Sunday, May 17, 2009

Daniela Bohorquez´ review

When I first heard about Comic Book from some of my teachers and fellow students, I felt a bit reluctant and jealous at first. I was curious, of course, for I knew nothing about JD Santibáñez works. The attractive cover gave me some insights of what to expect and it tempted me repeatedly. Before I knew it, many of my friends had this graphic novel, and every comment on it seemed to be more than positive.

The first time I had the novel on my hands I started going through the pages with awe and stopping here and there to read pieces of the short stories included in it, or to analyze the author's drawing style. But since the book wasn't mine, I had to return it immediately, not before making its owner promise to lend it to me as soon as he was finished.
"You'll laugh to tears!" were the words I heard as a great remark from one of those young students who had read it already. And they were completely right. Although I had a different impression on JD Santibáñez, who was at that time my Typography teacher, that first glace made me think I might be wrong about that.
I was confirmed on those thoughts a week later, when Comic Book came to my possession for a short period of time. What called my attention in the very first place where the graphic stories. I've always had a passion for comics, so I was greatly pleased to have found an author who felt way more identified with sequential art than most grown ups did.
These stories transmit, along the author's bold style, a great deal of energy and passion. Some of them are serious and dramatic, showing very well one of JD Santibáñez sides, while I thought the others were funny in a dark, although very enjoyable way. This noir kind of humor contrasts with the naturalistic and sharp style showed in the others, and they both are remarkable.
When I started reading the stories I was much happier to discover that they were outstanding. One could say a few ideas in them were already known, but of course, they all had something different and original about them. Most were a good surprise, others inspired me nostalgic, since they referred to historical situations, or had a subtle old-school style.
As a personal remark, I would like to add that I am quite fond of a character from Comic Book, Pedestrian, since whenever he appeared in a story, there was an evolution in the situations he faced, which made him grow and develop. Particularly, I laughed with the third chapter of this compilation, called after its peculiar super hero. He has a personality like I've never seen before in any other story, that was what called my attention in the first place. In this first appearance, Pedestrian crosses a street full of dangers, which will surely make us all identify with the fact that we fear every time we want to get to the other side here in Guayaquil's congested traffic; with such a speed and dignified determination.
My favorite story, has been anyway, so far, Los Niños y el Mago (The Children and The Wizard), one that touched me deeply and comforted me in many ways. This story refers to a cleaner who refuses to kill two young lovers because of his moral honor code of "no women, no children" he wants to obey.

With the first story we met as soon as we start this journey, La Venganza es Mía (Vengeance is Mine), we face a true mixture of horror and fantasy. I believe J.D. Santibañez has a fondness for magical creatures such as werewolves, because they cross our way several times in many forms throughout the stories. Also, I think is a good start to the beginning of this compilation, because it gives us a clear message on what are the author's preferences for a noir comic adventure.

Followed closely by a story named La Muerte se viste de Negro (Death wears Black), which is the first written crime fiction J.D. Santibáñez presents in Comic book, as it's more extended that some of the other stories he presents afterwards. It's fascinating to read a crime fiction taking place in the author's homeland, Guayaquil, because you can recognize many elements taken from this city, that make these stories very original.

In Dolores Eternos, (Eternal Pains), we come across a fantasy, and psychological short story, that concentrates in the so known "regressions," and past lives. This is a story about vengeance, like many others in Comic Book, although they never stop being surprising in the end.

Crazy Cowboy is a comic story illustrated in a sequential adventure told without words, except for one in the very end of it. Crazy Cowboy appears a few times in this book. Presumably, he's a brave, typical western cowboy trapped between worlds and different eras, and because of that, he finds himself facing different enemies in every story he's in.

The sixth story is called Visita Nocturna (Nocturne Visit), and it's clearly a science fiction that refers to visitors from other planets coming to take over the world. Or at least, that's what you will think as soon as you start reading. Again, the author plays with the element of surprise, and turns this science fiction into an international crime story with a doubtful open ending that will make you think.

Lluvia Negra (Black Rain), is a short detective crime fiction illustrated as a noir genre comic. Here, J.D. Santibañez's style is clearly shown; because of the environment's great darkness and the psychology used in the dialogs.

G3 is a futuristic science fiction story with romantic overtones. It's about love and confrontations between humans and androids. I believe this story shows the influence J.D. Santibañez received from science fiction authors such as Issac Asimov and Robert Bloch. It shows how the author can develop himself in many fields, let it be futuristic science fiction, or crime thrillers.

J.D. Santibáñez has a very creative and original style to produce his adventures. This is the case of Yo, Asesino (I, Murderer), because the story itself takes us along and throughout the main character's mind, in a swift, non-stop chain of thoughts, that results in an exciting experience for the reader.

Aventura Urbana (Urban Adventure), takes place on Guayaquil's streets, demonstrating us a typical, every-day urban situation, with a comical turn-up. Aventura Urbana is about a lady who's being harassed by many men as she passes by, to a point where it bothers her as much as to change into someone she didn't seem to be before, and that's something you'll like about J.D.'s female characters: They're beautiful, but always strong.

