Posted August 15, 2013 by Tony Tuason in Comics

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Colony Book 1 – Mikey Recio & The Secret Of The Demon Dungeon

The Dark Colony: Book 1 – Mikey Recio & The Secret Of The Demon Dungeon
Story/Script: Budjette Tan
Co-plotter/ Art: Bow Guerrero
Co-plotter / Script: J.B. Tapia
“Mikey had other plans on his Holy Week holiday. Driving for his grandfather was not part of it. Nor did it involve running into a very unholy secret.”

The Demon Dungeon welcomes you to a world you did not know, to a dark corner of the Philippines and its history of religion and Spanish occupation. Set in the modern world, it tells us a story of how Mikey Recio finds out his family’s secret and his fate after a series of events during Holy Week. Is it a world that would amaze and interest readers? Minor spoilers below!

At first glance, the book looks like a children’s book or something similar to a ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Lightning Thief’ or a fantasy book. The main draw was it had Budjette Tan‘s name on it. Budjette Tan alongside Kajo Baldisimo created fan-favorite and one of the best Philippine comics out ther – Trese. Admittedly, I was excited to see new material from Tan now that he has new collaborators in Bow Guerrero and J.B. Tapia.

The book opens up quite slow but quickly introduces us to the protagonist of the series – Mikey Recio. Mikey is a bummed out kid who lost both his parents and is now living the boring teenage life with his grandfather. Little bits and pieces of Mikey and his family’s history are the in the first half of the book. Sadly, the bad things about the book are already evident in the early part.

When driving, keep your eyes on the road.

There are a lot of of things I didn’t like in the first few pages. While reading, it felt like there were a lot of filler dialogues and panels. The creative team definitely wanted to set a dark and mysterious tone early on, but  some parts kinda ruined it because of some redundancy and overuse of stuff. Things like Mikey’s whining, seemingly infinite panels showing Mikey driving with his gramps, praying the rosary, the name Amanda Lopez popping up again and again, definitely made this book start slow and a bit of annoying.

There’s something about the first part of the book that tells me that it should have been edited better, better panels, better narrative..especially with regards to Mikey’s thoughts. There are some scenes in the book that I can definitely point out, small ones like Tonio being introduced as Tonio then afterwards he becomes a Tito Tonio. When Grace was introduced, Mikey was elated to know that she was there in the church since it will compensate for the absence of the mysterious Amanda Lopez. After some small talk between Mikey and Grace, next thing you know you’re on the next page where Mikey is waving goodbye to Grace  and he seems excited to see her again soon with no apparent reason. There really are some points in the story or how the story flows that unfortunately (especially in the first half) that makes you scratch your head.

Mikey is the star of the series, but it doesn’t feel that way in the first book. Mikey know two things — how he hates spending time with his grandpa, and he loves women. “You know nothing, Mikey Recio” ala Game of Thrones, seems to be the perfect catchphrase for him. He is introduced as shallow, clueless person who suddenly was thrown into the frying pan of demons and secrets. This book introduces us to the world he’s going to be in after the events in the last part, this is just a preview. Don’t expect Mikey to much from our hero in the first book.

Did Tito Ben just morphed using his Order of St. Michael watch? And Mikey’s prayers just can’t keep him safe.

All in all the characters were okay, but when you get to the second half they become cool except clueless Mikey Recio but I’m sure he’ll turn into badass mode in the future. The character who stood out is Tito Ben, introduced as a ‘Cool Dad’  you can definitely call him astig. The designs of each character mainly when in armor and their weapons are one of the highlights of the book. Some of them may become to cheesy for some people, but it works well with the story. It is in the second half of the book where the everything happens and comes straight towards the reader. The pace quickens and everything then fits together.

In Demon dungeon, the art is probably what you’ll be looking for. Guerrero really did a good job in this department especially when it comes to still images that involves scenery, architecture and  some highly detailed objects (gawd that demon car was superb) — a lot of pages are very notable because of this. Strengths are definitely found in still images and making something fluid or dynamic, but not all of them were found in every page. If this book needs improvement, they should work on some action scenes and angles.

Still images and scenery shots like this made this book awesome.

The book certainly does have a dark & mysterious tone, but when it comes to the action sequences I believe it has to simmer down on the narration and speech bubbles and just let the art take hold on some parts. The action scenes alongside the manga-influenced art removes that tone and everything turns out like Dragonball or Naruto. Even though it starts really slow and boring, you know that this book has potential. The plot is very well thought off especially some details were taken from actual places and information, but the script definitely needs some work. In my opinion, the creative has to decide what direction they want to take with the series – if they want it to be a Vertigo or Hellboy type of book, or more of an adventure one.

Book 1 also has some bonus content, and I applaud the team for doing that. It shows some well-researched content that ties into the Mikey Recio universe and the things shown in the content definitely tells the reader that there’s a lot in store for them. Character designs and some excerpts from the creators are included and it goes to show how much love and effort these guys put into this project.

I’m rating this book a solid 7/10. It truly has potential, but it may suffer it’s identity and really has to decide if it wants to be a children’s/teen’s book or a serious one. Readers who love fantasy and who would like to read a comic book tapping into the history of the Philippines then buy this book.

Bonus content!!

Tony Tuason

Tony is just your average guy who loves comics, toys, games, movies, and all those geek goodness.