4 Filipino graphic novels you should give as gifts this Christmas

If you still have not finished your Christmas shopping, you might want to get these four as gifts.

These four—Melag II by Bong Redila, Ella Arcangel: Basbas ng Apoy by Julius Villanueva, The Children of Bathala: Volume Three from Arnold Arre, and Mekanizmo from Vic Poblete and Steve Gan—are so good that they will resonate deep with everyone and cause one’s imagination to take flight.

Melag II: Balikbayan (Anino Press) 

The sequel to the much lauded debut Melag, where Redila introduced us to his creative and imaginative black and white art that reminds one of the unfettered imagination of Tim Burton, children’s books and fairy tales. Yet his style is inventive in the way Frank Miller (Sin City), Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl), and Dave Sim to name a few who have been the boundaries of this art style.

And whether minimalist or highly detailed, Redila’s work is packed with emotion and wonder.

Melag II finds Redila much improved and confident in his craft with the detail even more amazing. He brings back some of his cast of characters from the first Melag collection and introduces us to new characters in this wonderful – at times frightening world.

This is a beautiful book and will stack up nicely to the works of Miller, Bastian, Sim and our very own Niño Balita and the late Gerry Alanguilan.

Ella Arcangel: Basbas ng Apoy

I have always thought that Villanueva’s Ella Arcangel was a counterpoint to Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s Trese that while giving a new spin on Filipino folklore takes inspiration from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods where mythological deities are real and live among us.

The third tome in the Ella Arcangel saga amps up the danger and evil in a gritty urban slum setting. 

I love how stories like these are taken out of the usual urban or suburban setting. Think Cullen Bunn and Dennis Crook’s magnificent and chilling Harrow Count that is set in the deep American south.

However, Basbas Ng Apoy isn’t just that evil baddie of the chapter. We like the growth of Ella. As powerful as a shaman as she is, she is a young girl prone to mistakes and still in need of a better emotional quotient.

That chink in her character make up adds to the twists of the story.

The Children of Bathala Chapter Three (Nautilus Comics)

The world that writer/artist Arnold Arre created feels like a Philippine version of Narnia.

Mind you, as enchanting as the world that Arre has created in The Mythology Class, the true magic stems from Arre’s experiences as a college student and the characters are not only familiar but also identifiable.

In this five-part sequel, now the realm of magic and myth take center stage as the world-building is in full flight and the now frayed “fellowship” needs to be reunited along with new fantastical friends to fight a new threat.

Like the creators of the aforementioned graphic novels, Arre is a much better storyteller and artist this time around. As charming as The Mythology Class is, Children of the Bathala is richer and more engaging to read.

Mekanizmo (Pilipino Klasiks Collection)

Of the four, this is the only reprint. A lost and unknown story to today’s comics-reading generation. 

Mekanizmo is the second of the Steve Gan Trilogy. And is a good release from Pilipino Klasiks Collection as it shows the public at large that there is more to Steve Gan than Star-Lord and Ang Panday.

Sampan Lady was the first of this trilogy (re-released in August of 2022) and you have to appreciate how Poblete and Gan wrote about a strong female character back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Mekanizmo, the middle of the trilogy, is an award-winning sorcery and science story about a warrior who was forged in the nexus of science and magic and wanders through a post-apocalyptic world run by mutants, cannibals, and unimaginable terrors. 

This is a nice look back at the Golden Age of Filipino komiks and bears testimony that Steve Gan is a true legend.

All these four graphic novels were released this 2023 and picking them up is a good way to get into them before they hit the big screen or streaming platforms as a few have been optioned for film or animated series.

The new lifestyle.