Tuesday, May 01, 2012

New ‘Zaturnnah’ zips and zooms

(From the May 1-15 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit            

National Book Award-winning comic book Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah introduced a unique super-heroine in the titular character back in 2002. A gay beautician, Ada, transforms into the sexy and super-strong Zsazsa Zaturnnah, thanks to a gender-bending rock.

Zaturnnah faced threats like invading warrior-women, a giant frog, and a horde of zombies in the first series. The character crossed over to other media in 2006; the newbie heroine was portrayed by Zsa Zsa Padilla in Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh, and by Eula Valdez in Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal.

The source material’s mythology continues to expand with a new sequel by author-artist Carlo Vergara. Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila is a three-issue miniseries that follows beloved characters Ada and Dodong, currently in a chaste relationship and adapting to life in the big city.

The first issue is an 85-page extravaganza; Vergara triumphantly brings back and further fleshes out Ada’s (and Zsazsa’s) world. New characters are introduced, among them the enigmatic Ginoong Lakas, and similarly mysterious super-foes.

Vergara imbues his creations with individuality and depth, finally focusing on missed opportunities. The new comic book touches on the characters’ more complex issues. Almost immediately, we witness Ada’s horrific, violent nightmare involving an ex. We also meet someone from Dodong’s past. Intriguingly, Ada and Dodong also come across potential new threats to their hard-won relationship.

The cleaner, more solid figures and linework showcases Vergara’s artistic growth. Even more impressive is his development as a storyteller; there’s clarity in his panels and his background details are well-placed and unobtrusive.

Vergara characteristically enlivens the scenarios with snappy, profanity-laced dialogue, reminding us that the book is intended for mature readers. Fans of the original series might find something missing in Kalakhang Maynila, specifically the riotous and unapologetically loud Didi. But there are two remaining issues and he might still reappear.

Nevertheless, Zsazsa Zaturnnah’s new adventure is promising; the humorous and dramatic scenes are inspired and surprisingly balanced, and there are more characters to care about in the newly expanded Zaturnnah-verse. 

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