Writing his first comic book review, Sting is an incoming Grade 10 student who has been reading comics since he was five. His favourite superhero has always been Batman and his favourite comic book is Knightfall by Doug Moench.
Published by Anino (2016), an imprint of Adarna House Inc. for comics and graphic novels, written by Russell Molina, and illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo, 12:01 features the story of the teen band Edji-Voice. The action starts when the authorities found them on the streets beyond the midnight curfew imposed during the Martial Law era.
Oppression and Resistance
Some information crucial to the story was presented to the reader using deep imagery – forcing the readers to think. This method is likely to elicit varying interpretations from readers. While there are advantages to a story with no definite plot, this might be problematic for a book which aims to illustrate a critical period in Philippine history.
The transitions to sub-narratives were admirable as well. The author slowly gives out hints before introducing the sub-narrative itself. These sub-narratives also lead readers to a critical understanding of Martial Law by weaving together narratives of the oppressed and tortured.
The author also composed verses presented as songs written by the band. The verses are rich in metaphors and symbolisms about the Marcos regime. This allows readers to get a sense of what it was like to constantly fear abuse from the government.
A Lesson of the Past
Writing the dialogues using the particular slang of the time period helps readers picture what life was like in the Philippines during the Martial Law era. Curfew, for instance, held a lot of meaning. This particular use of language also helps character development. Through particular quirks in speech, characters gain their own personalities.
Though set in the past, the characters are depicted in ways that prompts modern readers to resonate with them. The deliberate portrayal of the characters as band members is an example. This raises the comic’s appeal to younger readers. At the same time, it could also pique their interest in the past.
The illustrator’s clear, unique, and detailed style captures the realism that the story wants to portray, save for some cartoonish details used to emphasise expressions. The gloomy background drawings are also very rich and interesting.
The illustration and the text also really work together to deliver the story. The flow of the panels in some parts though was confusing. For instance, there is a continuous left to right movement, then a left to down and back to right movements. Other readers might see this as a way of reflecting the characters’ movement, especially in the section where the band is escaping from the police. It just doesn’t work for me, though.
Martial Law for Millennials
The book really gives readers, especially Filipino teenagers who didn’t get to experience Martial Law, a glimpse of what may have happened during that time. It exposes the brutality of the regime and what it used to do to people through the band members’ individual narratives in the story.
The book enlightened me on what happened during the Marcos Regime. It is informational enough to get me curious about whatever happened during Martial Law and what drove millions of people to revolt in the streets of EDSA. It showed me how it was like when Filipinos cared so much about each other and how much they wanted the same thing. It reveals Filipino nature and could lead readers to discernment on one of the many meanings of being a “true Filipino”.
Images are from Kajo Baldisimo’s Facebook account.