Review: Abangan – The Best Philippine Komiks 2014

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 11 - 2014

Disclaimers: I’m friends with the editors of Abangan, and Mythspace (my comic, which will be published by Visprint, publisher of Abangan) was one of the komiks solicited by them for the anthology that didn’t make the cut. This review was made possible by a PSF copy provided by the editors.

“Greetings young reader/ target demographic!” says the host of “Spooky Tales of the Here and Now”, a mock television show in comics form, one of the selections included in “Abangan: The Best Philippine Komiks 2014.” The self-awareness is part of the humor of the piece, but the line also brings to mind a question that lingered as I read through the anthology: who is the audience for Abangan?

That kind of question may seem more suitable for a marketing pitch than a review of a creative work, but an anthology is a special sort of beast, particularly one that claims no inherent thematic unity — quite the opposite in fact. In the introduction to the book, the editors state that “[o]ur main goal was to exhibit the range of creative work being done in the field of komiks in terms of genre, style, and medium – we attempted to feature as many genres and as many different styles as we could” and to a large part they have succeeded in that goal, with the admitted caveat that most of the komiks the Editors were exposed to were those available either online or in Metro Manila. An anthology which has both an excerpt from “The Filipino Heroes League” (Paolo Fabregas) and “Blue Dusk” (Mica Agregado) covers a wide spectrum indeed.

Given the stated goal of the editors above, it’s hard to argue with the selections made for the comic. There are two selections illustrated by Rob Cham, but the total page count of those two combined is less than the average of the other selections. Bong Redila’s captioned illustrations may not be considered comics under some definitions of the term, but they do qualify as comics under others, and most readers won’t care about the technicalities, not when the standard of craftsmanship is so high. It’s a standard that is upheld consistently throughout the book, and while there are certain styles and creators represented that I don’t “get”, I’ve heard enough good things about them to know that there are other readers who hold them in high esteem. Abangan reflects not only the wide variety of komiks in the industry, but, through these, the wide variety of readers as well.

I do wish that there had been introductions to the pieces, something to contextualize their inclusion. This is particularly true with regard to the excerpts, as some invariably fail to accurately represent their source material: the main cast of FHL is absent from its excerpt, for instance, and the “Sixty-Six” excerpt leaves out the super-power element entirely. Additional commentary would also help explain apparent oddities, such as the “Dead Balagtas” strips being in English rather than Filipino. (It turns out they were translated in preparation for a possible international edition of Abangan, but I learned this because I asked one of the editors directly, which is not going to be an option for most.)

In a way, the selections constitute a sort of mini-Komikon: it’s easy to imagine yourself weaving through the throng at the Bayanihan Center, and passing these stories as you move from one table to another. As long as you enjoy stories, the Komikon is worth the trip — comics newbies with an open mind are sure to find something that will draw them in, and chances are that even ardent fans will find something new and splendid (“Para Fierra” was that for me, and the web-only “Dead Balagtas” may be that for many). The same smorgasbord virtues are present in the Abangan anthology, particularly because the anthology also includes some previously unpublished work.

Of course, also like a visit to Komikon, the entry fee covers both work you’ll enjoy, and work you won’t. It’s the rare reader for whom all the selections in the anthology will have the same appeal. Just as Komikon is worth visiting, I can tell you that Abangan is worth reading. But whether Abangan’s merits make it worth purchasing the book, will depend entirely on what sort of reader you are — hence, why a discussion of Abangan’s audience is relevant.

If you’re new to komiks, and interested in the medium, then I wholeheartedly recommend buying a copy of Abangan. The sheer variety of komiks available, as well as the relative rarity of most komiks, can make it a difficult field to navigate. In Abangan, you have a curated, high quality, ready-made, starters kit.

If you’re a komiks reader who only buys a particular genre of komiks, or those of a particular creator, but would like to expand your horizons, I once again recommend that you buy a copy of Abangan. The reasons are much the same as those for new readers, since beyond your comics comfort zone, you are a new reader.

If you’re the avid komiks reader, the type who already has copies of most of these stories in their original forms, then it simply becomes a matter of two things: disposable income, and production quality. The first is pretty self-explanatory. As for the second… In the introduction, the editors say that one of the reasons to buy the book is that “it looks great on display on your shelves,” and while that may seem to be a bit of a throw-away line, it’s in fact one of the reasons this project is important.

