I used to joke that the typical Filipino film was “kumpleto sa rekado” for it contained adventure, action, comedy, dancing and singing, romance and the ubiquitous ghosts and aswangs all in an hour or so.
Arnold Arre’s masterful The Mythology Class is in that vein but with a lot of homages from the pop culture of the era in which he grew up reading and watching.
It has its Star Wars scene where Rey and Misha swing across a chasm at the Plaza of the Gods reprising Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.
It has that Ghostbusters vibe where the Mythology Class students capture the enkantos in mystical jars.
It has a touch of Spider-Man with Sulayman swinging from the top of the Quezon Hall of the University of the Philippines all the way down to catch an imp.
It has the feel of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings with a diverse and disparate fellowship that is brought together for a quest that has consequences on mankind’s future.
It has that feel of The Dark Knight Returns or Batman: Year One where there’s a bad moon rising and there’s a sense of tension building.
Furthermore, Arre proves to be prescient as the book predates the selfie with a group pic atop the mountains of Antipolo. And it predates The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen with Nicole running around with a bow and arrow.
From the moment you open The Mythology Class – an intricately crafted epic where centuries-old guardians enlist the aid of several students to capture the various enkantos loose in this world to return them to the realm where they belong – you are enthralled in a world of wonder. You know immediately that you’re reading an instant classic done by a visionary. There is simply no way you will put this down. Even after you close the book, you will browse through it again and smile.
Arre reintroduces you to a mythology that we knew in passing but at the same time, is distinctly his own as well. You come away richer for having read it and that our country has legends that can sit next to myths Arthurian and Greek. Along with Budjette Tan’s and Kajo Baldisimo’s brilliant Trese, it also makes you look at the rich Philippine mythology through a different perspective.
Perhaps more than any other panel in the book, the scene inside the Special Room where Nicole touches the Tikbalang named Lusyo in amazement, defines The Mythology Class. Through Nicole and the rest of her fellow questers later on, they come face to face with the mythology that has now become a reality for them. And it’s beautiful yet can be frightening more so when all hell literally breaks loose in the last part of the story.
Arre has a knack for creating a cast of memorable and highly identifiable characters. There’s the wonder and mystery of the enkantos – from Mrs. Enkanta to Sulayman to Kubin and Aili to Lam-ang to Lusyo and even Nuno even if for the most part of the story you wish him a horrific death for his maltreatment of Gina.
Tala. Tala has got to be the best spritely wraith. And she isn’t at all annoying like Moaning Myrtle. Never has a character said so much without saying anything at all!
However, the heart and pulse of the story is its diverse human cast.
Even if Rey and Misha constantly snipe at one another, it’s never contrived or too much. It’s just right. Even if it becomes obvious they’ll get back together, you root for them – to fight and fall in love. I know that sounds contradictory, right? That’s how involved you become with Arre’s characters. Lane adds some sex appeal but it’s never tasteless. I guess you cannot have lewd thoughts around a telepath. Lisa is like Velma from the Scooby Gang. Gio and Sam are like the Barbarian Brothers (if you don’t know this film from the 80s go look it up).
I can drone on and one about all the characters but I am sure you get the drift. The cast is endearing.
In Arre’s other book, Martial Law Babies, it is a coming of age story with people you grew up with. The Mythology Class is like freshman year where you meet people and make new friends.
I picked up the first collected edition by Adarna House (I missed the single issues because I was out of the country) but lost it along with most of my collection of books, comics, and magazines to Typhoon Ondoy.
Thankfully, Jamie Bautista’s Nautilus Comics has republished them with three new and different covers to choose from!
Rereading it again – it’s like Robin William’s portrayal of Peter Pan in Hook where he rediscovers magic. And it is magic. A magical and fun read.
Remember what I said about a typical Filipino film that contained comedy, dancing, singing, romance, and the ubiquitous ghosts and aswangs? You could actually say that I was referring to The Mythology Class.