Option 22: Skyworld, Volume One by Mervin Ignacio, illustrated by Ian Sta. Maria
(See the Giveaways page for more information)
It only takes one story left untold to make men forget all the things they could be. And your people have many. Your oldest legends speak of an ancient tribe that traveled to these shores thousands of years ago, passing through land bridges long since swallowed by the sea.
They were known as the Sons of Heaven. Fearsome warriors gifted with strength beyond mortal men, ruled by a code that was not of this earth. Many believe they had descended from the Sky Gods themselves. In their possession was an amulet, which was the source of all their power. Any warrior that wore it would have the strength of a hundred men. Spears and swords would not pierce his skin. And any army he led into battle could not be defeated . . .
. . . According to prophecy, a warrior of noble birth would one day rise and use the amulet to unite the warring tribes. He would slay an enemy unlike any the world had ever seen. And under his rule, a kingdom of a thousand islands would be born . . .
This isn't the type of story I normally read, although it's all too common these days. The retelling of ancient mythology in order to make room for modern Mary Sues (or Gary Stus!), whose births were, of course, foretold in mysterious legends, is just too easy. And I normally write off most writers whose creativity seems to be the literary equivalent of cosplay. But now I'm going to cut Mervin Ignacio and Ian Sta. Maria a break because what they've done in Skyworld is actually quite good.
Or do I just think so because the myths and legends with which they weave their graphic novel are also threads running through my own fantasy life?
What a difference the tiniest bit of colour makes!
I may find myself unmoved by Greek gods, Mayan prophecies, French alchemists, and Mormon vampires--but then again, I have no living connection to any of those cultures. But tell me about Tikbalang warriors and Asuang armies, and apparently, I sing a different tune! =P I'm even able to handle one of my biggest pet peeves, the "conspiracy theory" version of history.
Every Filipino school child knows the story of Lapu-Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan: the clash between would-be coloniser and unwilling chieftain controversially considered the beginning of Philippine history. "Controversially," because the idea that our history began when a foreign conqueror found us is hardly a nationalistic thing to say . . . except that our 7,100 islands were nowhere near nationhood until Spain's colonial efforts did our uniting for us. And although I'm personally very happy about our Spanish period and not at all curious about what our islands were like before they landed, I must share a bit of that cognitive dissonance anyway, because the "real" story about what went down in the battle at Mactan, supernatural elements and all, made me want to grab a credentialed historian so I could ask how plausible it was. The stories in Skyworld feel real.
But will they feel the same way to readers who do not have a living connection to Philippine culture--or a working knowledge of Philippine history? I daresay that Skyworld has a good shot at impressing an international reader who likes Fantasy, especially if he is already familiar with its tropes! And the historical figures who occasionally enter the story are easy enough to look up.
If anything in this graphic novel ends up "lost in translation," it will have less to do with the reader's background than with its own shortcomings . . .
As I was saying about colour . . .
The entire graphic novel is in black and white, with hardly any nuance for texture!!! =( There is one panel in which a skygod lands so heavily on earth that he creates a smoking crater: I actually concentrated on that drawing for a whole minute before I made out that the ropy things around the skygod were billows of smoke and not twisted tree roots! And there are lots of busy panels with their own "ropy things" that are hard to figure out at first glance.
Then there is the inclusion of Alexandra Trese, the protagonist of a whole other series. If I hadn't known about her from someone who has been pushing Trese on me for months, the sudden appearance of a Batman-esque paranormal investigator (with occult powers?) would have totally thrown me for a loop. Crossovers are cool, but this one feels indulgent.
Finally, I should mention the graphic violence and explicit (if mercifully short) sex scenes. But you probably already guessed that from the cover's image of a bare-breasted Asuang about to torture a hapless skygod with her tentacles.
If all that wasn't enough to put you off--as it wasn't enough to put me off--then you really should give Skyworld a shot. =) Besides, since Volume One ends on a cliffhanger, I will also be sending Volume Two as part of the prize, if the giveaway winner chooses this one! How is that for a deal?
You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you really do like it when mythology is given a new twist in modern stories. =)
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Image Sources: a) Skyworld, Volume 1 by Mervin Ignacio, illustrated by Ian Sta. Maria, b) Apocrypha, c) Lapu-Lapu