Self-publishing is still the norm in the industry, and that means that efforts are made to keep printing costs as low as possible. The result is that most comics are photocopied, slim, ashcan issues that do not lend themselves to shelving or display or permanent ownership. Yet the ephemeral quality of the physical komiks is often at odds with the quality of their contents, and it’s important for the professionalization of the industry that more komiks are published in forms that do these stories justice.

Good komiks deserve respect, and a place on our shelves. Abangan understands that, and endeavors to make its readers understand as well.

 

 

 

Mythspace #0: Free Until September 6

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 27 - 2013

The nomination phase of the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards 2013 has finished, and we’re happy to announce that Mythspace #0 was one of the comics that were nominated — thanks to everyone who threw our name in the hat! Now comes the second phase of the awards, the popular vote, which will narrow the field down to a select few semi-finalists, from which the winner of the awards will be chosen.

To this end, we’re making a PDF copy of Mythspace #0 available as free download for the duration of the voting period, which ends on September 6. If you haven’t read Mythspace #0 yet, now’s your chance to do so — and our chance to win your vote, if you’re so inclined. If you’ve already read Mythspace #0 (or Mythspace: Lift Off [Part 1] — the 0 issue is Part 1 plus previews of the other Mythspace titles), then please, spread the word, so others can see if we merit their vote.

All read up? Great! If you like what you’ve seen, you can vote for Mythspace #0 here.You can also purchase Mythspace titles at Comic Odyssey, Robinsons Galleria.

If you’re wondering if it’s worth the download, here are a few of our more favorable reviews:

First, from none other than Noel Pascual, the co-creator of the wonderful Crime Fighting Call Center Agents comic. Here’s an excerpt from his review, the full text of which is here:

Koi Carreon’s art is amazing. As I was browsing through the pages the first time, it’s the character design that really stood out. There’s quite a bit of a manga influence in there but the human characters— from the lead character to the secondary characters (especially the secondary characters!)— all look quite Pinoy. In a story dealing with Pinoy myths, that goes a long way when it comes to adding to the overall effectiveness of the piece.

The plotting really works, going from flashback to present day without confusing the reader. The scenes picked enhance the drama of the story without crossing into melodrama. The rebellious teen who is our lead also doesn’t come close to crossing the line into being an unsympathetic character. Chikiamco also manages to provide his life history without sounding like it’s being done for the sake of dumping info onto the reader. In Liftoff as well as in the other stories, we get a sense that this is a fully realized world, with one element resonating with the next.

Second, from EK over at Jumper Cable:

“Collectively the comics are all presented on a professional level rarely seen outside of the Sacred Mountain, Komikero, Gunship Revolution, and Point Zero groups. Some of the best inking and detail work among the recent komiks releases are here — and I’ve just seen partial results. The typesetting for the dialogue balloons are grammar-corrected and nearly faultless. The paneling is also professional, at par with the best of the Western comics.

On the script level, the two presented stories are as unique from each other as adobo and sinigang, even if they are made by the same cook. Be assured that there is much variety expected among the six presented stories, that it would not be boring even if they were all from the same writer. Both given stories are paced without a glitch, with a clear understanding of writing in general and the comic medium in particular. The author’s hand in the development process is also visible. There is almost no useless panel, and it is clear that the illustrators understand what to illustrate and how.”

Third, from from Francis at Hawkersmag.com:

“Just enough information is given about the main character, Ambrosio, leaving a lot of room for speculation and anticipation of what’s to come.

Although I tend to stray a bit away from angst-ridden teenagers, reasons for Ambrosio’s anger are justified, and it would be interesting to see how his character has changed now that his whole worldview has turned itself over.

There is scarce dialogue, which makes for very efficient story-telling. Chikiamco’s dialogue does what it is intended to do: move the plot forward and reveal character. It doesn’t get in the way of the action and suspense that spills throughout the pages, and that’s a very good thing when it comes to pacing.”

And last but not least, from Tina Matanguihan, from One More Page, where she gave it it 5 out of 5 stars! Here’s an excerpt:

This new series plays on the idea that the creatures we know from folk tales and movies not simply monsters from our grandparents’ stories, but you know, creatures from outer space. Sounds crazy, yes?

But you know what? It actually works.

I also liked reading the previews for the two longest stories there, with Liftoff having that mystery-in-space type of story with a somewhat angst-ridden hero, and Unfurling of Wings reminding me so much of the chimaera world in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Tor.com reviews Expanded Horizons April 2013

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 1 - 2013

Tor.com just featured Expanded Horizons in their Short Fiction Spotlight, reviewing the April 2013 issue which includes two reprints from the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series: “From the Book of Names My Mother Did Not Give Me” by Christine V. Lao, and “Waiting for Agua de Mayo” by Mia Tijam.

