Monday, July 04, 2011

Tabi Po – volume 1 – review

Author/artist: Mervin Malonzo

English Adaptation: Adam David

First Published: 2011

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: A young man wakes inside a hollow of a tree in the middle of a forest with no memory of who he is or where he's from or even how to speak. The only things he knows for sure are the image of a young woman he sees every time he closes his eyes, and the maddeningly painful hunger that grows inside his navel-less belly ... a hunger for flesh ... and blood ...

Make way for a new chapter in modern Asian horror: Mervin Malonzo's TABI PO chronicles the continuing biography of Elias and his odious odyssey to discover his origin, destiny, and true horrible nature, in this gothic komix deconstruction and rebuilding of the Philippine "aswang" mythology.

The Review: This is the first volume of a graphic series based on Aswang myth and is available for Kindle and, for a moment, I just want to look at that. You see the artwork in this is beautiful, and colour… e-ink is marvellous but black and white… Luckily this eBook is unlimited in the applications it can be placed on and thus I was able to place it on my iPhone and PC as well as my kindle… I had a quick look at it on kindle and was much happier with it on computer screen (the iPhone was also rather good). The only problem then was that some panels are done on their side and you can’t flip a screen as you might a kindle (note that you can also lock the iPhone screen in place in the kindle app)… but this is all technical and nothing to do with the quality of the actual comic.

At first, when you meet Elias we hear him expressing his love for a woman by consuming her, literally. This, of course, may or may not mean he is a supernatural creature. Indeed the film Vampire of Quezon City has the aswang a serial killer, not a supernatural creature (incidentally the publishers of the ebook are based in Quezon City), but as we delve further it is clear that Elias is not human.

He is living in a carnival, part of the freak show, as the man who eats chickens (alive). He has to leave a troupe every five years or so as it would become obvious that he doesn’t age. He states that he is immortal.

The comic then goes back to his birth. He is born in a tree – given the notes at the end of the volume I assume it to be a Balete tree – and emerges from the hollow in the trunk as an adult. As he emerges he screams, a surrogate for the screams of his mother in labour it would seem, and he is born with hunger, which he sates on a goat.

The book’s art is beautiful and the story intriguing but difficult to score as we don’t get into the story so much – this being only the first volume. My score is therefore based on the art primarily and the narrative structure that has begun. This therefore deserves a score of 8 out of 10 – with the caveat that the story has only just begun, hinted not explicit thus-far.

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