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COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Dragon Breed, Vols. 1-3

 
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Overview
 

Story by: Maria Cornelia Damaso
 
Art by: Elmer Damaso
 
Publisher:
 
FG RATING
 
 
 
 
 
4/ 5


User Rating
8 total ratings

 


To sum it all up..

KUZU-RYU-SEN Maria Cornelia Damaso and Elmer Damaso is a tandem may soon-to-be a powerhouse comic duo because they conceptualize and visualize a fantasy, world-building and medieval inspired adventure tale in Dragon Breed. Currently the future power-couple in local comics completes three volumes of the planned six volume/Book One, and the universe surrounding this re-imagination of […]

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Posted September 24, 2015 by

 
FULL REVIEW
 
 

KUZU-RYU-SEN

Maria Cornelia Damaso and Elmer Damaso is a tandem may soon-to-be a powerhouse comic duo because they conceptualize and visualize a fantasy, world-building and medieval inspired adventure tale in Dragon Breed. Currently the future power-couple in local comics completes three volumes of the planned six volume/Book One, and the universe surrounding this re-imagination of the anything feudalistic is getting expansive right. The first volume is Birth of the Dragon Breed, focusing more on the humble beginnings of Slate, the main protagonist and the usual “chosen one”. It presents Slate’s happy and simplistic life before tragedy strikes, forcing the future hero to take care of his family and seek employment in the Imperial army, where he suddenly rises through the ranks. The second volume is his first baptism of fire in The Siege of Rockfort. Indeed, his powers are slowly manifested, which comes in handy to prove his worth and being accelerated/promoted rather quickly than usual. And, sinister forces are already lurking to thwart the boy’s ascension and aspirations. The latest one, Cloudsbane, presents Slate’s greatest challenge yet: killing one of the most powerful “PRIME” dragons, while being manipulated again by the same nefarious beings to remove him from the grand equation. Volumes one to three have a “writer’s corner’s” where Maria tells her story plans and other developments regarding the direction and other information this series offers and will go forth; while Elmer draws some hilarious arts of himself which is called as the “artist’s corner”. Every volume averages 62 pages.

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The overall premise of Dragon Breed is basically nothing novel to begin with. Sure, hardcore manga-anime fans are well-aware of the medieval-centered Berserk series that have plenty of demons, knights, royalties and pageantries, and naturally, castles and pleasant idyllic landscapes around. The world-building is similar to the historical Middle Ages that characterized numerous battles, and of course, FAMILY. That period also centers on the dominating views of chivalry and guilds that associated with feudalism and serfdom. Additionally, the concept of good and evil  or the Christian dualism of morality is very prominent in the sense that it is still the hallmark of classical to modernistic storytelling, particularly the trope of linear narration, especially the origins of the Dragon Breed world, Meribah and the omnipotent being named Deus (Zeus-Dios-Diyos-God, the monotheist version); the fall of grace is shown in the guise of the “PRIME” dragon, Chaos (exposition) that allegorically represented in our version of Lucifer and later immortalized in Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost; the elements that formed the said world that balance one another, which the PRIME dragons represent this time around, seeing the connectivity with the angels or the Eastern concepts of yin-yang and the celestial beasts who ruled their respective domains.  Lastly, the very essence of human existence and its relationship with the “savior” or “chosen one” are the heart-and-soul of the medieval and many of its modern inspired stories, especially the former’s favorable view to the “all-powerful being”, which is rooted to many religious texts including the Bible, and the redeemer’s qualities when the so-called “time” comes sooner or later. In other words, Dragon Breed continues the centuries-old medieval narrative storytelling, but situates on the new demographics: the millennial whose mindsets are rather cynical, more realistically grounded yet distracted than before due probably to their exposure of the internet phenomenon, the graphic violence and the blatant directive presented in many mediums nowadays (watch: Game of Thrones, Vikings, news reports, and even movies and television shows). Seriously, Dragon Breed as a series faces tough competition.

Yet, as what life offers t the determined souls indeed, Dragon Breed offers potential readers another alternative of looking dragons and other medieval-related materials in the highly imaginative mind of the writer-creator because gender-wise, she writes a very decent adventurous tale of discovery, coming-of-age with the respectable knowledge synonymously medieval. The novelist in her style is something commendable in directing the pace of the story as interestingly as possible. Clear, concise and sometimes, charming in describing the words utilize that obviously targets the young teenagers, possibly also down to the 1990s anime-manga fans/readers. Furthermore, she and her beloved hubby conceptualized the names of the dragons, particularly some of the “PRIME” types: Balgorossus, Phosphoreas, Meteosaneris and Hydramnion. Moreover, the world-building in this series is interesting enough to explore and to be invested with, alongside of the characters involved whose respective agendas are actually beginning to unravel as the creative tandem expands the storyline, especially since the second arc of Book One is already on the works of this moment/writing. I am more intrigued on Captain Chad specifically.

