The Monster vs. The Maharlika

I was in the hospital sometime this year for a checkup. While waiting for the second round of tests, I paid a visit to the Bestsellers/National Book Store branch at the second floor. Because that’s what you do when you have no reading material available for long medical tests. 😉

I spotted a trade paperback graphic novel at the bottom shelf, with an aswang and what looked like an angel in chains. Then I checked the authors’ names at the bottom, one being very familiar as he’s a second cousin from my mother’s side of the family.

Yeah, OK, I’ll get this one, and Volume Two, too, I said.


A darker and grittier version of the underworld – and the country’s past and present.

And good thing I did. Skyworld, by ad men Mervin Ignacio and Ian Sta. Maria, is composed of several overlapping stories told through two books in Volume One. There’s Rianka the power- and revenge-hungry aswang and her horde — the ultimate baddies who impact historical events and eventually take over the entire Philippines. There’s Kaptan the fallen Skygod, roaming the Earth in search of the Maharlika (warrior king) after all faith has been lost. There’s Makabo the sword-wielding tikbalang, seeking vengeance for his father’s death by aswang, with Kaio the duwende as his ally. Lastly, there’s Andoy, the young boy whose prayers are unexpectedly answered by a being once thought dead.

There’s a wealth of supporting characters, too. Alexandra Trese, the Kambal, Capt. Guerrero and the Santelmo of the aforementioned Trese comics series make lengthy appearances in both volumes. We also have Kadasig, Kaio’s ride Anna-Marie, and the other supernaturals (duwende, tikbalang, engkanto and kapre) that will fight against Rianka and her aswang army.

The objectives are as follows: make Andoy fit for battle, retrieve Kaptan’s sword, defeat Rianka and the aswangs, and restore peace and order to whatever’s left of the Philippines and her people.

Like so.

It takes some time for the characters and their storylines to become established in Volume One. But the groundwork pays off in the end: Volume Two gets moving more quickly, with big moments that’ll make you say a crisp putangina along with the characters. I had originally planned to read Skyworld over a few days, but stayed up until 4AM to finish both volumes — I liked them that much.

Skyworld is rendered in black and white like Trese, has the latter’s main characters make cameos in the former, and deals with the same mythological creatures. But for me, that’s where the similarities end. Skyworld is darker; grittier; and more foul-mouthed, violent and complex compared to Trese. Carnage is aplenty here, whether in the present-day conflict or the flashbacks based on actual historical events.

The supernaturals were also integrated very well in the historical retellings. I loved Ignacio and Sta. Maria’s version of the Battle of Mactan; wanted my share of Yamashita’s gold; and felt my stomach turn at Rizal, Bracken and Bonifacio‘s gut-busting encounter with Rianka in Dapitan — the most gruesome part of the comics, if you ask me.

Also, unlike Trese, where you can expect Alexandra to save the day and prevent further chaos from happening, Skyworld actually lets everything turn to shit. It depicts Manila as an aswang-ravaged wasteland a decade after Rianka summoned the Bakunawa, with resistance forces scrambling to get the city back. Everything and everyone we know is gone. Will foreign allies help, or leave us to burn in hell? I can only hope no world leader actually utters this line: “We have to nuke Manila”.

Here’s the only thing that baffled me. I thought the story and characters could stand on their own without the two-volume assist from Trese & Co. Maybe things would’ve turned out differently, maybe they wouldn’t. I just don’t get why another komiks writer’s characters dominated over Skyworld‘s characters in some parts, “alternate timeline” or not. I appreciated seeing the Kambal again, this time with GUNS to go with their guns, but it would’ve been nicer if Ignacio and Sta. Maria’s characters had the spotlight from start to finish instead. It’s their series, not Trese’s.

Also: being the “leader” sucks. That ending was well-done, but… yeah, just read it, man.

Any plans to do a third Volume? What’s next for Andoy and his posse?

Skyworld, Mervin Ignacio and Ian Sta. Maria

  • Volume One (Apocrypha and Testament)
  • Volume Two (Prodigal and Requiem)

Trade paperback, National Book Store
Buy: National Book Store

(Next: “Feed the hungry baby”: Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo and Adam David)