Sunday, July 17, 2011

Comic Book Review: The Filipino Heroes League, Book One (Better Value than a Two-Piece Chickenjoy Meal, which will cost pretty much the same, i think...)

After being underwhelmed by Summit’s “Underpass,” and left almost indifferent by the “Philippine Comics Anthology” despite Neil Gaiman’s name on the cover, I found Book One of “Filipino Heroes League” by Paolo Fabregas when I suddenly wandered into Sketchbooks at Greenbelt.

So this “Paolo Fabregas” guy who supposedly wrote and drew it was apparently THE Paolo Fabregas. Brother of hottie Lara, and son of cool actor guy Jaime. But we’re here to talk about the book… (of course, if this was at least 16 years ago, we might be talking about Lara… but blogging hadn’t really been done yet back then… but I digress…)

click me to see me bigger...
I was skeptic, to say the least, but the whole “third world superhero” thing sort of got me. That, and the image of masked men running into action on a pedicab. At least the image on the back cover told me quite clearly that whoever did this book doesn’t take himself too seriously (unlike the people who put together stuff for the two aforementioned books. More on them some other time).

The story follows the adventures of the titular super team, who, at the point of the book’s supposed writing, are little more than a shell of its former glory. They are a typical government agency who are underfunded, undermanned, and somewhat a joke. Naturally, there are plotholes all over the thing, but the good intentions and self-deprecation more than makes up for those. The involvement of the government, politics, and the media make the story very, very Pinoy.

click me...
The characters are quite promising and might have interesting back stories if this series finds itself a willing investor, or even sponsors. The core of the team are: “Kidlat Kid,” the team’s resident speedster and joker. Easily the writer’s favorite. “Flashlight,” the current leader, and the only one of the “old heroes” that remains, is a chain-smoking womanizer. “Invisiboy,” the good-hearted dimwit/stiff, who can predictably enough, turn invisible.

The good: it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the dialogue isn’t hokey. The English is pretty much free of glaring grammatical errors such as those I found on “Underpass” and the “Anthology.” The characters could use some work, but the personality mix isn’t bad. Oh, and I would have probably gotten more of the “third world” feel if there was more “salitang kanto” peppered into the book. The Philippines is a bilingual country, so I would personally predict that this book could have been more effective if this was also bilingual. Perhaps a bilingual edition is in order for the local kids? Just a suggestion.

Paolo Fabregas could have gotten some help to come up with a more amusing set of powers, but chose to keep it simple enough for the hopefully supportive third-world reader. Good move. The subtle humor is also distinctively Pinoy, but understandable enough for any reader.

The story was amusing enough to keep me reading until I finished the book in a day and a half, which is more than what I can say for other local comics.

The bad: The art wasn’t “bad,” but given the world-renowned talent of Pinoys in the art field, this could have been better. With all due respect to Fabregas, the storytelling was effective, but the faces and body language were inconsistent. My non-professional advice to Fabregas: you have a strong concept, bro. Write it, pencil in some breakdowns, and find someone else to finish up the art.

The book should also have been published in the typical comic book size to give it a better comic book feel. But that’s trivial.

The verdict: if this book gets more support, then it might have legs, and even a real life. With local pulp comic serials virtually gone, there is a void that needs to be filled in the local literary world. Best of all, this book wasn’t trying hard to be smart, clever, preachy, or even artsy. It simply had a concept, and carried it through into an entertaining enough story. Yes, it was far from perfect, but it was actually fun.

At only two hundred bucks, it was worth a try, and honestly wasn’t a waste.

Hell, I’d buy the next chapter right now if it was out. You should, too. But buy this one first.

‘catch you later.

For more information, check out:
* all images are protected by copyright of the creator and/or publisher (or something like that). just don't mess with them so my ass won't get sued.


pfab said...

Hi, Jasper!
Thanks so much for taking out the time to review my book. I truly appreciate it. In case your readers are interested, I've got some preview pages here:

Again! Thanks so much. :)

Jasper Greek Lao Golangco said...

Cheers, Paolo!

dr_jose_goodtrip said...

happened to stumble on the book today and i loved it... i read it in just a few hours... immediately after, i rushed back to national bookstore to ask if book 2 was out... can't wait.:) kudos to mr. fabregas! i love the book style though... it made it not as frail as the usual comics...

pfab said...

Thanks, Dr Jose Goodtrip! :) Truly appreciate it. Please spread the word.