Book: Trese, Midnight Tribunal

"Midnight Tribunal"

The past couple of months have been hard on my online life as I’ve only logged on for matters of utmost importance. Meaning, I check my e-mail once in a while, but when there’s no work coming in, I log back out and do work offline. This helps with focusing and not procrastinating, yes. But it also, quite successfully, took me out of the online loop.

So yesterday, when I went to Komikon 2012 at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig, it was a complete surprise to discover that the fifth volume of Trese is out!

In a city where the aswang control everything that is illegal and where ancient gods seek to control everything else, enforcing the law can be a very difficult task.

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police normally call Alexandra Trese. Lately, it seems like others have been taking that call.

A mysterious racer has been breaking the speed limit, running after and capturing criminals.
A masked giant has been demolishing drug dens and breaking up gangs.

Trese must confront these supernatural crime-fighters and bring order back to the city, before the underworld attempts to seek balance in its own way.

This volume of Trese differs a lot from the previous four books in that it isn’t an anthology of the titular character’s cases. Sure, it’s still cut into chapters–but the whole book is one narrative that slowly unravels the bigger picture.

I must say, I really like this change.

While I completely love the previous volumes of Trese, there are times when I wish the stories were longer, that we get to spend more time with Trese in any which time so we could get to know her better in that point of time. The short stories are so stand-alone that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where in Trese’s timeline they happen. And so one of the biggest draws of a continuing title doesn’t work for Trese. We love the main character, we buy the books–but we are not emotionally attached to Alexandra Trese. Not in the way we are with, say, Ada and his superhero counterpart, Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Because in Ada’s case, we get it all: the highs, the lows, and the parts where nothing much is happening.

In Midnight Tribunal, we finally spend a good amount of time with Trese–and she’s as stoic as ever. Nothing still chinks her armor. But, on the plus side, we get more characterization for the Kambal, the twin Aswangs who are Trese’s right- and left-hand men. And even Maliksi, the Tikbalang bachelor we’ve met in one of the previous issues. He makes a return, and from what I can take off from the end panel, will be playing an even larger role in the coming stories.

The one thing I liked most about Midnight Tribunal though is that writer Budjette Tan was able to play with twists and red herrings. Because he’s not ending a story as soon as it starts, we get that Trese is not infallible, that not every case ends with her whipping out her kris and demanding katotohanan (truth) from whatever witness or piece of evidence is left behind. We see her do some actual grueling detective work.

Last Seen After Midnight, the fourth volume of the Trese series, was able to satiate the reader in me. Midnight Tribunal takes it a step further. Putting the book down, I already want to know what’s going to happen next. Especially with the introduction of new characters, ones that look like they’re staying for a good long while too.

According to the Trese blog, Midnight Tribunal should be out in local bookstores by mid-November.

Event: Trese 4 Book Launch

"Trese Munnies"October 8, 2011–who knew it would be that big? Well, we had an inkling. And I’m sure creators Budjette Tan and KaJO Baldisimo knew that it was going to be swamped. But for people like me, who have been to launches that were either populated by family and friends, or attended launches that had crickets in the audience, we had no idea it could be that big.

I’ve been exposed to Trese since college years since my days as a writer/producer for an entertainment website (why pretend I’m younger than I am? Haha,) but it took last year’s Filipino Horror challenge in this blog to actually turn me into a fan. After reading the first three volumes (especially the third one), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book. And then Cadena de Amor came out online. Then, earlier this year, I got a copy of The Fight of the Year–with a note saying that Trese 4 was coming out very soon. And after a few more months of waiting, a friend tweeted about the a date that writer/creator Budjette Tan was teasing Trese fans with. Sure enough, it was the date of the fourth volume’s launch.

Of course I made sure I’d be there.

As usual, I went to the event venue early. I do this to case the joint, and then grab a bite to eat before settling down for a long wait. But when I got to the venue an hour before the event was supposed to start, people were already occupying seats. Mr. Budjette Tan and Mr. KaJO Baldisimo themselves were already mingling with the early attendees. Or their friends. Who are also fans of their work, and not just there because they’re friends. Obviously, I didn’t bother with my launch-ritual of going somewhere else to eat first. I grabbed the nearest seat to the makeshift stage and I waited.

I didn’t have to wait long. After the lengthy interview by TV5, the program proper started. Host Jiggy Cruz made small talk, revealed the Trese-fied iPad that National Bookstore is raffling off to the luckiest Trese fan, before getting on with the grilling of the creators. A short question-and-answer with the fans followed, some of which gets touched upon in the embedded video below.

An apology to the quality of the video coverage. This is only the second time I’ve done this, and since you haven’t seen the first one–it was obviously a failure. The background music’s a bit louder than intended, and some of the anecdotes/answers were cut out to keep the video short. But hey, it’s something new! Going back to the event…

The place was packed. Packed! But it wasn’t until the autograph-signing session that I actually saw how many people came out to support the launch of Trese 4. There were two lines of people snaking throughout the loft of Bestsellers’, with the people in each line hoping they were the ones in the right line. Both were, actually. The Bestsellers’ people thought to let the lines stay, with the lines merging somewhere in the middle–prior to reaching the creators’ table.

