Trese is a fabulous supernatural graphic novel series from the Philippines. Think a weird and wonderful mix of John Constantine or Zatanna, all mixed in with the rich supernatural history of the area. It’s multi-award-winning and already slated to be adapted into a Netflix animated series. And now it’s coming out from Ablaze in the US.
Trese is a supernatural series by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, first published in 2005 and up to six volumes. The first volume in the series, Murder on Balete Drive, will be released this September from Ablaze Publishing with future volumes in the series to follow.
Called in when the police can’t deal with whatever supernatural weirdness is haunting the streets of Manilla, Trese has a familial history of protecting the city, with first her grandfather and then her father Anton responding to their calling. And now it’s her turn.
Supported by two mysterious, magical creatures – the always stylish Kambal twins – she’s the last line of defence for Manilla when it finds itself threatened by all manners of supernatural threats, all drawn from the rich supernatural history of the Philippines, including the Aswang, Tiyanak, Datu, Duwende, Tikbalang, Diwata, Kapre and so many more.
Or, as Tan puts it on the back cover…
When the sun sets in the city of Manila,
don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro,
where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime,
and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions.
When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.
It’s a series I first discovered a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed. The writing is suitably noir, with each volume building upon the old idea of the mysterious magical investigator.
And as for series artist, Kajo Baldisimo, he delivers some really impressive black and white work somewhere on the spectrum of Miller and Risso.
In the first (and second) volume, you’ll get multiple short tales, introducing us to the strange and thrilling world of Trese, each short building up the mystery and giving us the background to the series.
Further along, Trese’s role in this magical world is spelled out more and more, with Tan cleverly tying everything in, referencing and playing on the earlier tales.
The reissued Trese Volume 1: Murder on Balete Street will feature all-new, redrawn artwork all through with a large bonus section of behind the scenes info from the authors.
There’s also a Netflix animated series in the works, under development with Exec Producer & Director Jay Oliva (Wonder Woman, The Legend of Korra) and Exec Producers Shanty Harmayn and Tanya Yuson at BASE Entertainment studios.
As for awards, Trese already bagged the Philippine National Book Award for Best Graphic Literature of the Year (three times – 2009, 2011, 2012). But don’t take it from me, don’t be swayed by the awards. Instead, here are some folks you might have heard of with a few things to say about the series…
“I feel like you and all the smart Filipino writers and artists out there are doing something really brave and powerful, making a whole new wave of Filipino art and story. Well done!”
– Neil Gaiman
“Trese is one of the best ongoing books in that market. It is the book I would love to write myself… they capture the true atmosphere of the Manila I know and love”.
– Whilce Portacio
“Trese excites the little child in me which used to believe in the wonders of Filipino folklores, and my adult self who enjoys intelligently written and drawn tales. Budjette and Kajo’s Trese is a gem.”
– Leinil Yu
You can find out more about Trese on the Trese blog, including some complete strips and previews. Definitely worth taking a look. After all, you really wouldn’t want to miss out on a Trese / Batman / Wolverine strip, would you?
Trese Volume One – Murder on Balette Drive, written by Budjette Tan, art by Kajo Baldisimo, published Sept 30 2020 by Ablaze Publishing.