Monday, April 17, 2006

SIGLO:PASSION reviewed in Inquirer

The darkness and light of 'Passion'

First posted 11:43pm (Mla time) April 16, 2006
By Ruel S. de Vera, Inquirer
Editor's Note: Published on page F2 of the April 17, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Siglo: Passion"
Edited by Dean Francis Alfar and Vincent Simbulan
Kestrel IMC, Nautilus Comics and Quest Ventures
QC, 2005, 200 pages

AMBITION IS THE MIGHTY scaffolding of literary and visual feat: the greater the height to be scaled, the more substantial the risk, the more abundant the possible reward. And yet that attempt can be breathtaking by itself, a challenge to the void, a call to arms against the mundane.

This is the gap being minded-and crossed -by the comic-book anthology "Siglo." Edited by comic-book veterans Dean Francis Alfar and Vincent Simbulan, the daring, award-winning "Siglo: Freedom" gathered short pieces of what Alfar calls "grafiction" that unfurled varied artistic styles and dissected diverse aspects of the Filipino's experience of liberty.

Two years later, Alfar and Simbulan have spawned the next incarnation in the "Siglo" saga, "Siglo: Passion," an even worthier adventurer in the graphical and literary continuity that is Filipino comic books. The big idea is, as the editors write in the introduction, to expose "the boundless enthusiasm that drives us to be both baneful and divine; to aspire to exalted heights or sink to ignoble depths."

"Siglo: Passion's" cast is prodigious, an assembly of international stars, local stalwarts, award-winners, up-and-coming kid wonders.

Aside from the two editors, there's Nikki Go-Alfar, Lan Medina, Reno Maniquis, Edgar Tadeo, Hiyas de Guzman, Vicente Groyon, Honoel Ibardolaza, Paolo Manalo, Andrew Drilon, Carlo Vergara, Jason Banico, Marco Dimaano, Quark Henares, Antonio Abad, Ma-an Asuncion, Gerry Alanguilan, Jaime Bautista, Michelle Soneja, Cyan Abad-Jugo, Luis Katigbak, Jonas Diego, Joel Chua, Ariel Atienza, Jeremy Arambulo, Angelo Suarez, Rafael Kayanan, Leinil Francis Yu, Josè Illenberger, Jac Ting Lim, Camille Portugal, Oliver Pulumbarit, Wilson Tortosa and Ma. Camille Francisco.

Primary arsenal

Twelve stories array themselves in parade as "Passion's" primary arsenal, each tackling a different decade and location. As always, the stories intend to show off the unique attributes of the writers and artists. "Passion" bookends the stories with Suarez's illustrated poems and a sensational cover by Illenberger, all in all a gorgeous package.

Solid work abounds from all around. There is a dark, dark undercurrent in "Passion" as the storytelling here is quite mature and very sophisticated. Manalo's tale, combined with Drilon's graphic gambits, generates a creepy vibe that is taken even further by Vergara's spooky, meaningful anti-romance. Alanguilan's ghost story is harrowing in its stillness.

Ibardolaza's deceptively bucolic pattern unhinges, because of how it hides and then unleashes the truth in Groyon's story. Go-Alfar's story uses the artists' strengths to craft a lushly rendered journey to unexpected and bittersweet redemption. On the other tangent, Simbulan and Atienza's cozy piece makes wise use of a recipe passed down through the generations.

The book's most hypnotic, most arresting piece is "Manila 2019." In Katigbak's reality-bending exploration through what amounts as romance and obsession at an age where the soul hides behind the oh-so-aptly chosen avatar.

How can you not get into a story that has an oversized guinea pig named Briggs walking around in a dystopian Philippines? It's a well-written parallel to what's happening among the whiz kids of today and what may happen still.

Visual stylings

Just as "Freedom" introduced to a wider audience Or and Drilon, talents who have since established themselves, "Passion" lets readers discover the pleasures of De Guzman's and Arambulo's visual stylings. Just as the first "Siglo" was a black-and-white project, "Siglo: Passion" equips itself for the next mission. While "Freedoom" deployed some of these same talents in black-and-white, "Passion" features full-color coated pages for every story; there are 12 stories instead of the predecessor's 10. Most importantly, "Passion" continues its permutation of "Siglo"'s purpose as a test bed for grafiction's possibilities in telling the Filipino story.

There are hints of whimsy and compassion, but mostly the unimpeachable inertia of love, all whipped together in a complex comic book bouquet. It's not all melodrama, manga and Manila.

In that sense, "Passion" is very much the more serious older brother of the earlier "Freedom," fulfilling the promise of the "Siglo" evolution, and, as always, setting the bar higher for whatever comes next in the "Siglo" series.

This lovingly produced, high-concept anthology deserves all the superlatives it will snare, for "Siglo: Passion" is an irresistibly dark vision of all that a Filipino comic book can be, when imbued with the right amount of emotion and devotion.

