Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and KaJO Baldisimo

Posted on January 16, 2015


Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and KaJO Baldisimo

Foul play. Magic spells. Supernatural criminals. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

This graphic novel contains the following cases:

trese4 cadena de amor
In a neglected area of Luneta Park, where the grass grows untended, a man is found strangled by vines; which have started to grow outwards, killing anyone that gets in its path.

trese4 private collection

A manananggal has been found, tortured and murdered. The Manananggal Clan declares war on the Aswang Clan. Trese must find the real murderer before more blood is shed, before Manila gets in the crossfire of a supernatural gang war.

trese4 wanted bedspacer
A strange illness has affected the students living along Katipunan Avenue. The doctors are clueless on what’s driving these people mad with despair. Can Trese trace the source of this growing paranormal epidemic?

trese4 fight of the year

Once a year, in General Santos City, the demons and creatures of the underworld converge to watch a most awaited event, where the country’s greatest boxer fights for his very soul.

Fresh from the battle with a god of war Datu Talagbusao, Trese works on four cases  involving the supernatural. Alongside her, the Kambal (means Twins) provide armed protection and magical brawn. In the fourth installment of this graphic horror series, the authors prove once again that Trese rocks.

Trese follows the exploits of Alexandra Trese, a detective specializing in the occult. She steps in when the cops call her to help solve crimes involving creatures from the city’s Underworld. She has battled creatures such as the mananangal (man-eating monster with a severed torso, bat-like wings sprout from the back), aswang (ghoul that turns into an animal at night), and tiyanak (vampire that takes the form of an infant).

This series ties in the motifs from detective fiction and Filipino mythology while setting cases in familiar places in and around Metro Manila.

I wonder why I enjoy the Trese series so much. Though it is dark fantasy it adheres to a sort of spiritual justice. In cases where human justice can not prevail, the universe somehow always addresses the imbalance, albeit sometimes in gruesome ways. Perhaps it is in that knowledge that Trese gets her composure? I certainly need composure right now. As I write this the news of two rape-slays of eight-year old girls in Laguna are in the news. I’m enraged and hurling vile curses on the perpetrator, and myself because I feel helpless to right so many wrongs.

Then my eyes fall on my Trese graphic novels lying on my desk for easy reference while I write my blog, and my universe turns in on itself enfolding me in sharply defined black and white world. I follow lines in the map illuminating the way but keeping most of the map in gloom. I don’t see any features. The map just shows me what part of the city I am. I follow a road until it takes me outside the city.

In a certain place I see a young woman wearing a black button-down Chinese-inspired trenchcoat. With her are two young men in black suits wearing diamond-shaped masks–one has a happy face; the other one sad. They are calling on earth elementals to tell them who committed the crimes. What they discover they share with the cops who nab the s**-of-a-b***h. Of course, in Trese’s world the perp is probably supernatural or influenced by the supernatural as the team only steps in when the supernatural does.

So, here I reveal my wish-fulfillment fantasy, which has latched on to Trese, my escape hatch from reality allowing me to create a metaworld where things make sense no matter how fantastic they are.

It helps that the core of each Trese story is strong emotion. Like in real life, emotion often gets the better of the intellect. The episodic nature of most volumes, which I like, help contain the stories, intensifying their emotional impact. I can never forget the punch in my gut after reading case 4 (volume 1).

Each story is preceded by a map, just like the map in my meta-imaginings. Familiar places become settings for supernatural crime. In  Cadena de Amor Manila’s historical park is the setting for nature running amuck as a little boy cries out for his mother figure. The little boy just happens to be a nature spirit and the mother figure a human gardener tending the young trees in the park. I found this story so sad. The song Ang Huling El Bimbo by the Eraserheads was running in my mind as I read it.

In a Private Collection Trese discovers the most monstrous creature yet living in Forbes Park, Metro Manila’s posh subdivision. I found this story depressing as it seems to reflect the state of the rich and powerful ruling the Philippines. They are gluttons and bored from having too much so that they play these power games just to get a thrill.

In the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries a phenomenon called bangungot exists where young people just die in their sleep from no apparent cause. Wanted: Bedspacer has an explanation. Students living in dormitories and apartments near the biggest universities in the Philippines succumb to the effects of a broken heart. What intrigued me is that Trese herself seems to know a thing or two about being heartbroken.

Fans of Pacuiao will want to read this episode. In Fight of the Year the boxing champion is imbued with a more noble calling than just winning fights. Trese travels to the hometown of the hero to offer her support. I noted that for the first time, I saw Trese in a dress. I must say that I like her fashion sense. For readers wondering why she’s always in a trench coat, please read volume three, which sheds a little light on the origins of Trese and the Kambal.

Some readers, even Trese fans, have criticized the return to the stand-alone case-style as opposed to the chapter-like episodes in the previous volume. This volume does feel like a filler and does little to advance a story arc about Trese’s place in the greater struggle between good and evil in Manila’s Underworld. To me, it’s ok–because when I was finally able to read Trese again book five was already out. And book five is awesome.

Stay tuned for my review of Trese 5: Midnight Tribunal, coming out next week.

Click to read my other TRESE reviews.