Rating: 5/5 – An Education From an Unlikely Source.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
I’d seen, and enjoyed, my share of Filipino artists over the course of my comic book reading, usually when they broke into American mainstream books, but I never really understood the whole culture that comes from comics created in the Philippines. “Bomba Komiks” for example, were an underground form that took on lewd and pulpy topics that, according to Eisner-Nominated writer Gerry Alanguilan, did a lot of damage to the Filipino comic-culture perception. In Where Bold Stars Go To Die, Alanguilan attempts to reclaim the Bomba Komik title and give it more respect, or at the very least a better understanding from the surrounding society that may still think the genre lives in its past. Whether he succeeds or not will be up to the reader.
A “Bold Star” is the Philippine equivalent to a soft-core porno actress. Many are, like any celebrity, idolized by their fans. When Daniel, the protagonist of the book, sees a particular 80s Bold Star, he becomes obsessed with her, to the point where he finds every movie she was in, every magazine where she appeared, and – to be blunt – has nightly self-encounter sessions with her as the object of his affections. He knows his love can never be realized, but he can’t escape the visions he keeps having of her. Then, one night, he discovers where Bold Stars go to die.
Before you judge this book try and remember your own crushes from whenever or wherever your youth was spent. I know as I read I was reminded of some of mine, and how I’d gone out of my way to find mementos of that particular person. I think it’s a safe bet that most men share this same past, and while I won’t speak for women, I’d be surprised to find it’s not the same for them as well.
That said, this book pulls no punches. While not out and out pornography, most of the women are rendered quite beautifully but also quite naked, and Daniel does what many a man does when he dreams about them. In fact, what he does ties in very heavily to the book’s finale, but it does so in a way that will make sense to anyone who has had an obsessive love for the unattainable. This is not a book for the young, but I kind of wish I’d had it around when I was in my awkward teens just so I’d know the feelings I had were nothing new or unique.
It’s also a very short book, with the story itself only taking about half of the perhaps 80 to 100 pages. The second half is a portfolio of popular artists from the Philippines and elsewhere (Tony DeZuniga, Lenlil Francis Yu, Gilbert Monsanto, and Francisco V. Coching, to name a few), with their takes on the female form. And, sadly, a tribute to the book’s artist, Arlanzandro C. Esmena, who passed on shortly after the book’s first printing.
Our education as comic book readers and admirers can come from the most unlikely of places. On its surface, Where Bold Stars Go to Die is sure to confuse, turn off, and perhaps even offend those unwilling to dig deeper into its message. Many will dismiss it as light grade pornography, but within the pages of this book is a piece of unexplored – at least by me – comic book culture and history that I feel very happy I took the time to learn about. So be warned, comic book experts, when you grill me on which Green Lantern was the best, be prepared to talk about your own personal Bold Star. Or I’ll know you’re just a poser.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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