Sulyap is fairly representative of Komikon itself - a hodgepodge of ideas, foreign influences, genres, visual styles, and varying levels of quality and artistic ambition. There's no common aesthetic approach that unites the stories within. The only thing the contributors have in common (other than obvious things like nationality) is that they all self-publish, mostly in black and white, and they're all pretty young. A certain naive enthusiasm permeates the collection, not entirely dissimilar to those found within most of the stories of the Flight anthology series. And like Flight, there's also a clear preference for fantasy as a vehicle for expression. For these reasons, Sulyap may not appeal to everyone. There's a great deal of sincere energy within that can sometimes preclude more sage introspection.
Ambition by Ian Olympia
Ian Olympia is one of those manga-inspired creators who's thoroughly mastered all the details of his idols' drawing style, despite the odds. His lithe, exaggerated, figures are beautifully rendered. He gets the typical manga hyper-expressiveness just right. He's also one of those artists who, more often than not, skimps on the backgrounds to concentrate on the characters. I guess that's why speed lines were invented. Olympia keeps the narrative off-kilter by constantly shifting the perspective so that everything is seen either from above or from below. Even during quiet moments, the tension never abates. His extreme black and white line art generates a stark and unforgiving world. Depending on the reader's own tastes, the storytelling is either very cool or slightly nauseating.
The story itself is an adolescent melodrama of idealistic love vs. worldly ambition with an ironic twist ending. To any young 'un who can't suss out the message: you're supposed to pick love over ambition, especially if that ambition means joining the rank and file of some criminal organization. It becomes doubly ironic when the would-be lovers are forced to kill each other (Oh my! The tragedy). Or did the moral just get slightly muddled during transmission? Maybe kids should just be more careful with who they date? I'm not up with my crime manga, but this seems like a hoary concept told ably enough.
Baboy by Mel Khristopher Casipit
Mel Casipit is something of a darling at Komikon, given the number of times he's been recognized by the con's organizers. Baboy was his first prize-winning mini-comic, and is reprinted here with its 2010 sequel. Casipit's original style is rough, full of heavy cross-hatching and inky black spaces. His figures betray a shonen manga influence, mashed with an expressionist line and indie production values. Most of his panels are large and irregular, so as to better mirror the emotional turmoil found within its contents. There's some danger of the visuals becoming confusing at times. But for the most part, it holds together. There's certainly a laudable willingness to experiment with the form, not to mention a great deal of emotional vigor.
In this mostly silent tale, a nameless young man roams a surreal landscape. He's either bent on ending his life, or at least has simply lost the will to live. Everywhere he goes, he's hounded by people who clearly fear and loathe him. But he's not Frankenstein's monster, or a Marvel Comics character. He just transforms into a giant, ferocious, blood thirsty, were-boar. He kills anyone who crosses him, but his tormentors are as much at fault, for he only becomes the "baboy" when in danger. So he's trapped in a circle of never-ending violence without any possibility of escape or redemption.
It's not clear to me why Casipit felt the need for a sequel, but there obviously has been a considerable degree of artistic evolution within that intervening two year period. His visuals are more polished. His figures are rounder and cuter. He's also reigned-in the irregularly shaped panels and black areas. The effect is noticeably brighter in look and tone. Whereas the first story is basically a dark mood piece, the second has a more conventional plot about the protagonist defending a hapless family from nefarious elements. There's even a possible romantic angle thrown in for good measure. Not that this resolves the protagonist's primary source of misery, but it leaves open the possibility for future Baboy stories.
Goodbye Rubbit by RH Quilantang
At first glance, Goodbye Rubbit looks like a children's story about leaving the nest. All the characters look like a cross between Teletubbies and Nintendo Game Boys. But it's more about young love and romantic break-ups. RH Quilantang presents a sweet and relatively un-neurotic tale of heartache and the need to move on, using easily accessible and broad metaphors set in an imaginary cartoon world. This is without a doubt the cutest story in the entire collection.
Kalayaan by Gio Paredes
Gio Paredes has been publishing his superhero comic series Kalayaan for more than three years now. I've written about my dislike for the more excessive habits of the Image house style in the past. Kalayaan's look owes a lot to Rob Liefeld and his ilk. But that's not my main problem with the comic. Paredes just doesn't go beyond clumsy mimicry, at least not at this point - a reprint of his inaugural issue. The figures are very stiff and inexpressive (even by the style's standards), and the perspective and rendering of the backgrounds are quite crude. This story exemplifies what happens when artists just copy from other artists, without carefully observing nature - there's a tendency for the style to degenerate after several iterations.
Kalayaan (which means "freedom") is a kind of Filipinized hybrid of Captain America and Superman - he wears patriotic colors and symbols (he even carries a shield) and operates with the standard superpower combo of inhuman strength, flight, and a super-tough hide. Like a typical first issue from the early nineteen nineties, the story jumps right into the middle of the action. The hero's background remains largely unexplained. The centerpiece is a brutal slugfest between Kalayaan and some Sabretooth clone. And it leaves the reader hanging with the sudden entrance of several ominous figures. Wait, this was made in 2007? I'm not sure if Kalayaan is so bad it's good. The most that I can say about it is that there is ostensibly a lot of devotion, and strong belief in its own tropes, empowering the project. All in all, Kalayaan is, in terms of technique, the least impressive contribution to the Sulyap anthology.
Part 2 will deal with the second half of Sulyap.