High Society (+ Giveaway!)

High Society by Paolo Chikiamco and Hannah Buena

High Society by Paolo Chikiamco and Hannah Buena
Publisher: Flipside Digital and Rocket Kapre
My copy: ebook from Kindle store, and signed print edition, bought from Komikon

Take your first step into a world of automata, magic, and alternative history! The year is 1764, and, for the first time in nearly two centuries, the Spanish forces have been repelled from the great walled city of Manila. While the Spaniards are quick to lay the blame at the feet of the invading British and their clockwork machines, the secret to the success of the Filipinos may lie closer to home, with an ally that is both ancient and new, mythical and mechanical. “High Society” is a stand-alone steampunk comic book in the “Wooden War” series.

* * *

I’m really all for supporting local authors and content, so when Honey told me that they will be releasing Paolo Chikiamco and Hannah Buena’s High Society under their publishing company, I bought it without blinking. Local content for the win, plus I really enjoyed Kataastaasan, so I was excited to read more about this alternate steampunk world.

Thing is, High Society is really the same as the Kataastaasan I read a year back…but also a little bit different. High Society is a stand-alone comic set in Cebu City circa 1770, and tells an alternate history of the Philippines’ struggle for independence from Spain. Here we meet someone called “The Carpenter” telling our main character Rita about the location of a treasure that they need to recover. Rita goes undercover in a party with the Spanish colonizers to retrieve the treasure. Now you’d think Rita is just your normal undercover agent and all, but then she’s also not. I won’t reveal what the twist is, but I remember I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about it on my first read. Even if I knew about it now and it kind of lessened the surprise, I really liked how it was illustrated and revealed this time, and I think it’s the part of the story that hooks the reader the most.

I think the improvement on this one compared to the ARC I read was how Rita was given a more human aspect. There’s a hint of romance in the story that made me smile, and it made me want to know more. This version also had a little more background on how Rita came to be as well as why their mission was important. I’m not a big judge on artwork, but I liked how it had that dark and authentic Philippines in Spanish era vibe.

So yeah, I liked this one on the second round as much as I liked it during the first. Too bad it’s a stand alone, but I kind of have high hopes with what they mean with the “Wooden War” series. More please? :) High Society is a creative take in Philippine history, and anyone who’s a history buff, or at least interested in alternate histories and steampunk should pick this up.

High Society is available from the Amazon Kindle store, iTunes store and in the Flipreads Digital Store. If you’re from the Philippines and you prefer a hard copy, drop by the Flipside booth at the annual Komikon this Saturday, November 19, where they will be selling limited physical copies of the comic. You can get it signed, too! :)

And because I really, really want you guys to read this, I’ll be giving away a Kindle copy of High Society to one lucky commenter. This is open to everyone — just leave a comment on this entry and I will pick one winner by Friday, November 18, 2011. If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry — there are free Kindle apps for practically every gadget out there. :)

Rating: [rating=5]

My copy: Kindle edition

Other reviews:
Planet Markus

Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight

Trese 4: Last Seen After MidnightTrese # 4: Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 108
My copy: signed paperback, bought from Bestsellers

Foul play. Magic spells. Supernatural criminals. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

This graphic novel contains the following cases:

In a neglected area of Luneta Park, where the grass grows untended, a man is found strangled by vines; which have started to grow outwards, killing anyone that gets in its path.

A manananggal has been found, tortured and murdered. The Manananggal Clan declares war on the Aswang Clan. Trese must find the real murderer before more blood is shed, before Manila gets in the crossfire of a supernatural gang war.

A strange illness has affected the students living along Katipunan Avenue. The doctors are clueless on what’s driving these people mad with despair. Can Trese trace the source of this growing paranormal epidemic?

Once a year, in General Santos City, the demons and creatures of the underworld converge to watch a most awaited event, where the country’s greatest boxer fights for his very soul.

