perfectly fine job at it, and this is one of the main representatives.

Bakemono High volume 1 (elbert or)

Admittedly I am too old for the kiddie magazines. Also, confusing splashes of bright color close together in any one place makes my head ache (Pinterest does this to me, which is why I’m not there). These are two of the main reasons why I don’t follow K-zone. However one cannot be a citizen of the capital without having seen K-zone a few times. It does have some of the nicer professional comic artists in its stable, releasing new full-color chapters on a monthly basis. If this is something that could be expanded on for more komikeros, this could a viable option for the willing.

Bakemono (Monster) High is one of the stable comics in the magazine. It’s the casual comedic school-based adventures of a group of unusual friends in the most unusual school. Your main characters are the conflicted vampire principal’s son, the werewolf happy-go-lucky best friend, the shy dimension-crossing witch and werewolf’s love interest, and a happy mummy. Yes, it makes for great interpersonal dynamics, and this is what makes this series work as a favorite in the roster.

The comedy punch lines (full of slapstick and monster references) are delivered at a level any kid will understand, but a level that a more mature readership may find lacking after a while. Since this comic series runs in a magazine catering to elementary children, this is not a big problem while inside K-zone. But when the series is compiled by itself, this is more noticeable. Also, the something that makes children’s material transcend years and resonate with any age level…it is not here.

It is true, though, that this has some of the most dynamic and likeable art among the professional comics. The illustrations deliver well what the character is thinking and make the comedy work. The inking is precise. The coloring for the original magazine versions is simple and bright yet well-done. The pacing and paneling is just right, such that each release does not overwhelm nor does it give too little.

Overall it’s a series that is hard to not like, especially as a kid. However this is also a kiddie series that will not work at all levels. Not a classic, but great.

Ang Astiging Boy Ipis: Reptullo’s Revenge (mike ignacio) [frances luna III]

The first review was for the original Bayan Knights spinoff series. This one is for the graphic novel (a TPR-length komik) first released this Summer Komikon, now under the Frances Luna III Illustration Firm. This is the prequel story.

Marty Pototoy is a high school student and a Maskarado fanboy. He is the newly-minted Boy Ipis, fighting petty crime in Baranggay Bagong Nayon, using cockroach-derived genetic powers. (This is the same guy as in the Bayan Knights spinoff; due to technical problems and the author growing up a bit, this is his name in this book.) It’s all fine and normal in Adobo Academy, until a major bad guy appears in his little town, Reptullo the mutant half-man-half-lizard with a legitimate grudge against humans. Unfortunately Marty is the only hero of any kind for miles, and this is his first chance to be a real superhero.

Both the art and the script have moments of being uneven. The art leans toward manga-style, with enough originality to be interesting. The script gravitates between American comic tropes and local cultural references, in a rather confusing mix. Overall I still think it should have been rendered in Tagalog, rather than English, but I suppose if he intends to distribute in the regional comic conventions using English was necessary.

Despite all the things I just said, this is still the work of a writer and comic artist who has grown over the years between the first work and this one, and it shows. This is still a well-paced story, spread across an appropriate number of pages. It’s impossible to hate a main character who both stays the same and changes so much across the pages. It’s impossible to despise such a cheesy bad guy who does have a heart, who does have legitimate reasons for revenge. It’s impossible to hate on a girl sidekick who does NOT have romance on her mind, and can kick occasionally better than the hero.

It’s hard to not compare this to the original work. However it is also unfair to the author to compare. Both are glimpses of a komikero with an original concept, and the dedication to see it through. It can only get better from here. Soon he won’t be the only one who can’t step on cockroaches ever again.