October 12, 2011
Trese 4 (Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo)
Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! After 17 cases of supernatural crime/mystery, the Filipino graphic novel Trese still seethes with its trademark edginess and darkness. The latest volume in the series again exhibits a nuanced manipulation of its source materials. Budjette and Kajo’s execution is still top form. As we’ve come to expect, the stories are tight, well crafted. The artwork, a work of art. It’s amazing how the interest is sustained and how the telling of stories shows remarkable restraint in their emotional effects. By the last case ("Fight of the Year"), the deliberate branching out to pop culture stretches and expands contemporary reality to accommodate the fluid concept of heroism. Heroism as an absolute masochistic self-sacrifice and as a complex of materialism and messianism. Ever since my mouth fell open at the first case (Murder on Balete Drive), I was a happy vampire, sated after every spanking new version of Pinoy lower myth. Arguably the franchise is even prophetic, as shown by the previous collection Mass Murders (still their best), which describes a cultural origin of violent crimes. Relevant in what it can say about the culture of violence and cruelty, in the South and elsewhere. I think I can read 13 more collections like this, maybe more, and still dig it. For sheer entertainment, visual fun. For its impassioned engagement with the underworld’s underbelly.