* * *

When I finished reading Trese a few months back, I was very excited to read the next book. Truth be told, I thought the fourth book was already out last year, so I added it in my Christmas wish list. Oops, my bad!

So I wasn’t exactly sure when the next installment would be out, but I wasn’t really in a big hurry because there were still too many books on my TBR. However, I admit to letting out a squeal of delight when I heard of the launch of the fourth book. Of course I will be there. Of course I need to get it. And of course, I need to get them signed. :)

With fellow book bloggers at the launch — thanks to Aimee of yellowlibrary.com for the photo :)

Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight follows the same format of the first three books: 4 short stories each showing a case. But unlike Book 3, Mass Murders (my favorite), the cases were not connected. This is not a bad thing, and I wasn’t really expecting them to really continue on what was shown in the third book, although I know some people who would like that.

But then again, who cares? The fourth Trese installment is just as good as its predecessors, and possibly even better. The cases still deal with paranormal creatures from Philippine mythology and more. This time, Budjette and KaJo made use of pop culture and melded it into the cases flawlessly. Cadena de Amor got me humming Eraserheads’ Ang Huling El Bimbo as it reminded me of a recent murder case that hit the TV and newspapers everywhere. The Fight of the Year is undoubtedly based on Manny Pacquiao, and I really loved the explanation they gave on why crime rate goes down and why the boxer, “Manuel” fights so hard. Oh, and how can I forget — Alexandra Trese in a dress!

A Private Collection was written as a Trese short movie that didn’t push through, so there were more action scenes involved in this case. This is probably the one where I saw Trese in her angriest, and the one I felt most nervous because I thought she was about to get beaten. I’m curious now to see how this would translate to a movie — must be really, really cool. :)

But my favorite (and I think everyone else loved this one too) was Wanted: Bedspacer. In this story, Budjette and KaJo gives us a different version of the bangungot. Common knowledge translates bangungot to nightmare, but Philippine mythology equates this to the batibat, a fat spirit that chokes their victims as they sleep by sitting on their chests. However, in this story, the bangungot is a spirit that joins sad people in their loneliness, trying to keep their hearts from breaking by holding it, sometimes too tight that the person dies. There were no hardcore action scenes here, just some sleuthing and a sad revelation when they find out what really happened. I thought this was the one with the best plot, a great resolution, a reference to something that Trese did in book 3 and possibly even hinted a past heartache for Trese. :) This is why when they asked if Trese should get a romantic interest, I’m all yes! Not because I’m a girl, but because I think it would give Trese’s character more depth. I’m not saying she has to have a boyfriend — unrequited love has always been good writing material. :P

Mass Murders is still my favorite Trese book so far, but Last Seen After Midnight truly delivers. If you haven’t read any Trese books yet, well this is the time you should, because you’re missing out on a lot. Is it too early to say “I can’t wait” for the next? :)

My autographed Trese 4 :)

Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
taking a break
I am Pinoy Peter Pan

Reviews of other Trese Books:

Heroes, Old and New

I’ve always called myself a geek, but I never really point out where my geekness lies except when I’m programming, or when I’m geeking out on a new gadget. I realized lately that there’s also another thing I’m kind of geeky about: superheroes.

I’ve been reading a bit more superhero fiction this year, and it doesn’t really help that so many superhero movies came out this year, too. I really, really like reading about super beings, or humans that came with a mutation that gave them special abilities that they use to help people. I have a feeling this stems from all the times I watched those X-Men cartoons with my brother back when we were kids.

The thing is, there aren’t a lot of superhero novels out there, at least in prose form. So where to get my superhero fix? Why, graphic novels, of course. :)

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics
Number of pages: 228

Set just after the dawn of the 21st Century, in a world spinning inexorably out of control, comes this grim tale of youth versus experience, a tradition versus change, while asking the timeless question: what defines a hero? KINGDOM COME is a riveting story pitting the old guard-Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their peers-against a new, uncompromising generation of heroes in the final war against each other, to determine nothing less than the future of the planet.

