It's tough being a superhero, but it's even tougher being a third-world superhero. With that premise comes The Filipino Heroes League Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas, a graphic novel launched at last weekend's Komikon. I saw the news of its Komikon launch during one of my random internet dives, and the concept made me curious. Pinoy superheroes not fighting otherworldly baddies in parallel universes, but fighting a corrupt system in the 'real world'? How does that work?
What Fabregas did was take the superhero concept, drop it smack-dab in the middle of modern-day Philippines and ran with it, presenting a funny yet sobering story of Philippine superheroes taken to its logical conclusion. In an alternate history where the EDSA People Power revolution came down to a battle between superheroes and villains, all the good and popular Pinoy heroes are working abroad where they're respected (Overseas Filipino Heroes? Why didn't I think of that?!) while everybody else has to deal with being underfunded, undermanned, and working inside a corrupt system back home. Do they have the strength to just go out there and save lives like a true superhero does?
Of course they do, and that's just the beginning.
I was pleasantly surprised to find there's a lot to read into this book. Just when you think you've got everything figured out, the story hits you with a surprise reveal, a hidden agenda, or simply an Oh Crap moment that pulls you deeper into it. Make no mistake...the heroes in this book aren't your usual likeable screw-ups. These people do superheroing for a living, and they're good at it. They've got their heart in the right place, but when you're a Filipino superhero, that's not always enough...like when you're about to chase after bad guys in a pedicab when your owner-type jeep won't start.
Fabregas drew the entire story himself, and its obvious he put a lot of hard work into it. The art has a quality I'm actually jealous of. He's got comic book storytelling down pat, and aside from panels that either needed a better angle or more oomph to make them pop, the art serves the story very well.
I admit, I've always ignored Pinoy superhero books, but this book deserves taking notice. If Book 1 is this good, I'm ready to see Book 2. Too bad I wasn't able to get to Komikon (I had a friend buy the book and get it signed for me), because I would have loved to have met the guy who could take something as improbable as a Pinoy superhero and make me like it.