{Book Review} Play Ball

Most girls, when they get to a new school, just want to fit in. But Dashiell Brody isn’t like most girls. A natural at softball, Dashiell discovers her new school has a championship level baseball team – and Dashiell wants to play ball. One girl’s quest to play the national pastime with the boys will turn her family, her school, and her state upside down.*

First of all, I want to thank Oni Press for giving me a review copy of this book!

As you can see from the brief synopsis supplied by GoodreadsPlay Ball is a coming-of-age sports story about a girl who wants to play in a sport dominated by males. Dash sure knows the difference between softball and baseball, and she refuses to play the “watered-down version” of baseball, so she decides to try out in her high school baseball team. This decision caused a ruckus within the school administrative system – baseball has always been a men’s sport. It wasn’t specified in the rules because it was inherently known and accepted by everyone. Because of Dash’s stubborn determination, though, she manages to get into the team.

What I really liked about Play Ball was how it wasn’t all centered on Brody. The characterization was well thought out. Everybody has a different personality to them, and their reactions to things are fairly natural and realistic. Dashiell, for her part, has to contend with several factors before she could participate into the team: her jealous sister, the sardonic softball team, a disgruntled teammate, and the classic status quo. Each of the characters was able to grow, and I appreciated this very much. 

Though some parts were cliched and predictable, the plot was not an issue for me at all because I enjoyed the story. I am so curious to what happens after the book ends! Maybe it’s  because I have a soft spot for books that have really cool heroines, and Play Ball just fits into that category, but I liked this book. Girls who excel in sports rock! I really find it cool how Dash is really against playing softball for the reason that it is not baseball. The girl really knows what she wants. Not many people can tell the difference (to be honest, I couldn’t remember much difference myself except that the balls used are different, but hey, it’s a start). 

Play Ball will be released on April 25, 2012! It is written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, the team who wrote The Avalon Chronicles and Amazing Agent Luna, and drawn by newcomer Jackie Lewis. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this either. I recommend you read it! It’s definitely something you’d enjoy.   

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3/5
144 pages
Writers: Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir
Artist: Jackie Lewis
Publisher: Oni Press
Publishing Date: April 25, 2012
Genre: Sports, YA

{Book Review} Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (Courtney Crumrin, #1)

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (Courtney Crumrin, #1)

*Review copy provided by the publisher

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is filled with dark humor and wild characters that I did not expect from a series that seemed to be aimed to a younger audience. I liked it, however, and for a first volume, it kept me engaged and wanting more. 

Courtney Crumrin, its titular heroine, just moved with her parents to her Uncle Aloysius’s house. I think mansion would fit better, but it is obvious that it has seen better days. It is now dark, spooky, and had all the looks of a haunted house. Courtney finds herself having a hard time fitting in anywhere for the days and weeks that follow, even in her own home. However, she finds out more about herself – she is in fact a witch. Uncle Aloysius is considered an oddball by many, and Courtney soon finds his strange but interesting collection of magic books. From here, she discovers a world far from anything she has ever imagined. Here she meets goblins, changelings, talking animals, faery queens, and a whole lot more. 

I am extremely fond of stories based on folk tales and paranormal mythology, and this is no exception. I really liked how writer/artist Ted Naifeh illustrated everything, and I enjoyed both the colored and black and white panes. Courtney Crumrin is filled with dark humor and wild characters – it is not unusual for children to be eaten by goblins, or mortal babies sold in the underworld market while a changeling cries for milk in its place. The fact that the author is unapologetic for these horrible occurrences, as if it really is a fact of life for the characters (and indeed it is, whether they are aware of it or not) made me love this.

For a first volume in a series, it did not fail to engage me, and I would not pass up a chance to read more of Courtney Crumrin. This series is especially recommended for people who love fairy tales and myths. People who love paranormal/supernatural cases in a graphic novel would find this fun to read. Despite looking like something suited for middle grade readers, I think this would suit young adults better.

The full color hardcover edition of Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things will be released on April 11, 2012.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3.5/5
Full color hardcover, 144 pages
Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh
Colorist: Warren Wucinich
Publisher: Oni Press
To be published on: April 11, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

{Book Review} Trese #4 – Last Seen After Midnight

Last Seen After Midnight (Trese, #4)“Foul play. Magic spells. Supernatural criminals. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese

This graphic novel contains the following cases: 

In a neglected area of Luneta Park, where the grass grows untended, a man is found strangled by vines; which have started to grow outwards, killing anyone that gets in its path. 