* * *

I’m not well-versed with graphic novels. Truth be told, in my mind, it’s graphic novel = comics. Isn’t it? I’m not sure, actually, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re one and the same. Correct me if I’m wrong, of course.

Anyway, in the spirit of buddy reads and exploring other genres and book format, I picked up Kingdom Come by Mark Waid, illustrated by Alex Ross, through the push of my friend, fellow book blogger and graphic novel fan, Ariel. Kingdom Come is set in the DC Universe, several years into the future. Superman has gone into hiding after he was disappointed at how a superhero was acquitted for committing the murder of a villain. The other heroes had gone into hiding, too, disheartened by Superman’s and the people’s actions. Without them, their moral compass has gone astray, and the metahumans have become aggressive, blurring the lines between who are the heroes and the villains. Ten years later, we meet the story’s narrator, a minister named Norman McCay. He started getting dreams and visions of an apocalypse shortly after his friend Wesley Dodds (who is Sandman, according to Wikipedia), passed away. Soon, the Spectre shows up to him and recruits him as a witness to help him judge who are the good from the wicked in the impending superhuman apocalypse.

Kingdom Come reminds me a bit of the movie The Incredibles, sans the kiddie concept. This is definitely (and obviously) way darker, and discusses a lot of deeper moral themes, such as the real meaning of justice (if killing people who did wrong is justified just because they are evil and they killed other people too), humanity (are they still humans just because they’re super?) and morality (is it ever justifiable to allow some people to be killed if it saves more people?). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at all, with the title and everything, right? I liked how these things were tackled in the superhero universe, making it not just your normal superhero-saves-the-day story but something that discusses the things we readers most probably ponder about everyday.

What really surprised me in reading Kingdom Come, though, was how familiar I was with this. I mean, I don’t know half of the heroes mentioned here since I never opened a DC comic book in my entire life until now (my brother wouldn’t let me touch his collection back when we were kids). However, I guess growing up with a brother who loves these things and watching movies and cartoons with these characters enforced familiarity. Although I had to consult Wikipedia every now and then to see who’s who, I was more or less comfortable with navigating this universe on my own.

There was a lot of deep talk in this that had me rereading some parts of it again, but it was all wrapped up nicely in the end. And speaking of that ending: it was a nice, heartfelt one that had me chuckling. If you’ve read this, you probably know what I mean. :) I enjoyed reading this one, and it served as a good companion to those slow night shifts at work.

The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo FabregasThe Filipino Heroes League #1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas (edited by Budjette Tan)
The Filipino Heroes League # 1
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 135
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

Undermanned and under-funded, the Filipino Heroes League does what it can to fight against injustice.

It’s tough being a superhero but its even tougher being a third-world superhero.

* * *

A week after I finished reading Kingdom Come, I felt the urge to read another graphic novel because, well, I was sick, and actual wordy novels made me dizzy and/or sleepy. So I finally decided to pick up The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas, which I bought after Jason‘s very enthusiastic recommendation.

The Filipino Heroes League, or FHL, were a group of superheroes that fight injustice and help the police apprehend criminals in the Philippines. Well, they fought, but because of bad economy and the defeat of all Filipino supervillains in the country, some of the heroes have decided to take on normal people jobs using their powers, and/or migrate to other countries in hopes of being an international superhero and making it big.

We meet two of our heroes still loyal to the FHL, Kidlat Kid and Vis, who are off to catch bank robbers. After dismissing a warning from a kid who told them his classmate will kill a public official, they race off in a pedicab to catch the criminals, only to be scolded by the police after they set the van on fire with the stolen money still inside it. Meanwhile, government people who are in favor of the president’s impeachment are being killed one by one. When the remaining members of FHL are framed for these murders, they escape, only to find out that (1) there’s another group of “superheroes” who are off to get them and make them look bad, and (2) there’s a bigger conspiracy that ties all these events together, and tells them that what the FHL believed all this time may just not be true.

