TRESE reviews in Manual (January 2009)

Book review: TRESE
Manual, December/January 2009 issue

I hate Budjette Tan. Because he is living out my dream. No, no, not my dream of becoming a mutant porn star superhero millionaire. It's my other dream: To be a comic book writer. And, despite the fact that he has to struggle with a day job, Budjette still writes comic books.

Since I cannot live out my other dream, then I am forced to spend my children's college fund on my ravenous comic book collections. So I daresay, when it comes to comic books, I know what is good s&*^ and I know what is bulls*(&. But what Budjette has created in his magnum opus TRESE, well THIS is the s*(&.

TRESE explores the world of Alexandra Trese, a nightclub owner slash paranormal investigator who is, herself, paranormal. With the assistance of her twin bodyguards called kambals (duh), Trese is called in by the cops to solve the type of crimes that would make their testicles retract to the pit of their stomachs. In Trese, Budjette has artfully weaved in Philippine lower mythology into modern Filipino life: It is a Manila where you can visit your neighborhood nuno lurking in a manhole, hang around with an engkanto at the nearest dance club or drag-race with your alpha-male tikbalang. These lower mythology concepts that have been explored in earlier works such Arnold Arre's The Mythology Class and Whilce Portacio's Stone , but not in the same grounded and noir-ish fashion that Budjette has done in Trese.

For those not too steeped in comic book lore, the easiest pop culture reference for Trese would be a 'local' version of the X-Files. Similar to the X-Files, each Trese issue is a self-contained story that builds towards an overarching story line. But for those of us whose lives have been immersed in four color universes, I get a fanboy-gasm when I am able to pick up the different American comic book influences that have seeped their way into Trese, like Warren Ellis' exploration of the superhero archetype with his "archaeologists of the impossible" from Planetary or Alan Moore's dissection of the post-modern superhero in Miracleman or Watchmen.

And get this: the best of Trese is yet to come. He's still got five more stories in store for us, as he plans to end Trese at (couldn't it be more ominous?) the thirteenth issue. I really hate you Budjette.

Trese is available at National Bookstore and Powerbooks.