JUST JOSHING: The Mask of Haliya

So, my favorite comic of the year has increasingly been coming from independent comics. This particular case comes from my San Diego comic con experience. I’ve been working on a big project since August, so these are coming a little later than anticipated, but I’m finally getting to release my San Diego comics I’ve loved. I did it last week, and it continues with my favorite comic of the year.

The Book
The Mask of Haliya
Created by Cecilia Lim
Head Writer: Kaitlyn Fajilan
Written by Jenapher Zheng
Illustrated by Renoida Renovilla
Colorist: Charlyn Duy
Cover artist: Kathryn Layno
Producer: Waverley Lim
Publisher: Kwento Comics

The Mask of Haliya first issue begins with a telling of a legend of Bakunawa, a serpent that had devoured three moons, and the last, being spared by the creator. Feeling the grief of the loss of her siblings, the moon vowed revenge and the rivalry between the two has been going on ever since. The first few pages deal with a woman and a witch, and a great disaster in the past.

The comic shifts to the present day and Marisol is a teenager in the Philipines. She cannot stand her mother, who cares far more for appearances than openly shows how much she despises her own family. They are there because of Marisol’s grandmother Lola Talia’s death and funeral. There she meets Isla, another sister of her mothers. They tell stories of the grandmother, and then after, there are a bunch of items passed to the children. While Isla and Marisol’s mom bicker about who hates their family more, Marisol reads a passage at the bottom of the jewel box gets the attention of Bakunawa, and collapses.

Now to say that all the mysteries in the story are revealed in the pages would be wrong. What is apparent about this story is that this is a really interesting take on a coming-of-age story. The relationships between family members tell of a family being strained. No one knows each other and the bondness and closeness of the children of Lola Talia are distant. It feels like real family dissension and you feel the relationships in the book. This is the core strength of the book, it’s super strong. Credit the writers of the book for giving it nuance and gravity. The supernatural stuff is super cool, but there’s a heartbeat to the story and that can’t be stated how surprisingly sharp this story is.

As far as the art goes, Renoida Renovilla gets the whole family dynamic perfectly. She does normal scenes with amazing pencils. Everyone is distinct and a lot of little details in the story that aren’t told here add layers to what is going on around you. The more mythological and monstrous pictures look like something from an ancient battle or myth. Charlyn Duy gets some serious credit for this, as the colors in those scenes set the tone of the mythology perfectly.

This book’s strength of character makes it as strong as any book you’ll find out there. The mythology is fresh, the story is very polished and all the ladies of Kwento Comics should be very proud of the book they created. Check it out here if you want to read it for yourself.  I cannot recommend this book enough. My favorite one this year.

The Business

As you can see the San Diego stuff is finally out in the open. With this, last week’s column, and more from First Comics shortly, I can honestly say that the San Diego stuff should be out over the next month. You can check stuff here at First Comics News, but also on my patreon page, as I have an interview with Brianna Winner out there already. More is coming, and fast.


Beyond that, I have a new series debuting next week on this YouTube channel. Healing Hands is a massage therapy education show hosted by Shelniel Bostic. Episode one drops this weekend, and there are clips up there. It’s fascinating stuff. Education how-tos are surprisingly fun to do, and this was no exception.

One last thing before I go, the podcast has now crossed 1,000 episodes. The 1000th episode drops as an audio the same day that Healing Hands drops. I promise it was worth it. My guest for episode 1000? Eric DeAngelini. It was a memorable chat.

All right guys, that’ll do it. See you guys next week as I review a funny, sweet book.

Stay inspired out there.

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