Book: Bravos Manila and Bravos Cebu

"Bravos Manila/Cebu"

Superheroes are the norm in Studio Salimbal‘s two one-shots: Bravos Manila and Bravos Cebu. In it, celebrities have been replaced by tiers of super-powered individuals who are working to help innocents against… well… villains.

In Bravos Manila, a slacker hero named Kit Kamao finds himself in an impossible situation when he suddenly becomes the face of resistance against a giant dream-fueled monster. Meanwhile, Pedro Pilandok tries to recruit a new hero in the pages of Bravos Cebu.

Story-wise, both one-shots are awesome. I love this new superhero-filled world that the two comic books are establishing. But I found myself being drawn more into Bravos Cebu because of the art. It’s simple. Clean. Easy to understand.

The thing is, I think Bravos Cebu looks and feels simple because there isn’t a hundred and one things happening in every panel. I get that Bravos Manila is trying to set the tone of just how many heroes there are, but I thought it needed to scale down a little bit.

In the first few pages of Bravos Manila, I actually thought the whole world was filled with super-powered human beings. It wasn’t until later, when our hero tries to help kids that I realized there were non-powered beings as well.

That said, I do commend the artist for making the heroes not look a like. That’s a feat for someone who has to draw a thousand of them in every page. They all have personality, and you get a semblance of who they are or what they can do.

There’s just too many of them.

It does get better midway though, when we’re no longer scrambling through the peripheral heroes. Once the action sweeps our main protagonist up, the story and art becomes easier to follow.

And I really like how it ends.

I’m hoping though, that when the series Maharlika High does arrive, these two one-shots would still be canon. That they will actually have an impact on what happens in the series being set up.

Book: Bakemono High 2

"Bakemono High 2"

Love is in the air at Bakemono High: from love potions to puppy love, this one has it all! COntinuing from the pages of K-Zone Magazine, these are the adventures of Max, Chuck, and Amy, best friends who are too ghoul for school!

If you’re in need for a dose of cute, then you’re in luck–because Bakemono High continues to deliver that in spades. In the title’s second independent collection, creator Elbert Or tackles the intricacies of love…in the high school age. I would argue that the characters sometimes read as grade schoolers, but who knows? Maybe they are. Just because a school is called Blah-blah “High,” it doesn’t automatically mean that all students there are high school students, right?

But I’m getting away from the topic at hand–

Bakemono High delivers what readers continue to expect from the title: light-hearted fun, with a small dose of geekery. And this title, just like the first one, is perfect for casual readers who just want to pass the time in between things to do.

In a perfect world, we can get a longer Bakemono High serial. The characters are way too three-dimensional for them not to have one. But you can’t argue with the winning formula of short and sweet either.

That said, after reading this particular Bakemono High collection, I kinda missed one of Elbert’s older works–the one where he collaborated with Jamie Bautista. Cast. It’s also set in high school, it has romance, and it was one of the best comics serials at the time.

I continue to hold out hope that the Cast characters would be brought to life again. Until then, I’ll content myself with Bakemono High for my dose of the comics-induced warm fuzzies.

Book: Lola, a Ghost Story

"Lola: A Ghost Story"

Jesse sees dead people, monsters, demons, and lots of other things that go bump in the night. Things that no one else can see. No one except his ailing grandmother — a woman who used her visions to help those living in her small town. The same rural community in all the scary stories Jesse’s heard as a child. Man-eating ogres in trees. Farmhouses haunted by wraiths. Even pigs possessed by the devil. Upon his grandmother’s passing, Jesse has no choice but to face his demons… and whatever else might be awaiting him at Lola’s house.

If one was to judge a book by its cover, you would say that this book isn’t scary at all. And you would be right. Because I don’t think the intent behind this book was to scare. At any capacity. Which makes me wonder–what exactly was the purpose behind Lola: A Ghost Story?

The story is nice. Unfortunately, it’s just that– Nice. It’s not groundbreaking in any way. Nor is it very original.

It’s a story designed to pull at the heartstrings, but only manages a few tugs before giving up.

It’s a story that sets up a world it has no intention of visiting again.

But it’s very likeable. Which, I think, has more to do with the art than the actual story. Because looking back at it now, asking myself what I liked in the book… I’m drawing a blank.

