Sunday, November 18, 2018

November Komikon Must-Reads: Bong Redila’s Melag

November Komikon Must-Reads: Bong Redila’s Melag
by rick olivares

In the first few panels to his short comic book story, “Perya,” Bong Redila writes, “Ang kaligayahan ay matatagpuan kung saan-saan. Noong bata pa ako, papel at tasadong lapis lang ay masaya na ako.”

These two lines sum up the wonder and amazing read that is Melag; a wonderful trove of nine short comics written and drawn by Bong Redila. The 126-page trade paperback, published by Anino Comics, was made available at the Komikon last November 17 and 18 at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig City. It will surely also be available at local comic book specialty shops after this.

Each story about this familiar yet magical town of Melag introduces you to different and nameless people. There is no need for names for most characters, but they are all too real and familiar. And most certainly, they – and the stories they are wrapped in -- will put a smile on your lips as you recall your own youthful days when even a simple walk home would find you daydreaming with the world around you terraforming and serving as one adventure.

The prose is sparse. Redila deftly makes use of words only when he needs too. For the most part, the art – alternatingly simple, intricate, and lovingly detailed to the point you spend quite a few minutes lost in each panel – tells the story. And you know what they say about what a picture is worth…

And it is his simple, yet beautiful and expressive art – that reminds me of Jeremy Bastian of Cursed Pirate Girl fame, of Mexican artist Tony Sandoval whose Doomboy is an emotive rock and roll fable, and David Petersen who crafts the most excellent Mouse Guard series of comics.

The first story, “PNR 24” reminds me of Walter Mitty. “Liwaliw” harkens back in some way to Pixar’s animated film “Up.”

“Tanawin Ni Aida” has that Calvin & Hobbes feel. “Hiling” for the life of me reminds of a Hayao Miyazaki tale.

I love the art of “Ang Sayaw” that reminds me of the art of the aforementioned Petersen while “Perya” has Gaimanesque feel.

For the last two short pieces, “Arapaap” and “Bago Pumatak ang Ulan,” remind me of the art styles of those old English fairy tales and fables. Glimpses of childhood; pleasant memories worth revisiting.

In Melag, Redila perfectly captures one’s inner child; a Ratatouille moment even for the most jaded of comic book readers.

Melag is a thoroughly enjoyable read and I found myself wracking my brain to figure out when was the last time I read a local comic book that evoked such wonder and amazement (and I read a lot)? Was it Arnold Arre’s Mythology Class?

I could be wrong, but that is what comes to mind. So this is not faint praise. You don’t need to take a train to some magic castle in the English countryside to experience something magical. Melag is close to home and this is where this comic book anthology gets its heart.

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