Some time off

I'll be taking some time off from reviewing and other activities on this blog. It will not take too long though, just over the weekends so it's just like the normal hiatus I do very week. It's a way of offering a period of silence for Japan, and other countries that are being affected by natural disasters and internal discord. My own country included. I have friends in Japan and some family members currently working in the Middle East and with all the chaos going on, all I can do is pray for their safety and return.

I'd also like to extend my condolences to all those who've lost their loved ones over the course of these past few tumultuous weeks, especially in Japan a country close to my heart as my own. Japan has been instrumental in what I am right now. I've heard from gunjap, a fellow blogger that the Japanese hobby industry has suffered a huge blow from the recent major earthquake and tsunami combo that hit their shores, disastrous events that me and the rest of the Filipino people are very familiar with. Companies like Volks and Kotobukiya, Bandai etc have already notified their customers that their production and distribution has been suspended for an indefinite amount of time.I may seem superficial by just being mostly concerned about Japan's hobby industry but take it this way: there are people like you and me who are behind all of it and they deserve all the sympathy and help they can get from all of us, much in the same way for any country struck by disaster. 

With all this, I just have one simple wish: that we may all get through these trials and be back on our feet as soon as we all can.

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Komiks Review: Maktan #1

Maktan by Teppai Pascual (under Meganon Comics) belongs to a rare breed of indies that explores Philippine history,particularly the Battle of Maktan. Presented in ashcan format with a superbly done black and white cover, Maktan delivers visually. I can describe Teppai Pascual's art as a hybrid of traditional Filipino and manga art,quite a common mix but I dare say that it does not really follow the 'generic' mold that is so prevalent these days .

Around 70% of the Maktan's first issue is told visually, with the dialogue scattered sparingly through out the book. The last few pages in particular, mainly a discussion between Datu Lapu-lapu and a Spanish envoy became the narrative foci of the book. That paved way for the plot and while the first book ended in a major cliffhanger, it got the whole story rolling.

I believe in presenting our local history in komiks form with a few adulterations as possible, or none at all. I am yet to read the rest of Maktan and see if it will stick to the historical formula. Overall a good read and here's hoping that the rest of the story would be finished.

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Komiks Review: Umlauts and Atom Bombs

Umlauts and Atom Bombs is yet another indie from creator extraordinaire Gerry Alanguilan. The title is reminiscent of a new wave staple but that's how far the statement goes. Like most of his indies from way back, Umlauts is presented in a photocopied mini-comic format and in this particular case contains 2 short stories. First is 'Mitch and Mischa' written by Gerry and illustrated by Marivi Hilos-Nepomuceno who contributed drawings for 'Wasted' and is an accomplished komiks artist herself having worked for GASI for a period of time. 'Mitch and Mischa' is a well thought out slice-of-life story  about letting go,told in a very unconventional way. The play of emotions is very subtle in this tale and yet it evokes a certain bitter sweetness not quite seen in romance or drama komiks. Indeed it is something that's worthy of being made into a TV special or short film.

The second story is 'July 16', a story from Gerry's 2-issue 'Dead Hearts Stories' from 1996. I had the original book but have lost it since from a friend who borrowed and never returned it, but I must say that through the years 'July 16' remains as one of the most touching stories Gerry has ever created. Set in the back drop of the July 16,1990 earthquake (hence the title), it is the tale of love gained and lost amidst the disaster. A true worthy follow-up or perhaps more appropriately, an aftermath of 'Wasted'.

Umlauts and Atom bombs is worth getting, by virtue of 'July 16' alone seeing light after more than a decade. Here's hoping for another serving of Umlauts in the near future. 

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Komiks Review: Kubori Kikiam 'I *heart* Short Shorts'

Who doesn't *heart* short shorts?

A short dossier on Kubori Kikiam first. The series follow the misadventures of a  trio of mutated humanoid kikiams (fish rolls, yes they are mutant food!) as they battle the evil fishballs (more mutated food!) while trying to discover who or what created them in the first place. The main story line was serialized in mini-comics (called 'guinea pigs' by the creators) before being included in the (now-defunct) manga anthology Culture Crash. Since then, the main Kubori Kikiam plot has been 'suspended' but a number of spin-off strips have been made to fill in the gap.

