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Mango Jammed

So last Saturday, I was at the launch of Mango Jam, a bimothly manga-style comics anthology featuring four ongoing stories (published by Mango Comics, natch). A number of the staffers are friends of mine, and I had been hearing stories of trouble from behind the scenes; I silently hoped that this anthology would be really good and a nice showcase for a wide range of local talent, and silently dreaded that the final product would be a bit of a mess. As it turns out, Mango Jam is something in between.

First, the good stuff. My favorite of the four comics is Mish, Chief: playful and smart, it boasts cute stylized art and a witty script by Kristine Fonacier about high school journalism, scientific experiments gone awry, and the difference between geeks and dorks. Next favorite is Twilight's Calling: it has lovely, very manga-esque art, and a fun story by Nikki Alfar about teens trying (and trying, and trying) to form a band. It's somewhat reminiscent of Blue Monday, and my only complaint about it is that it may have tried to pack too much into its first installment -- a certain love angle was dealt with rather too abruptly for my taste. The reverse of that problem plagues Karen Kunawicz's Kali, which seemed rather thin on captions and dialogue. Of course, a good writer knows how to let the artist tell the story and doesn't clutter the panels with unnecessary exposition, but I felt that this story needed fleshing out, and a little more background and atmosphere; it feels underdone, somehow. Some very nice ideas though -- I liked the ghostly grandmother.

And finally, we come to Leaves of Glaz, the first story in the anthology, the first one people see when they open the magazine. Three words: it's a mess. I expected to love it; I know the author -- Cyan Abad -- is a good writer, having enjoyed her fiction and poetry from before. And it's a fantasy setting, with magic and royal intrigue and all that good stuff, so it should have been up my alley. But it's a mess. And it turns out there's a very good -- correction, a very bad -- reason for that. Namely, that the script was butchered beyond recognition. This was not Cyan's nor editor Nikki Alfar's fault, as the mangled, truncated script was not approved by either of them. Apparently there was a failure somewhere in the process of putting together the magazine. I was both relieved and seriously annoyed when I found out: I had been having a very hard time believing that Cyan had turned in an incomprehensible script, so I was glad to have that notion debunked. At the same time, almost everyone else who picks up and reads this comic won't have the privilege of that knowledge, and will assume that Leaves of Glaz is just more bad comics.

I hope they rerun the first installment with corrections and a retooled script. That would be the fair thing to do -- for the author, the artist, and the readers. In any case, I'm sure to pick up the next issue, if only to find out what disaster Travis from Mish, Chief is going to cause with his Dexter-like inventive genius.

PS. Oh, and in case anyone cares what I think about Lastikman by Gerry Alanguilan and Arnold Arre: I thought it was okay. It just doesn't represent the best of what either creator can do. Gerry is funnier on Crest Hut Butt Shop and certainly more heart-wrenchingly affecting on Wasted; Arnold's art is better on Trip to Tagaytay, the as-yet-unreleased CWC Comics Project (and yes, I'm one of the adapters, so I may be biased), and a number of works in progress. The coloring is excellent, the printing is good. Other than that, it doesn't -- to my mind -- break new ground with an old concept (unlike, say, Zsa Zsa Zaturnna), nor is it so amazingly well done that it impresses you with sheer craft. It's good -- definitely the best thing Mango Comics had produced up to the time of its launch, as one comics collector pointed out -- but not great.

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Best described as a Murakami detox support group, we're all fans of the quirkily brilliant Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, and writing about such things as films we've seen recently and books we're reading (not to mention meandering musings on the man's work, of course) helps us to pass time while waiting for the next book from Haruki-baby.

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