A manananggal has been found, tortured and murdered. The Manananggal Clan declares war on the Aswang Clan. Trese must find the real murderer before more blood is shed, before Manila gets in the crossfire of a supernatural gang war. 

A strange illness has affected the students living along Katipunan Avenue. The doctors are clueless on what’s driving these people mad with despair. Can Trese trace the source of this growing paranormal epidemic? 

Once a year, in General Santos City, the demons and creatures of the underworld converge to watch a most awaited event, where the country’s greatest boxer fights for his very soul.”*

Last Seen After Midnight is the fourth in the series of highly successful komiks by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo. I was very much excited to read this after the impact of the third Trese book, Mass Murders, because even though I said last time that it answers much of my questions, admittedly, I can never get enough Trese. Unlike its predecessor, Last Seen After Midnight has taken after the first two volumes, wherein the cases are stand-alone. There is no story arc that connect the four cases, but that’s fine by me since each case proved to be interesting in its own right.

I wasn’t too keen on the first case since I felt that it was over too soon, just when it was really starting to build up, but I loved how they used the popular OPM song “Ang Huling El Bimbo” by the Eraserheads as a peg for the relationship between Florabelle and her plants. At any rate, I couldn’t help imagining actual plants singing this song, and I give Cadena de Amor bonus points for making me think such ridiculous things.

Fight of the Year obviously parodies world-class boxer Manny Pacquiao. I thoroughly enjoyed how the plot explained why Manuel, the boxer, trains so hard for his fights despite him not needing any more monetary prizes offered by each fight. It’s more than just the honor, but what that “more” is, you’ll just have to read and see. I laughed out loud at the explanation for why the crime rate is zilch whenever Manuel has a fight, but based on the context of the story it is entirely plausible. What that explanation is, you have to read to find out as well. Another thing that I’ve noticed most of the reviews never fail to mention – it is in this case where you get to see Trese in a dress. Yup. That’s right. Better savor that page because I don’t think we’ll see her in a dress anytime soon again. She really looked stunning!

The second case, A Private Collection, is where things got really tricky – and sticky – for Trese. There is only one other time where I was not entirely sure what would happen in the story, and that was in Mass Murders. Because of this, I loved the plot. The antagonist in the story is such a creeper, eurgh.

Last but not the least is my favorite, Wanted: Bedspacer. Usually I automatically get interested in a case if it’s set in a place where I frequent, and this is no exception. Since my school is along Katipunan, I felt a sort of connection to the setting. This time, though, my love for the plot exceeded my affinity for the location. This case includes the infamous bangungot, but this time, Budjette Tan used a different angle and a new perception that explains this phenomenon in a way that I thought was creative and original, if not heartwrenchingly beautiful. 

In this volume, I could not help but notice how different Alexandra Trese looks compared to the three previous books. KaJo Baldisimo has created an edgier, sharper version of Trese in this book, resulting in cleaner drawings compared to the sketch-like quality of Murder on Balete Drive and the others. I think what really marks the difference are Trese’s eyes. They seem more open now, anyway.

I will never stop loving Trese. I know, I’m such a fangirl, but still. I cannot express enough how I impatient I am for the next installment!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: October 2009
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime
Related Posts:

{Review} Batman: Prey

The front cover of Batman: Year One. I love how creepy and awesome it looks!

“Set in the Year One time frame, Batman must confront the sinister Dr Hugo Strange, a man with a deadly secret, out to stop and, if necessary, kill the Dark Knight. Who is the bloodthirsty Night Scourge, how does he link in with the police department, and where exactly does the mysterious Catwoman fit into all this?” *

I have been meaning to follow the Batman chronology for a while now, but I’ve only really come round to doing it fairly recently (this year, in fact). I love how, with every Batman story I read, I learn something new about him! Reading chronologically really helps, but I’ve been using this as my guide. As far as I know, there are no official DC listings for a Batman chronology, despite the wealth of comics about the Dark Knight that have been around for more than seventy years (Batman was first introducted in 1939). It suggested that after Batman: Year One (review here), I read Batman: Prey, so I dutifully obeyed.

