Filipino Comics Review: Bayan Knights #1 Heart of the Black Matrix

I’ve been trying to find the time to make all the other Indie Komiks reviews of all the issues we’d bought at the Indieket 2012, but just couldn’t find any free time amidst all the piling workload.

After watching this video of Randy Pausch giving a lecture about time management, however, the fire was somewhat rekindled and I realized I have to give up a lot of other stuff (like surfing the net, watching TV, etc) if I really want to get these reviews out and about before the upcoming October Komikon.

Thankfully, I was messaged on our FB page by Bayan Knights editor, Mark Rosario, who asked if we could create a review of one of their issues. Of course, we’re happy to Mark! Anything to further promote Indie Komiks in the Philippines! I’m very thankful as well, because you just gave me more reason to really make time for writing these reviews.

For other Indie Komiks creators out there, if you like our reviews or find them interesting, fair, unfair, or whatever, leave us a message. If you want your own Komik reviewed, we’d be happy to do it. All for the purpose of getting more and more people to read and get to know all our Indie artists.

But on to the Komik! (SPOILERS ALERT!)

What to expect

Superheroes and mythology are always an interesting mixture. In many ways, superheroes today are mythology themselves. It’s just that we don’t exactly build temples in honor of them (besides your local comic book store, that is).

Now this is my first time reading Bayan Knights, although it’s not the first time I’ve heard the title. As a first reader though, I have to say that the first issue really draws you in. From the panels to the art to the writing, you know that this team basically knows what they’re doing. The pacing is just right for a first issue packed with actions scenes, and the amount of text and dialogue is sufficient enough for you to get a tiny inkling of who these characters are.

For a first issue, they reveal just enough to make you ask questions. Expect superheroes battling it out with dozens of aswang. Expect a lot of intricately detailed fight scenes as well.

It’s also interesting how they formulated the Bayan Knights by forming a team of writers and artists “…wherein members get the chance to create their own comics that tie into the main BK universe.”

What we like

  • A doctor from another world wielding half of what looks like a gigantic pair of scissor as a weapon - genius!
  • Elf ears. Yes long, pointy ears really should enter the fashion industry in the near future.
  • Fighting! And more fighting!
  • Death’s strikes early amongst the heroes (although, since Overdrive was alive again at the end, it probably doesn’t really count as a death… Or does it? We’ll just have to see in the following issues).

What we want to see more of

1. More Distinct Characterization

I know it can’t be helped since this is just a first issue. You’re not necessarily expected to really get to know them just yet. And for those who are reading Bayan Knights for a first time, you know absolutely nothing about these characters.

(I think that’s the problem with these massive universes, and what drew me away from reading single issues of DC and Marvel: you gotta buy everything to find out what’s going on in the universe.)

For a first issue, though, probably the only characters that stood out for me were Mao and Overdrive. They have more distinct personalities that make the rest look a bit generic. Of course, we can’t really figure these characters out in the first chapter of the story arch, but it helps to distinguish them from one another if their attitudes, manner of speaking, etc are noticeably different from the other heroes. Think about all the major superhero groups and you see how they both get along and don’t get along at certain points.

I would suggest looking into the Four Temperaments or Humorism as a possible template. A lot of creators have tapped this pattern unknowingly and have captured the hearts and minds of their fans. Think of all the trios and quad…ruplets out there from TMNT to Sex and the City.

(Alright, I nabbed this reference from a video from… But hey! It’s a grand idea that’s worth sharing! – and must be cited unless we be Sottoed.)

(UPDATE: I took out the embedded video. Watch it instead here: “Which Ninja Turtle Are You? Life’s Most Important Question”)

2. More Nouns, Less Pronouns

This was a problem in my first read. At the beginning of the komik, Mao finds his friend murdered. All throughout the comic, she’s referred to as “she” or “her” and the trouble with that is that there’s are a lot of shes and hers in the story. This made me a bit confused during my first read through. Had to read it a second time to get it. (But that might just be me)

If the girl is not exactly a key character in the story, it’s alright to let it slide. But if she’s going to play an important role in the Doc’s past and storyline, then best to name her at the beginning, I believe.

3. Smooth Linguistics

I love how Talim speaks mainly in Filipino. I think that’s good characterization. Zheya and Overdrive, on the other hand, occasionally do a bit of code-switching. It’s a common trait among us Pinoys. And it’s really very true-t0-life.

In terms of writing, though, this could either work or not work.

Reading Trese, Elmer or The Filipino Heroes League, you’ll notice that they’re all in straight English. There might be a few words in Filipino (mostly expressions), but the rest are in full English. It just reads much more smoothly that way. This is a personal opinion, but for me it’s a bit distracting to read Zheya or Overdrive speaking in English one minute and then in Tagalog the next.

If you read Umberto Eco or other similar writers, you find short sentences in Italian or Latin. F.H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles employs similar logic. The same goes with any piece of literature. The change in language is often used to call attention to the reader. It is often a signal reading, “this might be important” or it could simply be, as Eco terms it, a “wink to the reader” as though there was some inside joke or allusion. Because code-switching is definitely a major distraction in the flow of your reading.

Hence, I would suggest avoiding code-switching.

In Talim’s case, it’s less distracting, since that’s more of his characterization than anything else. But if the comic is going to be mainly in English, it might still draw attention where it might not want to. Of course, these are only suggestions. The komik, as a whole is still able to work even with the change in language.

National Artist Nick Joaquin did something incredibly different with the way he wrote English.

A paper in an article by John D. Blanco puts it perfectly:

“Indeed, the paradox manifests itself on the very surface of Joaquin’s prose - a failed English, learned and obeyed at the dictates of US colonialism in the first half of the twentieth century, but with its grammar and syntax perverted, folded back upon itself to more closely resemble the rhetoric of Spanish in the time of Cervantes.”

This is one approach that could be used instead of code-switching.

It’s just harder to write.

So I suggest one either writes in complete English or complete Filipino. Look at it this way, if you’re planning on going international someday, you’ll want your readers to have a fuller reading experience without them missing out on anything.

**On another note, I’ve always wondered how you can incorporate subtitles into comics somehow… Hmm… Something to ponder on. Wonder if it would actually work. What they use in comics today wherein there’s a footnote that says things like “In Kryptonian” make me raise an eyebrow sometimes. Compare that to Tolkien who literally created the language of the Elves himself.**

Expectations for the future

  • Fighting! And More Fighting!
  • Character backgrounds - the first issue made it interesting enough for you to want to get to know these characters a lot more.
  • Amazing art!
  • Team background - how’d they all get together in the first place? Where in the Philippines did they get all that advanced equipment? How do they eat? Who’s funding them?


Get a copy and get the next issues. It’s an indie komik that will wet your appetite.


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