Well, that’s not true. I really liked the art. The story though, I feel, was a wasted opportunity.

Writer Torres sets out to tell one story, a visit to the Philippines mitigated by the death of the title character: the grandmother. It weaves stories about said grandmother to tell the reader how special she was. But the actual story happens at present, at the wake her grandson from Canada is forced to attend. And his story doesn’t really connect with the grandmother save for the fact that they share the same gift: the ability to see visions–and talk to dead people.

Something we don’t really get to explore much.

We get teases of it, sure. And the actual story does deal with one ghost. But juxtaposed with the more fantastical stories about the grandmother–the main plot falls flat.

And then we get to the ending with its vision of the future.

Closing the book, I had to ask–what was the point of the ending? And then, as I type this, I followed this up with, what was the point of the whole story? Is it about acceptance? About destiny? About faith?

Whatever the story may be about, it remained unclear and unrealized.

But the art was really nice.

Of course, I could be looking at this the wrong way. Someone out there might have been able to discern why this book is good. So let’s see what other people said about the book:
One Metal
Comic Book Resources
Kat in Books

Book: After the Storm (Stories on Ondoy)

"After the Storm," edited by Elbert OrIn September of 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (International name: Ketsana) came to the Philippines–to the Luzon group of provinces, to be more specific. September 26 will be etched in the memories of many as a day of tragedy–and a day of heroism.

Ondoy wasn’t a super typhoon. It barely warranted the name typhoon when it hit the Philippines. But the destruction it left was massive.

My personal Ondoy story isn’t special. I was stuck inside a car for more than 12 hours. Big deal, right? Heck, I didn’t even know most of what was going on outside the confines of the car. I got a couple of friends asking me how I was during the time, because I live in the flood capital of Metro Manila, but that was it. For the most part, I thought it was just another storm, nothing extraordinary.

It wasn’t until eleven in the evening, when I finally got home, that the situation really hit me.

Though we live in the flood capital, we were also lucky enough to be in one of the higher parts of the city. In the two decades we’ve been living in our village, the worst flood we had reached our shins. And that was at the lowest part of our village. But the night of September 26, while our house was unscathed, the same couldn’t be said for our village. Fifty steps from my house, all you can see is water. And a raft carrying half-a-dozen people. Our village turned into a lake.

By Sunday morning, September 27, the water was gone. It felt like a bad dream. And while our village was lucky in that the water was quick to leave, the rest of the metro wasn’t as fortunate.

The pieces in ‘After the Storm’ were mostly written in the midst of and immediately after the typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. The writers share their experiences of the typhoons, their insights and reflections, their hopes and aspirations. Long after the news media has moved on to the next big headline, ‘After the Storm’ hopes to stand as a written record to remind everyone that this happened. We were there. We are still here.

I admit that I bought After the Storm because of guilt. The only ‘help’ I was able to give was to use the Twitter account of the website I used to work for, to direct and redirect calls for volunteers and relief goods, answer questions I could answer, and to retweet pertinent information to the account’s followers. At the time, our website was operating with a skeleton crew, and as they say in the entertainment business, the show must go on. So that was my excuse.

The real reason I didn’t help was because I didn’t want to face the tragedy. Not then. I survived when so many didn’t. I lost hours, while other people lost their livelihood, their houses–everything. So instead, I logged on to Twitter every chance I could get to pass around calls for help. Calls I myself didn’t answer.

Seeing After the Storm in a bookstore, these words caught my eye: “The writers share their experiences of the typhoons, their insights and reflections, their hopes and aspirations.” Beautiful words. I was sold. But while actually reading the book, I mostly felt angry.

The introduction was beautiful. And a couple of the essays were poignant. One essay, “An Unpopular Opinion on Volunteerism” by Luis Buenaventura II was logical, and I actually thought his essay has a good point. But most of what was in the anthology infuriated me. Especially when I came to these gems: “Why volunteer? … You get a good workout. … You have something to write about in your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.” Really? That’s a few of your reasons for volunteering?

And then there are the essays that do nothing but pontificate. There’s no other word for it.

I really wish I could end this post with a recommendation to buy this book. But I can’t. For me, this is a lesson I must learn: never let guilt decide when buying something. Especially a book.