Thursday, May 31, 2012

kwentillion: a million stories

kwentillion is summit publishing's attempt to kick-start a nonexistent local YA readers' market by offering a mix of comics, short fiction, and articles aimed at young readers. that's a heck of a daunting task that editors paolo chikiamco and budjette tan have set themselves to, but then these two know what it's like to build readerships where no one believed one could exist before. tan was instrumental in the 90's indie komiks movement, later parlaying that popularity into the crossover success that is trese, and chikiamco has championed pinoy sci-fi through his rocket kapre imprint.

going back to the first issue: it is excellent. the comics alone are worth the cover price, and seeing them for the first time in full-size print is a joy. there are four stories in all:

the last datu's short-haired, dagger-wielding, aswang-fighting heroine (alexandra trese precursor, anyone? ) is out to assassinate the head of the aswang tribe that massacred her people. story by budjette tan and art by kajo baldisimo.
robert magnuson's wordless poso maximo supplies the cute quotient, telling an all-ages tale about an aging monster hunter and his endless quest for... the perfect fried egg?
chikiamco writes and hannah buena illustrates high society, a highly original steampunk-meets-pinoy-mythology story set in an alternate colonial philippines. it poses the question, what if the revolution was led by anitos, aided by a mysterious indio named "the carpenter"? i particularly enjoyed this one, although it is far too short. bitin!

the last story is james dimacali and john bumanglag's sky gypsies. this is straight-up sci-fi of the isaac asimov kind, and expects a bit more from the reader than the previous three. but if you stick with it, it's a beautiful, rewarding tale, and one of the best mashups i've read of space-age tech and ancient pinoy beliefs and customs.

there's some lovely images of these futuristic badjao, "swimming" through outer space in their loincloths, vulnerable yet infinitely graceful beside their bulky spacesuit-clad counterparts.

dimacali also invents some neat methods for badjao "fishing," or in this case, mining asteroids for precious metals: the traditional boat, nets, and goggles are still used, but in new and ingenious ways.

an encounter between the father-son protagonist team and some local space patrolmen also had me shaking my head with recognition. even in the far-flung future in outer space...

kwentillion is available at select national bookstore branches, and comes out every other month.

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