Prey is estimated to occur shortly after Year One, so it is no surprise that we still see Batman as the dark, brooding hero coming to terms with his new mission as protector of Gotham City. Despite his best efforts to prove that he is actually one of the good guys, he is still a highly targeted vigilante for many of its citizens, particularly the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD). At the moment, his only friends (and the only ones who know his real identity as Bruce Wayne) are the ever-loyal butler,  Alfred, and the detective-turned-captain James Gordon.

Prey begins with a police sting operation designed to catch a drug dealer who could reveal the syndicate behind it all. Before the GCPD could close in on the guy, though, Batman has shaken the guy and disrupted the whole operation. One of the officers, Max Cort, gets thoroughly infuriated by this and reports to an indifferent Gordon, who defends Batman by insisting that he is actually good for morale. In the next scene, Gordon is shown at a television show, being interviewed along with Gotham City Mayor Kauss and Dr. Hugo Strange, a well-known psychiatrist. Dr. Strange offers some insight against Batman, analyzing why he wears a costume, etc. The Mayor is very much impressed with him that he hires the man for his services in a newly-enforced “Task Force Vigilante” against Batman, unbeknownst to anyone in GCPD prior to Kauss’s announcement on-air. Against Gordon’s wishes, the Mayor assigns him as the head of said task force. As the story unravels, we get to see different sides of this Hugo Strange, as well as Max Cort, and even glimpses of Catwoman in between.

Even though I did not finish Prey in a day as planned, it stuck with me long enough for me to really get a kick out of it. I especially liked the latter parts, where the climax of the story is. The characters seemed very real, and were very convincing in their roles. Dr. Strange was, well, really strange, but more than that, he was downright creepy with his obsession and, to say the least, he was insane in the worst sense of the word. Max Cort proved to be as idiotic as Gordon thought he would be, all brawn with little brain, believing he could actually beat Batman! Tsk. As if. A thing that I would have liked to see more of was Catherine, the Mayor’s daughter. She was established at the beginning to be a very opinionated woman, but later on she just served as a pawn in the power play between Dr. Strange and Batman. Her faith in the Dark Knight was pleasantly unexpected, which naturally made me want to see more of her in a setting that gave her freedom to do whatever she liked. 

On the other hand, the art was, for me, exquisite. The illustrations by Paul Gulacy and Terry Austin and the coloring by Steve Oliff were brilliantly done, and the fact that it was made in the 90’s made it even more impressive. I was rereading some parts of Prey for this review earlier and I thought, ‘This is what comics should look like’. Probably part of what made me gush about the art was how I really love vintage style comics, especially from genuinely vintage comics. They just look so fine! Anyway, I really loved Prey. I was already dead set on loving Batman anyway, but reading stories like this made me remember why I love him so much. Really. 

In a nutshell…
Rating: 4/5
Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: John Costanza
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: 1990, New York 
Genre: Superhero, Crime

{Book Review} Trese #3: Mass Murders

Mass Murders (Trese, #3) 

“12 midnight at Metro Manila.

Try to remain calm if you suddenly spot a tikbalang speeding down EDSA or a manananggal swooping across the Makati skyline. While partying at the Fort, never ever let the enkanto at the bar buy you a drink.

Yet, there are deadlier things than walk the streets of this city.

One of them now demands blood and sacrifice.

When crime takes a turn for a weird, the police call Trese”*

This volume is not like the previous Trese graphic novels. While the foundation of the plots of Murder on Balete Drive and Unreported Murders were based on entirely different cases, the cases presented in Mass Murders were all connected to one another, revealing the intricate web of the Trese clan and Alexandra’s heritage. In my past reviews of Trese, I have been constantly looking for something to explain how Alexandra Trese became who she is in the present, along with the mystery of how the kambal are so devoted to her in the first place. After a year of waiting (for those who followed Trese since it first came out in 2008), or more appropriately, 3 days for me (since I bought the first two volumes first), those niggling questions finally got answered.

