Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not so fun anymore

My third read for the year left me wanting. Trese Volume 6, the Philippine graphic novel by Budgette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo arrived with much anticipation. I kept hearing that bookstores have run out of stock. So when I saw several copies in an out-of-the-way bookstore, I didn't think twice about getting it.

Yes, every time there's a new Trese volume, it's a major publishing event here in the Philippines. There hasn't been a local graphic novel that has sparked the interest and captured the imagination lately. Who wouldn't love a graphic novel that delves heavily in Philippine mythology and has elements of horror, action, and mystery?

Think Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. Trese, a detective who comes from a very mysterious family, specializes in solving crimes of supernatural origins. All the tropes of a police procedural are here: Trese's close relationship with the local police force, the noir atmosphere, the couple of sidekicks who inject humor, red herrings, smoking guns.

Read this in the dead of night hoping it would be scary.
Huge disappoint, that was.
Yet somehow, when I read this latest installment, I didn't feel the same sense of wonder that I did when I finished the first three volumes. Gone were the horror, the fascination with seeing local monsters on the page, and the thrill of having discovered the perpetrators. The overall effect was just cheesy, to say the least.

And the characters . . . Trese still is the same Trese when you met her in the first volume. The Kambal, Trese's sidekicks, are still goofballs. The villains are cookie cutter creations that show no other emotions except the desire to wreak havoc in the city. Everything feels superfluous. I would've been happier rereading the early installments.

Baldisimo's illustrations are still superb though. I would've wanted Tan to make full use of the panels in developing the narrative. However, the dialogue felt "talky," as if the author felt the need to explain everything and not let the panels tell the story. The conversations also seemed unnatural and formal-ish. Trese is the kind of work that needs street-smart language, which unfortunately was severely lacking in this volume.

One good thing to come out of the sixth volume is that we do discover more details about Trese's family (her father and her siblings) and several other supernatural characters that are allied to Trese and her family. But this aspect still feels derivative. I kept expecting someone to just blurt out, "Avengers, assemble!"

I'm not so sure if I'd read the succeeding installments anymore. I've friends who are huge fans of the Trese series, and I hope that they persevere. Who knows, maybe the 7th, 8th, and nth volumes would be better.

Read this book if:
  1. You're curious about Philippine mythology.
  2. You like police procedurals, murder mysteries, noir, and crime fiction.
  3. You're a completist.