Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: Tabi Po Vol. 1


            Tabi Po is a graphic series by Mervin Malonzo. It is originally an online comic, but a printed version of Vol. 1 has already been published under Visprint, Inc. Vol. 1 follows Elias, a young aswang (a Philippine mythological creature similar to a vampire), as he tries to discover his own origin and purpose.

The most notable feature of Tabi Po is definitely its art. The style is dark, gritty, and colorful all at the same time, which is a pretty impressive combination thinking that these adjectives contradict one another. What makes it more impressive is the fact that Mervin Malonzo combines them well enough to not appear awkward. He effectively uses color to feature death and gloom, and not just going for the cop-out dark shades. What results is a distinguished art style I’ve never seen in local comics before.

But a comic book needs more than good art. It needs good writing too, and that is where Tabi Po falls a little short. The most prominent problem is in the micro writing. Mervin Malonzo, even though I appreciate his poetic style in his narrative, tends to be overly lyrical that it causes a delay in the progression of events.

This is particularly obvious in the first chapters, where Elias has some long monologue about his lost identity and weirdly insatiable hunger. I get it. He wants to know himself. He is hungry. There is no need to be too wordy about it, especially because the wordiness intervenes with the pacing of the story.

As for the macro writing, I think it is well-structured, making Vol. 1 an entertaining read despite the delaying monologues. The elements in the story are also disturbingly interesting, and it is fascinating to realize that these elements are inherent to local culture.

Another entertaining feature is the characterization. What makes Elias interesting is that he actually has flaws. Being a young aswang, he is very aggressive and eager to try new things. This renders him open to a lot of character development. The supporting characters also possess interesting and distinct personalities, and they have hints that they will be open to development as well. It is also quite impressive that the environmental characters are used as vehicles to move the plot to a specific direction.

Overall, I think Tabi Po Vol. 1 is a great read. The art is ridiculously good. The writing is fine, aside from the delays in micro writing, and the characters show a lot of promise for development. I won’t be reading the online comic, and just wait for the printed edition to know what happens next in the story.

Additional note: If you want to read more local comic books, you can try Trese, about a supernatural detective, or Skyworld, about characters from Philippine mythology. You can click the links to view my review of their first volumes, and navigate to the other volumes from there.


  1. That art is very good, and rather unique, at least compared to western and Japanese comics/manga that I have seen. There are familiar elements, but it reminds me more of paintings rather than comics, in a good way though. Since is a Filipino comic, I will obviously never read it, but it was interesting reading your review and seeing the artwork.


    1. I've read that the creator actually majored in painting, thus the style. And yes, local comics (as far as I've seen) have very distinct styles compared to what I see in the west and east-asia. I review them a lot in this blog because I'm really enjoying them.