Friday, April 19, 2019

A Boy Named Alex [Black Ink Comics Review]

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I read books more than graphic novels, but I do read some comics or manga when I find good ones. In the local publishing scene, there has been a growth of books that were originally posted in the popular website Wattpad. There are local publishers to specialize in printing stories from Wattpad. Black Ink is a local comics publisher, a part of Precious Pages. Judging from their covers and storylines, their stories are aimed towards the Wattpad reader demographic and they also try to appeal to manga and anime fans with their art style.

To be honest, most Wattpad stories and novels aren't really my cup of tea. When I try to read them, I can't get past the first few pages. I'm not saying it's bad, just maybe not for me and I haven't found a story that captivated me. I have an account in Wattpad to read stories and hopefully post some stories in the future.

I found this particular comic, A Boy Named Alex, in Booksale SM City Iloilo branch. What caught my attention is the plot I read on the back of the book, which tells that one of the characters is a librarian and the story is also set in a library. Here's a description of the book from the Black Ink Facebook page:

A BOY NAMED ALEX
Genres: Comedy / Slice of Life
Written by Herbs Navasca, Illustrated by Mike Banting
"Malaki ang respeto at paghanga ni Alex sa pinsan niyang si Diwa. Ito kasi ang kanyang guardian habang nag-aaral siya sa Maynila. Sa pansamantalang pagtatrabaho ni Alex sa library bilang isang OJT, nakilala niya ang librarian na si Yal Ogana. Istrikto pero mabait ang kanyang Kuya Diwa. Istrikto at masungit naman si Yal.
Habang nakakasama ni Alex ang kanyang Kuya Diwa at si Yal, hindi niya maiwasang mapuna na may kakaiba sa dalawa. Para kasing hindi lang magkaibigan ang mga ito. Mukhang inililihim lang ng dalawa ang tunay na damdamin para sa isa’t isa."
So what do I think of the story and how it portrayed libraries/librarians? Read on.

Story
The story is set in the Philippines with Filipino characters. Alex is a new student at a university in Manila. Since he's from the province, he lives with his cousin Diwa, who works for the school's security. Alex then works as a student assistant in the university library, where he meets his strict boss, Yal who is the library director. Alex notices that Diwa and Yal know each other, but after some time he notices that the relationship between Diwa and Yal might be something deeper.

I think the story is really cute but it was too short. Though the cover and the title is about Alex, it's not all about him. He adjusts to life in Manila and dealing with his strict supervisor. I like that there are some words from his dialect in the comics, though most of the dialogue is Tagalog.

The main romance is between two guys (Yal and Diwa), and the story is about them and Alex's reactions to them. The title can be a bit misleading since the main relationship isn't really about Alex. I like that it tackles same-sex relationships as something normal. A story like this would be portrayed as something more dramatic if it's in a teleserye, for example.

As for the art, it is very good. The style is inspired by manga. I like that the story represented moreno characters as well.

Libraries and Librarians: did the story portray them well?
No. I think that the librarian character Yal is an image of a stereotypical librarian - wearing glasses, strict, traditional, and masungit. In the story, Alex is an IT student and he suggests more technology in the library like online databases and research which the library hasn't adapted yet. I don't think that a backward university library (especially set in Manila) is still a realistic portrayal of a library. Yal is also the only library staff we can see in the whole story.

I'm also a bit confused why they used the term "OJT" to describe Alex's work in the library. We usually use the term "on the job training" for your job training or internship during the last year or semester of your course.

Anyway, it's okay since the story is more focused on romance than getting the library or librarian right. I just think that as an experienced librarian, the portrayal is a little inaccurate though Yal is an interesting character.

Link to a preview of the comic
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