Available from all Comic Quest and Fully Booked branches.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

THE LUNA BROTHERS: Filipino-American comic book creators of ULTRA

Superwomen and the Luna Bros.

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on April 4, 2006 Sign up now!
by Laurel Maury, PW Comics Week -- 4/4/2006

The comics writer and artist duo of Jonathan and Josh Luna look like they’re on the verge of really big things. The young Filipino-American brothers graduated from the Savannah College of Art in 2001 (Jonathan) and 2003 (Josh) and they've already published a popular stand-alone graphic novel, Ultra: Seven Days, a post-Watchmen super-heroine relationship graphic novel, and started Girls, a new series in a supernatural vein. Both are from Image comics, and Girls looks to be even more popular than Ultra. And now the brothers are working on Spiderwoman for Marvel.

Read the complete article at:

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

SUNDAY INQUIRER MAGAZINE reviews and recommends...


“Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat” by Arnold Arre, Tala Studios

A LOGICAL and well-crafted evolution of Arre’s folklore-meets-modernity trip in “The Mythology Class,” this graphic novel is more action-packed, faster-paced and darker than “Class.” Told in Filipino and featuring crisp art, “Agimat” is an epic in a fishbowl, as Arre continues to tweak his unique take on the idea of metahumans and Filipino legends—with a good dab of superstition. Furthermore, Andong Agimat makes for a promising protagonist for future books and “Agimat” is confident proof that Arre has found a spectacular niche. RSDV

“Divine Comedy Comics” by Steven Pabalinas, Pango Publishing

YOU haven’t seen irreverent until you’ve read “Divine Comedy,” Pabalinas’s deconstruction of organized religion, history and culture as it appears in the Inquirer’s comic page. Be warned: This is not for the easily offended or the religious conservative. Ranging from the ridiculously obtuse (jokes about Charles Darwin’s ancestors and the Da Vinci dress code) to the smartly skewering (strips answering the question “What if God was one of us?”), the collected material is uneven at times but so brazen, you can’t help but chuckle a bit, and guffaw at the wordplay and wiseacre reinterpretation. RSDV<>

“Trese” # 3 by Budjette Tan and Ka-jo Baldisimo, Alamat Comics

THE BEST work yet from Alamat founder Tan, this moody mini-comic series starts out smart and gets even smarter. Investigator Alexandra Trese, holder of the supernatural secrets of the city as passed down from her grandfather, helps the local cops by tracking down the magical misdeeds with the help of her wickedly cool bodyguards, adroitly furnished by Baldisimo. The previous issues dealt with catchy ideas like a tikbalang in a drag race, but in this superlative issue, grisly murders lead to an unexpected interpretation of an iconic figure. RSDV



“Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume I”
edited by Dean Francis Alfar Kestrel IMC

A WELCOME visitation, this collection of short stories from Filipino writers delves exclusively in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, yet the pieces in “Philippine Speculative Fiction” may have evolved into a different breed somewhere in between, which is a good thing. From Ian Rosales Casocot’s audacious investigation of Jose Rizal to J. Pocholo Martin B. Goitia’s vision of the Filipino’s future in the being Magenta, the stories here lace the future with the flavor of our past. New and old fictionists like Angelo R. Lacuesta, Gabriela Lee and Francezca C. Kwe lend their vibrant voices to this project. “To find the fantastic, we must create the fantastic,” Alfar writes in his introduction to this fantastic find. RSDV

“Takod” by David Hontiveros, Visual Print Enterprises

SOMETHING’S rotten in what was once the little settlement of Mapayapa. And now, years later, Mike Lasombra returns to this place from his past with a curious pendant around his neck. After encountering a wizened old woman who knows more than she’s letting on, Mike will discover the throbbing dark secret of Mapayapa. The bloody, frightening shadow behind Mapayapa will require more of Mike than he ever imagined. All this, in straightforward horror and in allegorical manner, is stuffed into Hontiveros’s compact and creepy novella. RSDV

“Huling Ptyk: Da Art of Nonoy Marcelo” Pandy Aviado, Sylvia Mayuga and Dario Marcelo, eds. Anvil

THE late Nonoy Marcelo, best known for his long-running comic strips “Tisoy” and “Ikabod,” was a cultural avatar whose art reflected contemporary Philippine reality more effectively than most “serious” social critics. In “Huling Ptyk,” the editors—who better than his closest friend, his ex-wife and his son?—compile articles, interviews and analyses that shed light on various facets of Marcelo’s complex genius, from his unique personal language, to his experiences abroad, to his intimate relationships. Livening up the volume are copious illustrations by the maestro himself, taken from his four-decade career, which alone are worth the price of admission. It is a fitting memorial to a true Filipino original. - ESC



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