On “From the Book of Names My Mother Did Not Give Me”:

I appreciate the lyrical quality of these shorts, as well as the food for thought each offers on the changes, good and bad, in the lives of these women: how culture and society place their own pressures, and how women can connect, or lose connections, with each other (“Barbara”), are themes that interest me. This story is a handsome, small thing, made of parts smaller still, that does the majority of its work on the allegorical level rather than that of plot. As such, it’s the sort of piece that lingers, though it may not at first make a drastic impression.

On “Waiting for Agua de Mayo”:

The story itself, however, remains engaging thanks to its execution: Tijam’s attention to detail renders the protagonist, her “dragon,” and the setting vividly. The added tension of cultural conflict—where the idea of the “dragon” even comes from, and why she thinks of it primarily as that before thinking of it as the bayawak—is a further note that the story sounds, giving it a fresh take on a common theme.

Check out the full review here.

Mythspace in the Philippine Star

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 22 - 2013

Last Saturday’s edition of the Philippine Star featured three new comics from the Summer Komikon, and the Mythspace series was one of the stories chosen (alongside ‘Sixty Sixty’ by Russell Molina and Ian Sta. Maria, and ‘Dark Colony: Book 1’ by Budjette Tan, Bow Guerrero, and JB ‘Taps’ Tapia).

Here’s what the Star had to say about Mythspace:

“Writer Paolo Chikiamco isn’t happy with creating one or two characters in his space opera mixed with Filipino folklore. He has set out to build a universe with Mythspace comics. His ambition to soar has churned out four one-shot books for the Komikon. Each book focusing on a different part of his universe and written with a specific genre in mind. It is illuminating to see this kind of work out there as Mythspacedoesn’t just expand its own universe but the literary scene as well.”

Huzzah!

SF Signal’s “Outside the Frame” reviews Trese

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On March - 20 - 2013

, who writes the Outside the Frame column for major SF site SF Signal has reviewed the Trese series by  Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo and found a lot to love. Specifically, she mentions five things, and says that “Those of you who are just hearing about Trese for the first time have been missing out on something amazing.”

It’s a great opportunity for more people to be introduced to Trese, but even long-time fans will enjoy the review. Go check it out!

New Review of “Alternative Alamat” at inkalicious

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 24 - 2013

Nothing like a positive review to brighten your day: just found a new review of “Alternative Alamat” by author Michele Albert on her reading blog. It’s a positive, detailed review — my favorite kind — with something about each of the stories, as well as the art. Here’s a taste:

“Alamat” is the Filipino word for “legend,” and the “alternative” part of the title is self-explanatory. I enjoyed this anthology; it introduced mythologies unfamiliar to me and the stories and author styles were nicely diverse. The stories ranged from the sort of urban fantasy you’d find in a Charles DeLint or Neil Gaiman book to something more along the lines of the kick-ass heroine in a city full of weird. One story read like a fairytale and another like a more straightforward mythic tale. The oddest was the story told in footnotes!

xxx

I enjoyed all the stories, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Keeper of My Sky. A creation myth with an alternative time stream twist, it was sad and hauntingly beautiful. The bit with the rain, and the reason why Tungkung Langit and Alunsina could never be together, was lovely. Fans of N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy would probably enjoy this story too, although it takes place in our modern world.

 

 

Recent Scheherazade’s Facade Reviews (December 2012)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 18 - 2012

I saw a few new reviews of Scheherazade’s Facade–the anthology of gender bending stories that I’m a part of–this week (not including the ones on Goodreads), so I’m linking to them here, to encourage readers to give the anthology a try.

The first review comes from Jarla Tangh and, if you don’t mind some spoilers, it provides brief, stylized, summaries for each of the stories in the book.

The second review is from Kellan Sparver, with what is now my favorite one-line review for one of my stories ever: Stories I found of special mention: …  ”Kambal Kulam”, by Paolo Chikiamco, for being pure crack-fic.” Bonus points: The quote that starts the review comes from my story as well. Woo hoo!

 

One More Page Reviews Mythspace #0

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 14 - 2012

Top book blogger and Kwentillion reviewer Tina Mataguihan has just reviewed Mythspace #0 on her blog One More Page and she’s given it 5 out of 5 stars! Here’s an excerpt:

This new series plays on the idea that the creatures we know from folk tales and movies not simply monsters from our grandparents’ stories, but you know, creatures from outer space. Sounds crazy, yes?

