Budjette Tan is the mastermind behind Trese, which was first published in 2005. This Filipino komik (Tagalog for comic) was completed by Kajo Baldisimo, who ingeniously embossed the depictions on the book’s pages. This dark fantasy series tells a story of a gatekeeping crusader whose fate and family has left her in charge of the city of Manila. Much like how the Dark Knight prowls Gotham City for criminals, Alexandra Trese uses her work to keep the underworld from interfering with the human realm.
Trese is an invigorating tale that follows Alexandra Trese, a private detective who assists local law enforcement with crimes of supernatural origins. The story takes place mainly in the city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Consequently, when darkness draws back its curtain of shadows, the aswang, kapre, and engkantos run throughout the city. These celestial creatures are based on Philippine folklore and mythology and cohabitate with the human realm. As a Babaylan-Mandirigma, Alexandra’s duty is to protect the city from beings of the underworld by guarding the passages. Using everyday items in unorthodox ways and with touches of magic, Alexandra finds herself summoning assistance from these beings to help solve crimes and keep peace betwixt the two realms.
There’s a plethora of things I love about this comic series. For starters, it lays closely parallel to one of my favorite crime/mystery series, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. This show follows detectives from an elite squad that investigates sexually based crimes. Its one of the longest running primetime shows of our time. Budjette Tan has done something similar here; he gives his readers a small bite of story setting, just enough to understand that things are about to go south. The bigger narrative is about to unfold with interesting correlations between this tale and Philippine mythology.
The adventure the reader is taken on with Alexandra and her two guards, the Kambal (Tagalog for twins or double), is visually engaging and textually satisfying. Yes, you read that correctly. The storytelling in Trese has me entirely drawn in and wanting to know more about Philippine culture. Two ways I believe you can learn a lot about other countries and their people are through their food and folklore of the land. Places that are rooted with their history and culture will always have inspiration seeping at its core.
We’ve read books and watched TV series and movies fabricated with the same thread of urban legends and superstitions. Contrary to my upbringing, a topic of discussion that has always gnawed at my mind has been the different realms of existence with religious undertones. Trese could easily exist in the same demon-exorcising domain as John Constantine’s. Overall, these two are similar but their contrasting elements give Trese a pillar of recognition.
The story is beautifully paced and aided by an appropriate amount of details. Kajo Baldisimo’s illustrations hold different variations that alternate between different emotions and energy. Equally important are the graphics. Though minimal in grey scales, the graphics are suited for the rich text that corresponds the artistry. Trese is a dark fantasy crime thriller with horror influences and is such an enjoyable read. I’ve only read volume 1 and 2 so far, but I will be reading more when I can get my hands on them. Above all, I am hooked and ready to be reeled in by the remaining released publications. I hope you found my review helpful and find your way to Ablaze Publishing to learn more about this and other enticing titles.