Apparently, the third Kubori Kikiam strip compilation starts with the first statement above and leads from one thing to another as creator Michael David a.k.a 'Taga-Kanal' could only offer. As with the two previous two compilations, Kubori Kikiam 'I *heart* Short Shorts' is presented in a short book format with colored front and back covers but what makes it different is that it has an Easter Egg in it that you have to see or rather 'feel' for yourselves.

If 'Kubori Strips for the Soul' is the PG-rated one in the series and 'Best Things in Life' is R-rated, then Kubori Kikiam 'I *heart* Short Shorts' gets the X-rating in the bunch. David ups the ante by introducing more raunchy jokes and scenes than ever before. The kikiams are back in action with more porn, toilet humor and anatomy references than you can ever fit in a book, and we all know what that means. In a way, Kubori Kikiam 'I *heart* Short Shorts'takes the guilty out of 'guilty pleasure'. There are even throwback scenes from Culture Crash, an added bonus to the older fans. And with the way things are going with the current story arc, ('The Melancholy of Edward Cordero', can be read in the website) things could get a bit more extreme than this one.

Kubori Kikiam 'I *heart* Short Shorts' is not for everybody though due to its adult-oriented content and it was a wise decision on the authors part to put a warning not to sell it to minors. Still, Kubori Kikiam 'I *heart* Short Shorts' is a must have in any one's indie collection. 

Komiks Review: 24-hour Comics and Beyond

24-hour Comics and Beyond is from Komikon best indie three-peater Mel Casipit known also for his works such as Baboy, Mukat and Dogstyle komiks.

24-hour Comics and Beyond was spawned from Mel's entry in last year's Philippine 24-hour Komiks challenge and was originally entitled 'Astigin', a play on the theme of the contest 'Bakit Astig ang Pinoy' (Why are Pinoys awesome?). The author was not able to finish his comics within the time limit for the competition but he opted to continue 'Astigin' and release it as a stand-alone indie.

The indie came in a green cover with standard photocopied insides. The art is standard Mel fare with homages from a number of art styles ranging from classic Pinoy to cartoonish to manga. The original 4 pages seen in the Philippine 24-hour Komiks challenge website were enhanced and the remaining 20-pages were completed by the author, telling the tale of a Pinoy warrior in an international gladiatorial match that will determine who's the best in the world. The Pinoy warrior is pitted in the finals with America's representative with whom he had an tumultuous but otherwise successful battle with. Thus, the author was able to stick to the theme and give a very gripping and dynamic story at the same time with the action never letting down up until the very end of the story.

I have to say that if Mel Casipit could have finished his story in the 24 hour contest, he could have earned a spot in the top ten. Nevertheless, he was generous enough to share 'Astigin' in the form of 24-hour Comics and Beyond, an act that truly worthy of merit among komiks creators here in the Philippines.

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Komiks Review: Gutom

Gutom (Hunger) by Norby Ela in a nutshell is a thought provoking tale of survival and moving on. While it is similar in vein with his story for the Philippine 24-hour comics challenge entitled 'Weather weather lang', (which was highly praised by Gerry Alanguilan) Gutom still manages to stand on its own.

The indie is nicely printed with the black cover already setting the mood for the story. Inside, the art might not be stellar but the human connection built up from the plot is the thing that shines in this particular tale. Everyone has experienced some sort of tragedy in a lifetime and Norby Ela captures that moment into paper and manages to evoke feelings of empathy and pity through the characters. The title itself 'Gutom' might mislead some readers, though it will only take one reading to fully appreciate what the author conveys about remembering,coping and ultimately moving on in life after a tragedy.Overall, a great read. This is actually 1 of my three favorite reads from the indies I got from Komikstrip 2011 (the other 2 would be a secret until I subject them to reviews).

Autobiographical stories are fast becoming Norby Ela's forte. And autobiographical indies do not come a-dime-a-dozen these days. So here's hoping we see more of this not only from Norby but from other creators as well.
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