In La Palabra, (The Word), things get much more serious, because it talks about a topic not so common among fiction writers, the VIH virus. I believe this grave story reflects much more than social concern and discrimination. Spiritual believes and their interpretation may be considered main themes as well.

Pandora takes us back to the old Greek myth, this time, set in the modern days. Two girls receive Pandora's Box and are told not to open it. But curiosity can always be stronger than one's will to do the right thing, and this is a lesson J.D. Santibáñez tries to teach to all young readers, and how wrongness can always be concealed within one's hearth.

For those who thought Yo, Asesino's murderer died; will be tricked with this sequel named almost as its first part: Yo Asesino (I Murder). Again, the writer narrates this story as if we were inside the criminal's mind, and takes us among all his actions in such an accurate way that will make us wonder whether it's a true testimony taken from a professional murderer.

Now, we have reached to the heart itself of this adventures compilation. Comic Book is the center of J.D. Santibañez graphic novel and main theme. This comic is without any doubt one of the most worked and detailed illustrated journeys we will come across during our visit inside the writer's world. Without giving any more spoilers, I might agree with most readers I've met in saying this comic adventure is great. You'll be surprised more than once with fantastic characters, and exchanging dimensions, so common in the author's works, and again, its ending will be to you totally unexpected.

Alguien Tiene que Quedar (Someone has to remain) allows us to discover a suspenful and tragic tone, through it pages, where we'll be shown a devastated future, where humans are about to be vanished from arth. The moral lesson, as most as the writer's stories show, has a very strong environmental message, as well as a spiritual approach to preserve Earth.

El Quinto Hombre (The Fifth Man), would be J.D. Santibáñez´s tribute to J.F. Kennedy's death mystery. Many of his resources are pictures taken in that tragic day, as well as the suspicious Fifth Man who presumably committed the crime. The writer goes once more inside the murderer's mind, allowing us to see a perfect deliberation for committing this horrible assassination.

Rompehuesos (Bonebreaker) has a dark futuristic atmosphere, and as a dreadful manner, such as its own title. It's a place where the machine and any technological devices are considered sacred. Again, the cult to technological equipments is criticized. If we allow it to happen to our future, terrible things might happen to those who try to escape from it. But there is always hope in J.D. Santibáñez´s stories. One of his most mysterious and remarkable characters appears to fight against those who are creating chaos, and to defend human's innocence.

Círculo (Circle) expresses insanity taken to a pathological level where the sickness is transmitted in contaminated areas. Twelve doctors within a secret genetic investigation lab are found death, presumably assassinated. Soon, a group of detective agents discover a tape that proves how they killed each other involuntarily. As they try to find a reason for such behavior, insanity attacks yet again, creating a new setting for chaos and death.

Caperu-sama displays the writer's satirical tone, where the illustrations are produced photographically and manually as well. Its mixture gives a very original result, which combines very well with the comical environment. Caperu-sama ironically refers to Little Red Riding Hood, but being one of J.D. Santibáñez´s character, this girl's a cool fighter.

Sofía y el Mago (Sofía and The Wizard) is narrated by two contrasting characters, one that reasons in a very dark, cold way; and its opposite, who dwells in the depths of insanity. This is the story of an innocent girl, who's being followed by a mad person. Coincidentally, The Wizard, maybe J.D. Santibáñez´s most elaborated character, appears to accomplish one of his works. The outcome is as always surprising and converges into a reflective end.

Nohemín y Jazaelía is an illustrated short story, where two girls confront into an explosive imaginary conflict. Graphic design is seen from a much refreshing, "super-powerly" point of view, and foil behavior is shown in an impressively comical way, specially when you'll see the author refer to himself in a sort of cameo appearance.

Bienvenidos Sean (Welcome Thee), has a surprising central message within a disorder of futuristic visitors and Psílox enemies in Herodes times. You might believe its tribute to the most important birthday in all times is clearly shown, as well as a fantastic version for one circumstance mentioned in the New Testament.
McGuffin is one outstanding end to these fantastic stories. Once more, and for the last time in Comic Book, JD Santibáñez presents a series of culminant events that lead to an unexpected climax. Being at the same time, the novel's ending, it offers a significant innovation to usual science fiction due to the fact that its resolution is full of action; when usually the falling events are always considered as a cleaning up of the story and do not contain important conflicts. The story itself is a collection of Comic Book's characterization, settings and themes. The "McGuffin" is used this time as an effective motivation device and resource; and it certainly successes at capturing the readers' attention, and closing this extraordinary fiction novel very accurately.
What has been a breathtaking experience finishes by joining ends we never predicted, which is visually one of JD Santibáñez resource style. Not many talented novel writers or comic illustrators can obtain what Comic Book's author accomplished by joining two of his life's passions: Comics and Fiction. We can only hope that he continues producing his wonderful stories for our pleasure and inspiration, and thank him for this great contribution to science fiction and comics world.
Daniela Bohorquez

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