Fresh from reading Kingdom Come, FHL turned out to be a very fun read. I loved the local references, and how these heroes are just so…Filipino. The characters were fun, the dialogue was so familiar and the story was so gripping that I almost wished I bought this when the second book is out just so I would know immediately what happens next. I thought it was very well-written and easy to read, and it served as great entertainment for the few hours that I sat down reading this. :) I especially loved Kidlat Kid — he reminded me so much of Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender! :)

I thought it felt right to juxtapose this book with Kingdom Come, because they have similar elements: a team of superheroes, some of them forgotten and set aside, all trying to make things right with the best of their abilities. Of course, Kingdom Come takes well-known characters so it obviously has more punch, but I think FHL is pretty much at par with its foreign counterparts.

If you’re looking for another good, local graphic novel to get you by while waiting for, say, the next Trese book, then I recommend the first book of The Filipino Heroes League. It helps that Budjette Tan edited this book, too.

And once again: I really, really can’t wait for the next book. When is it coming out?

Kingdom Come – [rating=4]
The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones – [rating=4]

Other reviews:
The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones
taking a break
I Am Pinoy Peter Pan


Last weekend, I was trying to get into reading Noli Me Tangere for my Required Reading challenge and because it was Independence Day. Unfortunately, I was having a hard time getting started — it is one of our National Hero’s masterpieces written during the Philippines’ Spanish era, so the language was a bit dated. I had a hard time getting into the book so I perused my shelf for something easier to read, but still Filipino because like I said, it was our country’s independence day.

So I said hello to Alexandra Trese again. :)

I can’t remember who told me about the Trese series — I probably read it in one of the many blogs I’m following. Since I was on a mission to read more Filipino work last year, I knew I should read it, even if I only bought myself the first copy. I got it, read it in an hour, and liked it but never got to review it. I even met the authors during the Metro Comicon last year, but I’m not a comic girl, so I wasn’t really that interested, or starstruck, unlike some of my friends were. Fast forward a few months later, after getting the next books and discussing graphic novels with Ariel (who gave me Books 2 and 3 for Christmas), I finally cracked them open.

Trese # 1: Murder on Balete DriveTrese # 1: Murder on Balete Drive by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 104
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions.

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

* * *

Trese is a comic book series about Alexandra Trese, a bar owner who also works as a paranormal detective helping the Manila police in solving the weirder crimes that happen in the metro. Each book has a series of shorter stories inside, where we see Trese find the criminal through her contacts in the paranormal world. As it’s set in the Philippines, Trese’s paranormal contacts are all from the Philippine mythologyaswang, duwende, tikblang, etc.

I remember reading the first book last year and being impressed — it was very nice to read about something I know and grew up with given a different twist. Trese was likeable despite her very cold demeanor, and she immediately joins the strong female leads that I have read about in other books. I do find her a little bit too perfect in this though — perfect in the sense that she knows everything and she does everything right. I would’ve wanted her to mess up a bit, but that may be too much for me to ask in the first book.

The cases were interesting, and they tread carefully between the line of paranormal and horror (is there a line there? Not sure). I liked how it related to what I know as a Filipino, but not in the classic, dated sense. I liked that the story was set in places in Manila and how they were updated to the current times. No deep dark forests or remote provinces were the creatures normally lurk here, for sure. It’s fun, and thankfully not scary enough for me to really freak out, you know?

Yeah, I know, I’m a big chicken. :P

On the international front, I think Trese would be able to hold its own with a bit of limitation. I don’t think it’s very hard to understand, but I think the mythology would take some time to get used to and would need more research for a non-Filipino reader to understand. It’s easy for me to wrap my head around the creepiness of Balete Drive because I live here, but for someone in another country, I’m not sure if the creepiness factor would be the same. Still, I’d like to see how non-Filipino readers would view Trese.

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