I am not going to spoil anything by typing in Alexandra Trese’s family history and everything, but I have to say that I really enjoyed this volume. This is my favorite yet from the series, and the difference in thickness between this book and its predecessor (Unreported Murders only had 88 pages which definitely left me hanging) was really good for me who wanted to read more of Alexandra and her adventures. For people who love learning about the history and background of the characters they are reading about, this book would prove to be an enjoyable one, though like most series books, answers only enough questions to leave you thirsting for more. I don’t mind this, since I very well intend to read all the Trese books in existence. Budjette Tan’s writing was splendid. The dialogue, the plot, the little twists and descriptions, everything, was perfect. Gah. I can’t spazz enough.

Another thing. If you enjoy reading superhero comic books and the like, I’m pretty sure you’ll like Mass Murders as well. It is exactly as its title suggests. There are a lot of action scenes that hardly require any speech bubbles because KaJo Baldisimo’s drawings make you understand what is going on at once. There’s a lot of fighting and gore, which I find really cool because, in my opinion, most of the paranormal stories I’ve read have helpless victims who never see the light of the next day. Having a strong heroine who the monsters are afraid of is an idea I really love.

Reading Mass Murders for me is like.. okay, I was about to say pizza, since after you’re done with the whole thing you still want more, but I think that only applies to me and other very hungry people, but you get the point. I really loved this, and I am more in love with the series than ever. 5 stars!!!

PS. Incidentally, this is my thirteenth post. Reveling the coincidence thus far ^__^

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: October 2009
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime

Related Links:

Trese #1: Murder on Balete Drive

Trese #2: Unreported Murders

Trese #4: Last Seen After Midnight

{Book Review} Trese #2: Unreported Murders

Unreported Murders (Trese, #2)


“When dusk arrives in the city of Manila, that’s when you become the most likely prey of the criminal underworld. 

Kidnappers and thieves will be the least of your worries. 

Beware the criminals that can’t be bound with handcuffs nor harmed with bullets. 

Beware the ones that crave for your blood, those who hold your heart ransom, and the ones that come to steal your soul. 

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.”*

The second volume in the Trese series, Unreported Murders delves deeper into the world of the paranormal, much to my delight and horror. I have revived my old high school habit of reading during the thin sliver of time between studying and sleeping, and reading about monsters that could probably be a-creepin’ around my room at the moment doesn’t really help in the sleeping part. Nevertheless, I was able to revel more in the interesting aspect of this volume rather than the scare factor, which leads me to mention my thoughts after finishing the last case.

There are four cases featured in Unreported Murders. I was very much amused to find so many references to things that exist in our collective consciousness, parodies of well-known people and places, and urban legends that get passed on from generation to generation. Exhibit A: In A Little Known Murder in Studio 4, ABC-ZNN sounds very much like ABS-CBN, a real-life Philippine TV network that is presently located along Mother Ignacia Street, and Heather Evangelista, the victim, clearly references Heart Evangelista. Exhibit B:  Embrace of the Unwanted. This case clearly plays on the infamous Robinsons malls urban legend about a snake that kidnaps and eats women in dressing rooms. There are much more, and finding these Easter eggs definitely adds to the fun of reading this volume, and every volume in the Trese series.

So far, this is the more graphic of the first two Trese books. Because one of the cases involves zombies, and another involves a horde of the creatures, there are naturally more fight scenes between the monsters and Alexandra with her kambal. If you enjoy that sort of thing, you will definitely enjoy this volume.

I still like the first book more, but this volume doesn’t trail too far behind. I liked Unreported Murders, and it’s doing a really good job of keeping the next books hyped up and keeping my interest. There are still things about Alexandra Trese and the other characters that I wished to be explored ever since the first book, but since this is part of a series, I am not without hope that the next book will explain the mystery of their identities.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: July 2008
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime

Related Posts:

Trese #1: Murder on Balete Drive

Trese #3: Mass Murders

Trese #4: Last Seen After Midnight

{Book Review} Trese #1: Murder on Balete Drive

Murder On Balete Drive (Trese, #1)

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions. 

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.”*

I first heard of Trese sometime around December of last year, but as I was busy with college-related stuff, I didn’t think much of it and eventually forgot about it… until my parents gave me gift certificates to National Bookstore for Christmas and I was free to FINALLY buy books! I spent the last of them on this whole series, a decision which, so far, I DO NOT REGRET.