But you know what? It actually works.

I also liked reading the previews for the two longest stories there, with Liftoff having that mystery-in-space type of story with a somewhat angst-ridden hero, and Unfurling of Wings reminding me so much of the chimaera world in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Mythspace Komikon 2012 Aftermath

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 30 - 2012

What you see above is the last copy of Mythspace: Liftoff #0 at Komikon 2012, minutes before it too was purchased. Yes, we sold out of our print run, and while that is a mixed blessing usually, we didn’t play it safe with the print run, so sales really did exceed reasonable expectations — we sold almost double what High Society did, and HS was already considered a success for a Komikon indie. Thank you to everyone who bought a copy or spread the word!

A few post Komikon notes and links:

Again, thank you everyone for your support, and the team is now hard at work to ensure we have the complete anthology ready by 2013. I’ll keep updating you on the progress of Mythspace here and on the Facebook page.

Mythspace Mondays: Advance Reviews

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 22 - 2012

For the three Mondays of October before the Komikon, I’ll be talking about my newest comic book project, “Mythspace: Liftoff”. The #0 issue will be available at the Komikon on Oct.27. The first Mysthspace Monday was a look into the concept behind Mythspace, the second was about the way we re-imagined folklore creatures as aliens, and today we feature some advance reviews.

Last week I began to send out digital review copies of Mythspace: Liftoff #0 to bloggers/critics/reviewers, and a few have been kind enough to post their impressions of our zero issue online. So today I’ll let other people do the talking… it should be patently obvious by now that I love what our team has been doing, but does that translate to the impartial reader?

Short answer: YES. (So far!)

 

The most recent is from none other than Noel Pascual, the co-creator of the wonderful Crime Fighting Call Center Agents comic. Here’s an excerpt from his review, the full text of which is here:

Koi Carreon’s art is amazing. As I was browsing through the pages the first time, it’s the character design that really stood out. There’s quite a bit of a manga influence in there but the human characters— from the lead character to the secondary characters (especially the secondary characters!)— all look quite Pinoy. In a story dealing with Pinoy myths, that goes a long way when it comes to adding to the overall effectiveness of the piece.

The plotting really works, going from flashback to present day without confusing the reader. The scenes picked enhance the drama of the story without crossing into melodrama. The rebellious teen who is our lead also doesn’t come close to crossing the line into being an unsympathetic character. Chikiamco also manages to provide his life history without sounding like it’s being done for the sake of dumping info onto the reader. In Liftoff as well as in the other stories, we get a sense that this is a fully realized world, with one element resonating with the next.

The first one is from EK over at Jumper Cable:

“Collectively the comics are all presented on a professional level rarely seen outside of the Sacred Mountain, Komikero, Gunship Revolution, and Point Zero groups. Some of the best inking and detail work among the recent komiks releases are here — and I’ve just seen partial results. The typesetting for the dialogue balloons are grammar-corrected and nearly faultless. The paneling is also professional, at par with the best of the Western comics.

On the script level, the two presented stories are as unique from each other as adobo and sinigang, even if they are made by the same cook. Be assured that there is much variety expected among the six presented stories, that it would not be boring even if they were all from the same writer. Both given stories are paced without a glitch, with a clear understanding of writing in general and the comic medium in particular. The author’s hand in the development process is also visible. There is almost no useless panel, and it is clear that the illustrators understand what to illustrate and how.”

The second is from Francis at Hawkersmag.com:

“Just enough information is given about the main character, Ambrosio, leaving a lot of room for speculation and anticipation of what’s to come.

Although I tend to stray a bit away from angst-ridden teenagers, reasons for Ambrosio’s anger are justified, and it would be interesting to see how his character has changed now that his whole worldview has turned itself over.

There is scarce dialogue, which makes for very efficient story-telling. Chikiamco’s dialogue does what it is intended to do: move the plot forward and reveal character. It doesn’t get in the way of the action and suspense that spills throughout the pages, and that’s a very good thing when it comes to pacing.”

Thanks to both EK and Francis! We’d love for you all to come by the Rocket Kapre booth this coming Saturday and see for yourselves what Mythspace is all about. If you post your reviews online, let us know and we’ll link to them here on the site.

See you all on Saturday!

TAG CLOUD

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About Me

Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.

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