“Allan and his friends are Martial Law Babies: born during the Marcos regime, raised by TV, and shaped by 80s music. Their ambitions may be dampened by third world realities and malcontention but they also proudly belong to a generation of dreamers who fight for their voices to be heard. They are among the so-called “Bagong Lipunan” children, trying their best to live up to their name. But over the years, as Allan watches his friends leave one by one and feels his sense of idealism wane, he starts to wonder where they are all headed.”
I bought Martial Law Babies on a whim. I had no idea if it was going to be good or not; but from my previous experience with Arnold Arre’s works, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. What I didn’t know was that I was holding Arnold Arre’s best work of the three that I will have read; the other two being Mythology Class and After Eden
It’s perfect. That’s the short of it. But since this is a blog, and I don’t just give one-word reactions to the things I write about, I’m going to try to put to words what I want to convey.
Martial Law Babies is the story of my generation. At the same time, it isn’t. I mean, I’m not a Martial Law baby. And yet, I can relate to the issues presented in the graphic novel–not just because it has familiar things that really harken to my childhood, but because it a well-written, well-plotted story that pulls at emotions that even kids today would understand: friendship, separation, loss, longing, unrequited love–it’s the ingredients of a coming-of-age story. And unlike most stories that are claiming to be coming-of-age, this one actually does nail it, in my opinion. The funny thing is, I don’t think Martial Law Babies is actually claiming to be about coming of age.
What I like best about the graphic novel are the characters. They’re very well-rounded. They’re not just pieces of a puzzle, nor are they chess pieces. Each one of them, even the ones that don’t take up too much print space, are whole and complete. They are stereotypes and yet, at the same time, they are real people. The problems I had with Arnold Arre’s characterizations in After Eden was not present at all in Martial Law Babies. We have a bitch, but we can feel her hurt in the words she delivers. Her pain doesn’t get told, and yet we sense it–because the author/artist was able to show it.
The bitch stereotype is a main character, and we see that through her numerous appearance in the novel. And yet, her importance is the equal to the rest of the cast. Which is another thing I really like. Because the story is about how Allan came to be Allan. And in one’s life, no matter how many or how few major players there are, everyone makes an impact. Everyone. Even the ones you never talk to. The ones you pine for. The ones you only meet once and never again.
And when you pick up a copy of Martial Law Babies, it will make an impact on your life too.