Before I even started reading the graphic novels, I was already very excited. I love stories that have mythological aspects in a modern setting, and Trese promises to deliver just that. Filipino readers will be delighted to find the legendary aswang, kapre, engkantos, and several other creatures from native folklore jump straight from the page with the sharp angles of the black-and-white illustrations and dialogue that reveal their true selves as well as the side that allows them to mingle among us, unnoticed.

Trese: Murder on Balete Drive is the first book in the Trese series written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by KaJo Baldisimo. It has four cases that the protagonist, a bold young woman named Alexandra Trese, tackles with her trusty kambal bodyguards. The settings are eerily familiar, based on real roads and places within the Philippines. Case 2, Rules of the Race, stands out clearly in my mind, because the main storyline takes place in C-5, a road I pass every day to and from school. That, and the familiarity of the folklore and horror stories I grew up with as a child made reading this more interesting.

I normally don’t read supernatural stuff, and I was initially trepidated at the prospect of reading about the things that lurked around my childhood nightmares living among us now. I thought that if I read about the aswang actually surviving in the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, the forever young side of my brain will freak out and think I am no longer safe. That was not the case with this book, and with that I am glad. It’s not because the material wasn’t convincing; I was just really interested. And because of that, I am now all the more excited to read the coming books.

I really suggest everyone to take up this series and read it, but I’m afraid those unfamiliar with Philippine mythology could feel a bit lost. That said, if you read Trese, you would be able to get some information about the creatures from the stories, but if there are a lot of sources in the Internet that cover them. I was Googling “Philippine monsters” and I saw this. I am Filipino and I haven’t even heard of some of the monsters, there are so many of them. Now that I’ve read the first volume, I really must start reading the next ones!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
104 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: March 2008
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime
Related Posts:

{Book Review} Batman: Year One

“A young Bruce Wayne has spent his adolescence and early adulthood, traveling the world so he could hone his body and mind into the perfect fighting and investigative machine. But now as he returns to Gotham City, he must find a way to focus his passion and bring justice to his city. Retracing Batman’s first attempts to fight injustice as a costumed vigilante, we watch as he chooses a guise of a giant bat, creates an early bond with a young Lieutenant James Gordon, inadvertently plays a role in the birth of Catwoman, and helps to bring down a corrupt political system that infests Gotham.”*

I’m relatively new to comic book reading because of the scarcity of comic book stores here in the Philippines, but I got an opportunity to read this because I knew someone who had a copy and shared it with me. I really like this comic book because I always wondered how Batman started out. I mean, I knew how movie-wise, but really reading them on the actual comics they were based on is a whole other experience. There is also an animated movie of the same name released just this year. I haven’t watched it yet, but I heard it is faithful to the comic book.

You’ll find in Batman: Year One Batman at the infancy of his planning stage. Eighteen years after his parents’ death, the business empire heir thinks that he is now ready to “clean up a city that likes being dirty”, the infamous Gotham City. The city really needed a hero at this time since it was wrought with crime and danger everywhere. This book also chronicles the life of Lieutenant Gordon, a detective, after his arrival to Gotham City and his interactions with the Dark Knight.(view spoiler). I really liked the story since it provides a good, solid background for people who want to know more about Batman. This is the first comic book I’ve read that was written by Frank Miller, and I can’t wait to read more.

As I advanced through the pages, I couldn’t help but admire the graphics as well. I mean, it’s a comic book! I love the old-school feel of David Mazzucchelli’s illustrations, reminiscent of the superhero comic strips in the comic sections of newspapers that I religiously followed as a child.

Even if it’s more than two decades old, this book is a must-read for everyone, not just DC or Batman fans. It’s easy to follow for new comic book readers, and if I’m not mistaken, I think this comes first if the Batman comics were to be read chronologically. I’m seriously considering buying the physical version of this book, not the digital comics, and hopefully the 4 issues instead of the compilation. I don’t think it will come cheap though. Then again, for such a brilliant series, it deserves it. Let’s support the comics industry! Not much people buy anymore, and it would be a shame if the industry died out.

In a nutshell…
Rating: 5/5
Writer: Frank Miller
Illustrator: David Mazzucchelli
Colorist: Richmond Lewis
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: 1988, New York *originally published in single magazine form as Batman: Year One 1-4, (c) 1986-1987
Genre: Superhero