Heads up for Kayaw!
by rick olivares
I’m a sucker for stories (fiction and non-fiction) that have a military slant. I guess that’s because I have always been a military/warfare buff.
When I saw the ad on the Komikon page promoting Kayaw, I knew I had to get it. I am familiar with the term as my wife’s family hails from the Kalinga region. “Kalinga” originated from the Gaddang and Ibanag dialects and means “headhunting.” Theirs was a warrior society – and as series writer Steve Magay aptly puts it lived much like the Spartans of ancient Greece – and in keeping with that heritage called “takiling” – “kayaw” was the successful headhunting of an enemy.
So I eagerly dropped by Hollow Point Studios’ table at the Summer Komikon to pick up Kayaw.
Magay and artist Dax weave a story of the Kalinga who are locked in combat with the Imperial Japanese Army’s 78th Infantry Division as commanded by the brutal Captain Yamamoto Kobayashi. In the midst of the subjugation of the Mountain Province is the arrival of Japanese Intelligence Officer Masamune Kamiko who has these mysterious tattoos on her arms meaning she’s a part of the yakuza or organized crime (that’s how it was in 20th century Japan unlike today where tattoos are now considered fashionable).
The story begins with the bombing of the mountainous Kalinga Apayao area by Japanese Donryu bombers while Yamamoto is torturing a captive Kalinga warrior. Yamamoto shows his brutal side by not only slicing off the tongue of the Kalinga warrior but also shooting a pair local informants/collaborators who have incurred his displeasure. Yamamoto is your typical sadistic officer in the vein of Malcolm McDowell’s evil Captain Von Berkow in the British war film, The Passage or Jason Isaacs’ Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot. As is with those two, you know that Yamomoto is going to get his just desserts.
When Masamune walks in Yamamoto is attacked by the captive who manages to free himself.
The first part ends with the Japanese readying themselves for an assault and Kamiko revealing her tattoos. While it is evident and obvious that the story is headed for a violent finish, it is Kamiko’s presence that provides the additional interest.
What is her role in all of this aside from trying to acquire intelligence? Does she empathize with the Kalinga? How does this all end?
Magay’s script flows and doesn’t feel contrived. I love Dax makes excellent use of light and shadow. Some panels are incredibly detailed while others have a minimal feel to them and the uncluttered look is just fine.
By the first issue’s end, Magay braces us for the violent conclusion. I’d love to see where they take this and hope it isn’t predictable. But am actually surprised that it’s ending because there are a least several issues worth of stories here based on the initial plots presented.
There’s Kamiko’s background that bears telling. The lives of the Kalinga warriors have yet to be shown or even a central character. There’s more to show with the subjugation of the Mountain Province. The Japanese tried but then decided to hold the town or city centers.
Nevertheless, I look forward to how they wrap this up.
Kayaw #1 costs P70 and that’s not so bad for 28-pages of a good story.
Furthermore, I like the story that I feel is an excellent companion piece to Image Comics’ The Mercenary Sea that tells of ex-military smugglers running the Asia-Pacific region before World War II.