WIP #1 and Trese: Last Seen After Midnight

Hey, I finally read some komiks this year! Good for me. Now on to the reviews.

WIP (Work in Progress) #1 by Hub Pacheco and Teddy Pavon
WIP (Work in Progress) #1
by Hub Pacheco and Teddy Pavon

WIP first began as a webcomic before seeing print as a mini. Its first ten pages introduce the reader to the main protagonist Eli, a twenty-something slacker and principal narrator who often addresses the reader directly. In the beginning, he's rendezvousing with an attractive girl in front of a comic book store. This opening is the best part of the comic. But the story suddenly breaks away in order for Eli to talk more about his background.

While I wanted to to sympathize with his plight, Eli comes across as more ingratiating than interesting. This is because he's a fairly generic character. His constant patter of fanish in-jokes gets tiresome after awhile. And much of the comic's content can be described as him and his circle of friends rambling on about various geeky topics with little in the way of a strong connecting thread. One moment they're reminiscing about their failed comic book from their college days, next they're praising the Philippine comic industry while mocking mainstream crossover events. Did I mention that in addition to being an underemployed man-child, Eli complains a lot about his inability to hook a girlfriend?

The loose, gag-filled structure isn't compensated for by the anime-inspired art though. It isn't adroit enough to make the gags more compelling, or versatile enough with the characters' expressions to make them more varied and charming. And the story never quite returns to address the opening scene of the comic. Some judicious editing could have helped a lot to tighten the narrative.

Trese: Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo
Trese: Last Seen After Midnight
by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo

I believe it's been two years since the last volume featuring Alexandra Trese, Manila's renowned supernatural crime-fighter. Given how that book contained a story arc which engaged in some serious world-building, it's slightly disappointing that the series creators have gone back to the "corpse of the week" format. But the riffs on popular culture are entertaining in their own right. Their preferred mode is to blend well-known Manila landmarks with various local folklore and superstitions. The first story "Cadena de Amor" about elemental spirits haunting the darker recesses of Luneta Park is the most typical entry. "A Private Collection" is jarring in that the main antagonist is patterned after the stereotypical big game hunter who hunts more unusual creatures just for the thrill of it. This makes it feel more like a conventional superhero story. The more hip "Wanted: Bedspacer" in which a rash of student deaths taking place close to several college campuses is connected with another kind of spirit, seems derived from contemporary Asian horror cinema. This is the book's best-paced story and is the only one in which Alexandra doesn't come up with the right answer on her first guess, or resolve the problem with violence. That's countered with "The Fight of the Year", a rousing patriotic tale in which an analog of the famous boxer and local hero Manny Pacquiao battles the underworld on behalf of the nation. For once, Alexandra is a spectator and supporting character.

While the book doesn't break new ground, the level of skill and artistry on display shows significant improvement from earlier efforts. The stories themselves aren't particularly terrifying, although they can be creepy and oppressive at times. There are a few references made to past events to keep readers guessing about continuity. So it's a no-brainer for fans of Trese. But the stories are also self-contained enough that new readers could probably use them as a jumping on point, which might be the reason for the return to this format.