Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quickstop Tuesdays is a new feature in My Book Musings where I will post reviews on Tuesdays about books/comic books/graphic novels that have less than 200 pages. The first book to be featured for Quickstop Tuesdays is the graphic novel Anak Bathala: Kalem, which was created by three Filipino friends, Norman G. de los Santos, Bernard H. Morillo, and Edsel L. Africa, who are all originally from Mindoro.

Title:        Anak Bathala: Kalem [Anak Bathala, book 1]
Creators:  Norman G. de los Santos | Bernard H. Morillo | Edsel L. Africa
Rating:     ★★★★

*Copy provided by launch event organizer for an honest review.

Anak Bathala: Kalem is the first book in a five-book graphic novel series, revolving around mythology of the old times. The first book is about Kalem's search for why he is called "Anak Bathala" (demi-god). The language in the book has a mixture of English and Filipino terms, with Baybayin and Surat Mangyan scripts written in some parts of the book.

A brief overview of the whole series from their Facebook page:

Anak Bathala is the epic adventure of Kalem that showcases rich Filipino mythology and culture. It exhibits native Filipino beliefs and folk work intertwined with values. The other books included in the series collection are: Yamal, Arau, Yesha and Anak Bathala. Each character embodies intrinsic Filipino traits like admirable virtues of courage, determination, self-discipline, prudence, camaraderie and leadership. Their stories also uncover the deceiving sphere of glorious power. The elven persona of Yesha exudes the remarkable attributes of womanhood that represents Filipino women. Anak Bathala pays homage to the golden age of comic makers with its ground of artistic and detailed illustrations.

The final book of Anak Bathala juxtaposes the revolving characters of books 1-4 and how they will join together to overcome the evil transgression of Haring Nannum and Bathala Karimlan in the Land of Mystical Mindoro.

The story is fast-paced and interesting, but the story was too short for me to truly grasp Kalem's character. But from what I have read so far, he seems nice, responsible, and brave. I thought he was going to have a love interest with his childhood friend, but reading on, I was thinking that it would be slightly hard for him to have a human relationship, especially if he has to go off into a battle.

I'm the type of reader who likes learning new things, whether they be fact or fiction. At first, I did not like the scripts used because I kept having to translate them myself. I was on page nine before I discovered that there are Filipino and English translations on pages 122 to 123. Gah. Silly me! I must say, though, that the scripts are easy to understand after a couple of pages of going back and forth. If you're fluent in Filipino, I suggest you enjoy the scripts and translate them yourself. I think it's part of the whole enjoying-the-graphic-novel process.

My primary beef with the graphic novel is that it is too dark to see the illustrations. I'm sure the illustrations are very nice, but too often, I had to strain my eyes to see the outlines. It made it hard for me to read and appreciate the graphic novel as a whole. The cover is nice, though. While the background is very dark, Kalem stands out, which I think is the whole point as he is the focus of book 1.

One thing that I did notice though is that Kalem seemed to grow older as the story progressed. I actually liked it, because I felt like the strain of the battle, the pain of losing Ba' was showing on his face. I felt the weight of their expectations upon him, and it was nice that these were reflected on his face. I don't know if that was the intent of the creators, but it sure was a nice touch.

One part that confused me is the presence of the woman at the start of the novel. Though by the end of the book I pretty much knew, but it still would have been nice to know her, because I was confused as to why there is a woman there, amidst death and war. Also, by the end of the book, I wondered what happened to the mutia that Ba' Magiting got. Remember that? I don't think it was mentioned in the story that Kalem has it, or what it is for.

Other things I noticed is that there are some errors such as in the line "The panganay left Kalualhatian". I think it lacks the word "for" in between left and Kalualhatian, because the idea is that he joined Bathala in Kalualhatian, leaving this world behind. Another is that there was a misplaced apostrophe in "Detinos' reached further..."

I'm hoping the next books would have more dialogue and explanations, as well as clearer images. There's an excerpt of Kalem in their website and the graphics are gorgeous! I hope they'll publish that edition. I'm not sure if it was just with my copy, but mine already had a few loose pages. I'm hoping that's just in my case!

Am I going to get the next book? Probably! Because my attention was already grabbed by Anak Bathala: Kalem and I started to get curious as to what happens, and how he came to be on earth. Being a demi god, isn't he supposed to be uh...somewhere else? So I'm really curious as to how his journey as and what his role is in the big picture.

If you're a fan of mythology, Filipino fiction, looking for something new, a little bit of history mixed with fantasy, do be sure to check this out. Anak Bathala: Kalem is available at Fully Booked branches nationwide.

Ciao! Happy reading :)


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