Book review: Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s “Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight”

Because I’m one of those terminally uncool people who’s late to everything, I was way behind on getting onboard the “Trese” train. I knew of the Komikon’s but never went to any one of them, which is how I missed out on the genesis of so many great Filipino komiks like Carlo Vergara’s “Ang Kagilagilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah”.

I only found out about “Trese” when Budjette sent a copy of the graphic novels over to my editor, who promptly handed them to me and asked that I write a story about it. Turns out that was my lucky day as I absolutely loved “Trese” and how it filled in the dark corners of Metro Manila with various creatures that go bump in the night.

Since that time about two years ago, Budjette and Kajo have won the National Book Award for Graphic Literature and have now come out with “Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight”, the fourth book in the series. Will it maintain the standard of excellence set by the previous three books?

Following the pattern already established in the previous three volumes in the series, “Trese 4” tells three different cases that Alexandre Trese tackles throughout the city of Manila.

In “Cadena de Amor”, an elemental of the forest wrecks a trail of destruction throughout the metro as it searches for the its beloved caretaker.

Meanwhile, “A Private Collection”, tells of a gang war that is threatening to erupt between the manananggals and aswangs of Manila. Trese must find out who is igniting the tensions between the two clans if she wishes to save Manila from further bloodshed.

“Wanted: Bedspacer” takes us to Katipunan Avenue, where a mysterious illness takes hold of the residents of a dormitory. Will Alexandra find out what ails them before it is too late?

Finally, “Fight of the Year” takes us outside of Manila and to General Santos City, where demons and the creatures of the underworld converge to watch the world’s greatest boxer fight for his life.

I really enjoyed “Mass Murders” out of all the previous installments of Trese; I liked how all the four cases were interlinked to tell one  one big story stretching all the way back to Alexandra Trese’s teen years. I thought that Budjette would be doing the same approach for “Last Seen After Midnight”, but other than a mention of a technique learned while up in the balete tree, there is no overarching story or allusion to the event so “Mass Murder”. But that’s more a matter of personal preference than a slight on the book, because the book itself is great.

Budjette and Kajo are still in top form with this installment, turning in stories and artwork that is, for the most part, as exemplary as the first three volumes that came before.

In particular, I really liked “Wanted: Bedspacer” and its particularly poignant take on the bangungot, and how it showcased Alexandra Trese’s skills outside of kicking butt. It’s as good as “Our Secret Constellation” from the first “Trese”, and with a lesser body count to boot.

“A Private Collection”, which Budjette reveals in the Afterword was first penned as a script for a possible animated film, is also a curious little thing, if only for the fact that readers’ imaginations are going to run wild at how all of this would have translated on celluloid.

While “Cadena de Amor” and “Fight of the Year” aren’t as strong as “Wanted: Bedspacer” and “A Private Collection”, they still bring out what has always been good about the “Trese” stories — its capability to make you look at Manila in an entirely new light. Also, this is the only comic book in the world where you see Manny Pacquiao fight Cthulhu.

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5 thoughts on “Book review: Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s “Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight””

  1. I have only been updated lately with your blog and am not sure if you have read “Elmer” or any works by Gerry Alanguilan. A must read for komiks, and you might recognize some places in the panels he drew.

    Let me note Andrew Drilon’s works. Some of his works are here: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/ts2.0/artist/354
    But the series he made where Neil Gaimann awarded him something is very hard to find now. It was Kare-kare Komix if I am correct.

    “The Secret Constellation” is one of the best “Darna” tribute I have seen as of late.
    I need to buy the whole set NOW! 😀

    1. Yep, I’ve read “Elmer”. If you go back a few months on this blog, you’ll see that I even have an interview with him up on this blog. 🙂

      1. That is awesome! I will look into it.

        I really need to buy their works, especially the 4 books of Trese.

        BTW, I saw this ultra geeky cool Ipad back covers with Trese and Elmer designs. I think they released it in conjunction with the Tresa Book 4 and Elmer 2nd Edition book launches in NBS.

        😀

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