Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Trese, Vol. 4: Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo

We're back to shorter stories here, after the big mythology epic of the previous volume. Four separate stories, each of them roughly single-issue length - probably because they first appeared as floppy comics in the Philippines, a decade or so ago.

If that's confusing, you may want to see what I wrote about volumes one, two, and three over the past year; the TL; DR is that this is a contemporary fantasy/horror comics series by Philippine creators about a woman named Alexandra Trese, almost two decades old at this point, and the US market has just now caught up to 2011 Manila.

That's how we get to Trese, Vol. 4: Last Seen After Midnight, which collects those four stories - as I understand, the stories immediately following that big mythology tale - by creators Budjette Tan (writer) and KaJo Baldisimo (artist). We're back to the usual set-up: Trese owns a popular club in Manila, but her real work is as a sometime supernatural investigator for the local police. 

As always in this series, the supernatural creatures are local to the Philippines - engkandata, diwata, mananaggal, aswang, batibat, bangungot. Some of them are local gangsters, more or less: organized, usually overtly law-abiding when dealing with normal humans. And some are stranger, wilder things: nature spirits, forces of grief and death. Trese gets pulled into these four cases in different ways, but what they all have in common is death and the supernatural - someone has died, and it turns out they were killed by something inhuman.

She's our hero, so she solves the problems - that's how urban fantasy works. She's still mysterious; the previous book gave us more of her background but these stories are about her work rather than her life. This is not the kind of urban fantasy where the heroine wears crop-tops and whines about her romantic entanglements with hot-boy werewolves and vampires; the supernatural creatures are Trese's professional colleagues.

And sometimes enemies, too - that's how it happens. But I don't think we're going to see her sighing like a schoolgirl over any of them, which is a wonderful thing.

As always, Tan paces his stories well, moving from taut action sequences to quieter character and dialogue work, always leaving enough space to explain the complicated supernatural world the series takes place in. And Baldisimo, as I think I've said before, draws night like day will never come and his silky masses of black argue that comics should never be in color.

This is good stuff, particularly for fans of supernatural adventures and the kind of fantasy just this side of horror. This book could work as an introduction; the stories are all standalone. If you see it, give it a look.

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