Reading local graphic novels/comic books is often a surreal experience. I grew up reading the usual Marvel and DC comics, immersed in the lives of the X-men, Batman, Spiderman and Superman. It never occurred to me that I would one day read about local superheroes. While the local comic world never was dead and their existence back then was staple in local newsstand, it wasn’t something I personally got exposed to. But ‘lo and behold, I finally found myself a fan of the local comic book scene. I began my journey with Arnold Arre’s Mythology class, eventually making my way to Budjette Tan’s Trese, Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer and eventually Paolo Fabregas’ Filipino Heroes League. All of which I devoured with excitement at the possibilities the local graphic novel/comic book scene had to offer.
I’ve been awaiting the installment to FHL since I first read volume 1 last year. We were honored here at Gathering Books to have featured the author (check here). I’ve decided to keep a watch on FHL as I enjoyed the local flavor the author incorporated in the characters. It’s not just the setting or the obvious reference to history, but Fabregas is able to embrace true Filipino concepts from owner type jeeps to overseas Filipino workers. It felt so rooted to local life that it felt so comfortable. The second installment, I think, delivered as good as the first one. It has expanded its storyline in developing the characters a bit more. The story line also builds up to be more mysterious, leaving the readers with enough to hang on to for the third installment. The entrance of the church and state dynamic once again reminded me of how Filipino this graphic novel is. It engages you because you are familiar with the situation, while at the same time it makes you continue to wonder what the motive behind everything is. FHL is full of mishaps, imperfect heroes who don’t really have the suave and finesse I’m used to seeing in their western counter part. I don’t know if its intentional on the author’s part to make the FHL less shiny and more home made. They aren’t your typical heroes, there’s a lot of uncertainty in them and I suppose that allows more space to grow. FHL 2 doesn’t do much in giving answers, what it does is give us more questions and one of the greater questions is how a bunch of ‘misfits’ can save the world?
I’ve visited enough blogs and enough bookstores to keep watch of new things on the shelves and one of those ‘books’ that caught my attention is The Dark Colony: Book 1 (Mikey Recio and the Secret of the Demon Dungeon). Okay, I have to admit the title sort of reminds me of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, buts the similarities begin and end there. I picked this up because Budjette Tan of Trese fame is 1/3 of the team that created this graphic novel, the other is the story. When I started this graphic novel I wasn’t sure what to expect. A part of me thought I knew what it was about, but I was just blown away by this first installment. The story introduces us to Mikey, our reluctant chosen one and the rituals he has been part of since his childhood. The first installment sets up the stage, tells the reader the history of the demon dungeon and the group of guardians chosen for a special task. The graphic novel is a mix of ‘history,’ faith and heroic feats. It has enough drama to carry you through and enough suspense to keep you wanting. And besides, how can a dungeon filled with demon eyeballs not sound interesting? If anything, the only disappointment I have for this graphic novel is that Book 2 isn’t out yet. Because I love my folklore and demons, this graphic novel just made me smile. The trio behind this novel just gained another fan and I can’t wait to read the succeeding stories.
I am unable to give these graphic novels the proper review they deserve as I feel I might end up spoiling the story. FHL: Book 2: The Sword allows FHL follower to learn more about their heroes and watch as the enemies agenda unravels. The Dark Colony: Book 1 on the other hand pushes the boundaries of history and fantasy and delivers a story that is equal parts heroic, dramatic and eerie.
It’s amazing how local graphic novels are finally gaining recognition and I do hope that more and more comic book fans see the beauty in the local graphic novel. I’ve always believed local stories whether historical or folklore are rich with possibilities in terms of storytelling and it’s wonderful to find more and more local literature tapping at this databank and offering readers fresh new ways at looking at ever familiar stories.
Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 133/134 of 150