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The anime-manga inspired artworks of Dragon Breed’s illustrator, Elmer Damaso, are the actual heavy hitters. If given the financial backings to color the interiors, most especially the heavily-detailed and meticulously drawn PRIME dragons, similar to the cover arts the artist crafted in volumes 1 to 3, Dragon Breed can be a force to be reckoned in the Philippine comic realm, seriously. Aside from that, Elmer combines some European anatomical minimalist approaches in illustrating the casts’ respective physiques, though the facial portrayals and expressions are clearly Japanese-influenced, particularly when expressing outrageous emotional executions that we manga-anime readers are so familiarized (even the serious, intelligent protagonists are not spared on those moments). The backgrounds are also minimalist, more direct to the point of the locations or settings, but some panels are focused on the characters, even when the action scenes commenced, particularly the walls and other features are sparsely drawn, unless a panel or two demands a long-range perspective. Additionally, the artist shows proficiency in the motions whenever there are action moments or the emotional impacts that the Slate character encounters in many panels.

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Due to the constraints of economy, the series is limited to black-grey-white color scheme, which Mister Damaso utilizes this three color set-up to its maximum effects regarding the savage attacks and bloody scenes, thought at times, the “black” representation seems lacking of impact or the sense of “bloody” satisfaction during Slate’s conquests on dragons. Furthermore, some of the artist’s illustrations of the “killing” blows on those gigantic beasts are felt wanting in details, which is the case of the so-called “dragon-slayer’s” one-hit attack on the Thunderguts that partially shown in some panels, unlike some stuffs that graphically shown the full-blown glorious attack technique executed on his/her powerful opponents. And, the repetitions of scenes of the flashback in the first volume to the climactic battle in volume three is another evidence of economy, yet the shading and the inking of the minute details are enhanced in the latter volume to provide the necessary feel of suspense and excitement (or most probably, the dragon’s bigger view on the chosen one). Additionally, as admirable as the writer’s scripts and dialogues in characterizing and describing the casts and the emotional deliverance whenever the actions move, there are times that words are either clustered in virtually every page or some dialogues are a bit mushy or sometimes, verbose. There are panels that I believe need less wordings or in thought balloons. Add to that, the language gears more on today’s audience, especially the millennial. If Dragon Breed is a medieval-themed series, perhaps a sprinkle more of Shakespearean English tone, particularly similar to the usage of Marvel’s Thor’s Asgardian sentence construction, the Berserk series or the popular Game of Thrones run, to bring sophistication and class to this potentially epic graphic literature. Lastly, I find the age gap or age limit applied in this one too modernistic because in medieval times, the age of “17” was considered adult already, neither too young nor childish. Adolescent in psychology is basically a 20th century social and cultural construct, not an age-long tradition in itself. But since the set is already in place, consistency is the best solution until the final book, if things go smoothly for the dynamic artistic tandem.

I say, Dragon Breed as a series so far holds great promises of becoming a great addition to the growing visual graphic literature in the Philippine comic scene. Indeed, it faces tough competition with the likes of Trese, Kiko Machine, Pugad Baboy and Callous, to name a few, which the latter are grounded, and their themes are situated in Philippine settings, including the experimentation and application of mythological figures. The medieval-feel is somewhat crowded or alienated to many taste, I believe. However, Elmer’s manga-inspired and minimalist artistic mastery can sustain the good fifth, similar to Slate’s mantra (and adage) “never give up!” Also, his better-half’s dialogues can be improved further since the usual trending in storytelling nowadays is the “darker” route (read: Naruto, Tri-Gun, some Gundam series, and even Card Captor Sakura), thus the necessity of gritty and “bloody” direction, with well-placed humor moments. Considered as a true baptism of fire experience for Team Damaso; their Dragon Breed series gear to some more adventurous tales of Slate and the machination of Chaos and his minions. Henceforth, this medieval-centered run actually intrigues and entertains, particularly lovers of anything, well, fantasy-adventure-chivalry-dragons, though a Berserk-less one.


Paul Ramos

 


One Comment


  1.  
    mayoalfonso
     
     
     
     
     

    giving it 4.5 for now as I know it has a lot of room to improve upon and I know this title will eventually do.





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