Friday, May 6, 2016

Book Review: 12:01

Russell Molina and Kajo Baldisimo
Anino Comics

In February, as the nation celebrated the 30th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, Anino Comics and the EDSA People Power Commission launched a graphic novel set during the last years of Martial Law and the 1986 People Power revolution.

It begins with four friends, band mates who missed the curfew. Afraid of being caught by the police, they sought refuge in an abandoned printing press where one of them recognized it as his father's former workplace. Narrating the story of his father's capture by the Metrocom, the reader gets an overview of law enforcement during the Marcos years. The story escalates as the band mates move away from their hiding place only to find a jeepney driver in search of his daughter who went missing after  several rallies and mobilization in Tondo, Manila. Alas, the police caught up with them and a few good men heeded the call of the brave. The story ends at a concert during the height of the EDSA 1986 Revolution. The band mates are playing their song not just for freedom, but in memory of their fallen comrade.

What worked

Molina is a gifted storyteller. He is honest and truthful in his use of words. What you read is what you get with Russell and yet, he is able to simultaneously layer events and emotions into a multi-dimensional story. Molina, in 12:01 is not just telling the story of four friends dreaming of hitting it big in the music industry. He is also telling us how these dreams can be crushed or actualized by forces bigger than ourselves. Tragedy is just around corner, but he shows readers how people can live through such evil things.

Baldisimo's illustration is dynamic. It is kinetic where it should be. It is haunting and nostalgic at exactly the right panels. It is dramatic and melancholic as need be. The broken coffee cup. The old picture frame. The drum sticks that lay unmoved on top of a garbage can. His drawings enhance and enrich Molina's skilled storytelling. And the book cover! Powerful.

What did not work

This is more of a suggestion, really. I hope Anino Comics get to read this review.

There are three songs inserted in the graphic novel: Hala, Tahan Na and Gising Na. These songs are juxtaposed perfectly into the plot of the story. But, it would have been a cool way to engage teenagers to read the graphic novel if there are guitar chords or tab for these songs. Add a recording in MP4 or MP3 format that can be streamed online or downloaded for  a fee, then what we get is a multimedia material for the digital native.

Rating: Four bookmarks over five

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