May 1, 2016

[Comics] Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila #2 (of 3)

I posted my review of part one of Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila back in 2012, so it has been a bit of time since we last spent time with our favorite gender-bending heroine. But let's not focus on how long it has been since the last Zsazsa Zaturnnah comic and just focus on the fact that she's back and we're all the better for it.

Given this is still a serial though, I'll admit that I was a little fuzzy at first about how things had ended in the last book and just where we were headed this time around. But hey, it was worth the recap and review in order to get into the fun.

And man, it is so great to be back to reading about her (mis)adventures again! Zsazsa was never a 100% picture perfect sort of superhero, and that's part of her charm. But she's also one with a lot to deal with in her home life, which is just about as Filipino as you can get really. Throw in her being gay and that's one complicated back story which never grows tiring in terms of potential story content and character development.

Synopsis: Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila #2 is the next chapter in the continuing Zsazsa Zaturnnah saga as written and illustrated by Carlo Vergara. There's still one more book in this particular series, so do take the time to enjoy this book at your own pace while we wait for the conclusion.

So there's a bit of trouble in paradise in terms of the life of Ada and Dodong as the city demands so much of them. Ada's efforts to continue her career as a make-up artist has not been all that great in the busy, busy city of Manila and both she and her boyfriend Dodong barely have time together. And this leads to certain "opportunities" at Dodong's life as a car salesman. As much as he's super loyal to Ada (even though he hasn't officially said yes to Dodong), a particularly persistent customer is determined to get more of Dodong's free time. And a lot of that free time is because of Ada being so busy, but not with work but instead with being Zsazsa Zaturnnah again. This is particularly true given how much time she's now spending with fellow superhero Ginoong Lakas (who ironically speaks in English a lot).

The covers of both books in this series are a clear reminder that these comics are on some level still more of a homage to older Pinoy Komiks. And you can feel that in how a lot of the drama involves a lot of dialog as well. I've seen comments about this here and there for reviews of the first book. but it's really not an issue for me. All comics used to be a heck of a lot wordier before, but in recent years the shift has been to creating more visually-driven story telling with very limited dialog. I won't get into arguing if one approach is better than the other - you choose the format that works best for you.

What I appreciate about the comic in this regard is how both dialog and scenes work together pretty well. As much as there's a lot of back and forth dialog driving some scenes, Carl was sure to balance things with some ridiculously beautiful larger panel scenes including full page spreads that are all about the visuals. He knows how to play with both elements and you get a mix of old school narrative-drive story moments and those fast, frenetic action shots that are all about more show than tell.

There's a lot of conflict in this story and most of it as more real-world conflict and not your typical heroes vs villains conflict. Sure there's the big fight at the end of things, but I feel the greater emphasis was more on the real-world problem of Ada needing a job and the challenges between the two of them in terms of getting enough time together and both of them learning to open up fully to the other. These are not radically new problems, but that's because they're sure to hit close to home. And that quality of Carl's writing is always an interesting note for these comics.

Zaturnnah is gorgeous. Dodong is still hot. Ginoong Lakas is quite bulgy. I miss Didi and I hope she comes to Manila somehow by issue 3.

For a middle chapter in a 3-issue arc, the story naturally feels like it was more about story development that quick action or easy moments of confrontation. The addition of Hukbong Maynila to the mix of things doesn't drastically change the dynamic as you don't see them until towards the end of the book. A lot of interesting things happened in this book both for our heroes and those that oppose them. So we achieved something there.

Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila is a great continuation of the story with some beautiful art and a lot of intense (yet still comedic) drama. It's a fun enough romp for Zsazsa, but I do kind of hope that we have a bigger fight to look forward to come the final book in this trilogy. Thus the comic gets 4.5 crazy moments of Zsazsa trying out a new costumes out of a possible 5.

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