Unmasked Winners Review
Somehow, me and Banzai Cat manage to sneak away from our bosses to have a brief chat and I was talked into doing reviews of the comic winners, while he would do the same for prose. Comics it is for me because, well, I was so busy last week that I only had time to read the comic finalists. I breezed through all of them but only read comprehensively a few of them and guess what, it so happens I did manage to read the winners.
Defiant: The Battle of Mactan by Juan Paolo Ferrer and Chester Ocampo
Allow me to say it from the start: I'm disappointed this comic won. To its credit, the art style is amazing and clean, if you're into the anime (and I say anime, not manga, as there is a difference between the two) type of art style. But aside from that, there's really very little substance here. It's cliche, stereotypical, and unoriginal. We've all heard the Lapu-Lapu story and this comic doesn't really do anything for it aside from reinforcing the stereotype. Worse, it's historically inaccurate. It's great eyecandy though, and the artist exercises great skill when it comes to the technical aspects of comics: paneling, lettering, etc. We must remember though that comics is a collaboration between text and art, and sadly, if it was solely based on the latter, this would have made it in my book.
Dusk by Rommel Joson
Strangely enough, a bulk of the comics finalists featured this kind of comic, the one with a O. Henry-type of storytelling, the one that exists solely for the ending (much like Ring 1). Perhaps it's the page limitation, or the lack of time, but in that sense, Rommol Joson isn't unique. Personally, I wouldn't choose a O. Henry-type of story to be a winner, unless the ending was truly frightening or different, but seeing what majority submitted, I guess it was inevitable that one would make it to the finals. To his credit, Rommel Joson's Dusk is one of the better comics that features such a style. The art is rough, but fits the atmosphere the artist is trying to invoke. He also makes good use of panels, and perhaps the only true weakness this comic has is the way the word balloons are laid out. Everything else though, the word bubbles, the narrative boxes, fits. Even the ending sets it apart from the rest simply because it's more subtler than the other entries which are more blatant. Dusk leaves you with a sense of incompleteness once you're done reading it, which makes me interested in seeing what Rommel Joson can do in better, longer narratives.
Splat by Manuel Abrera
Much like Dusk, this is one of those comics that exists solely for the ending, but Manuel Abrera does it in a more elegant way and with less contriving. I'd actually choose this as a finalist in my book. Manual Abrera takes a different route from the other submissions and goes for simplicity, even it's just as technical as the rest. He goes for a classic 9 panel narrative, and actually does it quite well. He also executes a great 16 panel transition on the 4th page. It's also one of those comics that succeeds amazingly well without using any text. That's not to say this comic isn't perfect. It's one weakness is the last page, with the panel breakaway, and the way Manuel Abrera gave in to justifying his title, by including the word "Splat!" in one of the panels even if he didn't need to do so. His paneling problem at the last page could have also been solved by deleting one of the pre-splat panels, and you'd still end up with the same ending, albeit with a cleaner 8 panel page. Still, it's one of the better comics submitted, without trying to be bigger than what it is.
The Mad, Sad, Incredible but True Adventures of "Hika Girl" by Clara Lara Gallardo and Maria Gallardo
I was telling Elbert on the same day of the awards of how great I thought this story, I mean comic, was. It could pass for a children's book, and contains elements vital to telling a children's story: it's simple, entertaining, and is anything but didactic. In terms of sheer technical skill, the pair still have much room to grow but it gets the message across. The art style is appropriate, and the illustrations give it a "dark but fun" feel to it. What impressed me the most though was the writing, as anyone who's tried his hand at writing for children, it's far from easy. Still, Hika Girl is that type of story which can be enjoyed by both children and adults, without losing much of its appeal. I like to think of it as a Filipino Coraline, and worth of first place in my book.