Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 112 (5/26) -- Trese: Mass Murders by Tan and Baldisimo

Philippine Week continues with the third in an urban fantasy comics series about paranormal detective Alexandra Trese. I reviewed the first two collections of this excellent series last year -- all written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by KaJo Baldisimo -- and, as usual, I saw any of these books entirely because of the generosity and advocacy of Charles Tan, the unofficial ambassador of the world of Philippine comics and SFF.

Mass Murders
is the third of the three originally planned Trese collections, bringing together issues 9 through 13 of the comics series to tell one long story about Alexandra Trese, her father Anton, and the god of war Talagbusao. Along the way, it accomplishes all of the things that a story like this should: it explains some (though never all) of the mysteries of Trese and her world, it provides a major capstone story to this series, and it deepens the mythology and history of this particular fantastic version of Manila. I'm frankly surprised that no one on my side of the Pacific has picked up Trese for this market yet, since it's a natural: an engrossing set of stories in a popular subgenre, featuring a mysterious heroine with two wonderfully kick-ass sidekicks, set against a deep and immersive fantastic world full of new and strange dangers and wonders. And that's before I even mention Baldisimo's shadow-shrouded art.

Well, there's still time: the three slim Trese books from the Philippines (all published by Visprint) would make a great single volume for the US market -- he said, nodding significantly at whatever comics publisher might be out there.

The five issues in Mass Murders tell either one story or three -- stories that take place when Alexandra Trese is 15, 18, and 33, or the single story that continues through what happened to her at those ages. It begins with the murder of several army Scout Rangers -- and the removal of their hearts -- in a Manila strip club. That looks supernatural, so the police call in Anton Trese -- their expert on tikbalang and aswang, and all of the other creepy things outside of a cop's normal experience. And he brings along his daughter Alexandra, who is quickly becoming as skilled as he is and who, as the sixth child of a sixth child, has her own prophesies to live up to.

The bloody trail leads to other soldiers from the same battalion, and to a ritual they performed in the mountains, several years before, while fighting rebels. Anton and Alexandra learn that the soldiers summoned Talagbusao -- almost without knowing that they did it -- and that the war god is preparing for a major sacrifice that will allow him to stay on Earth permanently. And before Talagbusao is sent back -- that time -- we've learned the truth of the two Kambal who guard and protect Alexandra.

At eighteen, Alexandra must perform a difficult and complicated ritual to come of age -- she has to pass (Which is to say, survive) twelve tests to become a mandrigmang-babaylan, a warrior and shaman. She has plenty of help, both in her own skills and tools and from her family and their allies, but there are also powerful forces that would much rather that the sixth child of a sixth child not reach her majority.

And, finally, when Alexandra is thirty-three, Manila is horrified by a series of suicide bombers with dead eyes, who sing the national anthem in public places before taking as many innocents with them as possible. Alexandra's investigation leads back to a dangerous prison -- where Talagbasao may have come back, and where he may be powered by the perpetual riots and violence. And he may well be planning something even larger and more apocalyptic than he did the first time -- a plan that Alexandra Trese must stop without the help of her father.

Mass Murders ends this Trese series with a bang -- I say "this" rather than "the," since I do fervently hope that this won't be the last we see of Alexandra Trese, the two laughing killers that call her "bossing," and the dangerous, fantastic, multilayered world they move through. Trese is a great urban fantasy comics series, and it's the kind of book that could be a big hit with English-speaking audiences from the US to Australia to South Africa to the UK. I hope it gets that chance.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: White Rabbits - Navy Wives
via FoxyTunes
(As with the other books this week, I'm afraid I don't have any Amazon links -- this is a great book that hasn't been published in the US, and it looks like vanishingly few copies have made it outside of the far.)


Budjette said...

Hi Andrew!

Once again, thank you for the great review about our work. We're very happy that you liked and enjoyed TRESE Book 3. It is always interesting for me to see how the work translates overseas, considering we didn't spoon-feed the reader with details about the mythological creatures since these are stories that most Filipinos grew up hearing from their parents and grandparents.

I'm also happy to announce that for anyone interested in getting copies of TRESE, they can now order from National Bookstore's website. They accept international orders.

I've provided links to National Bookstore's site at the TRESE blog >

You might also be interested to see prose stories set in Trese's Diabolical:

Many thanks!

--budjette tan

Budjette said...

Hi Mr. Wheeler!

Just wanted to share the happy news! :-)




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