Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 115 (5/29) -- Underpass (and Komikero Komiks #3)

This is, I think, the last day of Philippine Week in Book-A-Day; I've now run through all of the Philippine comics (or should I say komiks?) that I've read, and I don't expect to get any of the collections/anthologies/prose books done tomorrow in time for that day's review. So, once again, I have to admit that I really know very little about Philippine comics -- but that I've really enjoyed a lot that I've seen. And I also have to thank Charles Tan one last time, for his tireless efforts on behalf of Philippine SFF and comics.

Today I have two things to talk about: one (Underpass, an anthology from Summit Publishing and introduced by Budjette Tan, though not edited by any credited person) is pretty clearly a book, since it's squarebound, sits nicely on a shelf, and is a one-off anthology. The other (issue # 3 of Komikero Komiks Anthology, edited by Jonas Diego) is equally clearly a magazine (or maybe just 'zine -- it looks hand-collated and -stapled). The former is probably more "professional" than the latter -- although one creator appears in both, and there's good work in both.

Underpass is a slim book -- only 52 pages long -- with four separate comics stories in it. Gerry Alanguilan's "Sim" leads off, with the story of a horny young man, the phone sim card he finds, and the woman's voice that leads him to an unexpected end. "Judas Kiss" -- written by David Hontiveros and Budjette Tan (from Hontiveros's original short story) with art by Oliver Pulumbarit -- shows its prose origins by being essentially an illustrated story, told entirely in captions, and also has a family similarity to "The Tell-Tale Heart" and the stories of O. Henry. Third is a heroic fantasy story, "Katumbas" by Hontiveros and Ian Sta. Maria, that feels like the introduction to a character whose adventures will span many more pages, rather than a self-contained story. And last is "The Clinic," written by Budjette Tan with art from KaJo Baldisimo (the same team as Trese, working in color here), which brings a similarly fantastical slant to another piece of day-to-day life, when a rising actress finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy.

All four of the stories are solidly professional, and all tend towards the dark fantasy/horror side of the street -- this isn't a theme anthology, by any means, but the stories do have a similarity of tone that makes them work well together. The first and last stories are the most successful, to my mind -- but that might just be my familiarity with those creators talking.

Komikero Komiks is more loose-limbed and free-wheeling; it's the latest in a series published quarterly, and contains nine very different stories, at vastly different levels of ambition, craft, and expectations. Two of the stories -- the lead-off, Ariel C. Atienza's "Class" and "Graveyard Shift" by Hazel Manzano -- are almost entirely in Tagalog, so all I can really say about those is that Atienza has an appealing teen-comedy style, while Manzano's scratchier, rougher work doesn't work as well to my eye. There are a number of what I'd call journeyman stories in here, like the superhero punchfest "Servant" by Geoffrey Borgonia or the elliptical vignette "Alone" by Pilar Esber, or a couple of oddly cramped and violent science fiction stories near the front of the book.

But Gerry Alanguilan has a solid story about suicide and not getting what you want, "Timawa: Jumper," to finish out the anthology, and the whole thing has an energetic, lets-put-on-a-show, indy-comics vibe that's infectious. I hope Komikero Komiks continues, even if I'm unlikely to see it very often (if ever!); local communities should have their own hotbeds of experimentation and storytelling, to push each other to keep getting better.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: The Indelicates - Our Daughters Will Never Be Free
via FoxyTunes


Paolo Chikiamco said...

Thanks for taking the time to cast a bit of a spotlight on Filipino-made works. It's always interesting to see what someone from outside the culture thinks. Looks like Charles sent you a good batch too, so I'm glad you seem to have enjoyed doing the reviews. We've certainly enjoyed reading them... I'll be plugging them at

The Raipo said...

Thank You Sir, for reviewing our humble Anthology :)

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