Do I even need to say that the event was very successful?

Book: Trese, The Fight of the Year

"Trese: The Fight of the Year"When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions.

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call: Alexandra Trese.

The latest standalone of Trese takes our heroine from the streets of Manila to General Santos City in Mindanao, where we meet a familiar boxer who is about to headline the titular “fight of the year.” And it’s a fight he must win, or else.

I’m not going to spend much time talking about the story. It’s pretty short, and it’s at par with the quality of previous Trese stories. Though, this might be the closest they’ve come to blurring the boundaries of our world and that of Alexandra Trese’s. But it works, and I think this might be one of my favorite Trese stories to date. And to think I’m not even a fan of “the boxer.”

Ehem.

The most important news I’ve gathered from reading this standalone issue, given free during Free Comics Day at Bestsellers Ortigas last May 21, is that the fourth volume of Trese is finally coming out this November!

Also—and this really deserves its own paragraph—Trese ashcans “will be available monthly at selected comicbook stores starting May 2011.” This is exciting news! How do we find out where we can get said ashcans? I guess we’ll just have to follow the Trese blog!

book: trese, mass murders

"trese" by budjette tan and kajo baldisimoon to the last (as of now) volume of TRESE: MASS MURDERS. my fourth book off the filipino horror pile.

in my previous post, i said that “the second volume of TRESE is, in my opinion, leagues better than the first volume.” and i stand by that. but the third volume? is in a league of its own.

i’ve raised my questions about the series in my post about the first volume. those aren’t all of my questions, but those were the ones i thought were important as a backgrounder. MASS MURDERS manages to answer most of the questions in a mind-blowing way.

a bit of an aside; i’m a fan of continuity and reusing secondary characters, so i really liked MASS MURDERS and how it incorporated previously known information and previously met characters into a wonderfully (and tightly) woven story.

all five issues included in the third volume was a rise to action, moving towards the epic climax in the final issue, AN ACT OF WAR.

i also loved how alexandra trese’s strongest allies, the kambal (the twins), were very much integral to the final arc’s plot. and how they were taken out in the alexandra’s last case to give a sense of foreboding, of whether alexandra will survive or not.

my only nitpick in this volume is the huge gap of time between alexandra’s quest and her return in case #12. right before alexandra heads to her quest, we are introduced to a whole new bunch of characters who, i thought, would make the world of TRESE more colorful. but a page later, most of these characters were explained away. well and good, as that would explain why they were never mentioned in the first two volumes. but by the volume’s end, i kind of wished that at least they’d merit another mention.

going back to filipino horror though, TRESE: MASS MURDERS is definitely not a candidate. the whole arc is teeming with characters from filipino folklore, but it is more fantasy/action than horror. and the departure from horror made me a bit sad, since that was one of the things i liked most about the previous volume.

but i am looking forward to the fourth volume. hopefully, we’ll get more light into alexandra’s life there.

and moving on to a different topic; blogger will has a competition up and running over at his blog. a competition to win a novel written by chuck palahniuk. go and check it out!

book: trese, unreported murders

"trese" by budjette tan and kajo baldisimothe second volume of TRESE is, in my opinion, leagues better than the first volume.

TRESE: UNREPORTED MURDERS is the third book of my filipino horror pile, as recommended by fantaghiro23 and kwesifriends. and while i’m not going to rave about the book, i have to admit that it is, so far, the best of the three i’ve already read.

with UNREPORTED MURDERS, we continue to follow lead character alexandra trese as she navigates the underworld of metro manila to solve police cases that involve the supernatural. we still don’t get answers as to who she really is, why the police really depends on her, and why many supernatural beings bow to her “rules.” but, unlike in the first volume wherein these questions nagged at me, i was able to let them go for this volume.

mainly because second volumes rarely do set-up, and this one does. and because unlike the first volume, we get a real taste of horror in the issues contained in this second volume.

in here, we get two stories without a clear-cut ending, and one that is obviously a lead-in to a story about to come. in case #5, the first story of the second volume, we end where we begin: with a nuno (a dwarf-like creature) falling in love; and in case #7, we end with the knowledge that alexandra trese cannot clean up all the supernatural messes of the city. sure, the first volume also had a case that sought a balance between perceived reality and the underworld. but unlike the stories of volume 2, the stories of volume 1 had a more lesson-to-take-home approach to the endings of the story.

volume 2 also had lessons (after all, moral lessons are almost always the point of filipino folklore), but not as black-and-white as the ones found in the first volume. and unlike the stories from the first volume, the ones included in UNREPORTED MURDERS have a more frightening approach to horror. it actually reminds me of the old horror comics i used to read when i was a kid.

now, onto the third (and last, as of now) volume of TRESE.