Trese 5: Midnight Tribunal

Trese 5: Midnight Tribunal
Trese 5 Midnight Tribunal review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Ablaze - 978-1-68497-083-4
  • Volume No.: 5
  • Release date: 2017
  • English language release date: 2022
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9781684970834
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Crime, Supernatural

Budgette Tan begins every Trese story with a street map showing the exact location in Manila where events are taking place, which for the original Filipino readers must have supplied an extra frisson of terror.

For the opening tale it’s the Manila Polo Club just off McKinley Road. Know the place? Maybe you don’t know the Tikbalang have a monthly football match with the Higante there. It turns out country folk have become wise to the ways of supernatural creatures who steal corpses and take protective measures, but in the city morgues that’s just considered ancient superstition, which makes them easy prey. In turn, the corpse robbers would seem easy prey for Alexandra Trese and her assistants, but before they become fully involved a superhero calling himself the Maverick Rider intervenes. Trese knows who he is, and takes a different view of his heroics. “You’re out there because you’re a thrill-seeker and an egomaniac”, is her damning assessment.

Midnight Tribunal differs from previous volumes of Trese, which have featured a selection of self-contained stories, but although the threats are separate, there’s a connecting theme of superheroes and a connection between the stories. The primary threat is known to Trese as a Higante, a form of giant creature walking on two legs, but this specimen wraps himself in a costume and brutally targets criminals under the name of the Judge. He’s seen in action against one of Trese’s supernatural helpers on the sample art.

To anyone who’s read other Trese it’s no secret that Kajo Baldisimo is an adaptable artist, and that’s on show again as he takes the poses associated with superheroes and inserts them into the supernatural. This is sometimes in his customary heavy shading, and sometimes in black and white outline only, with the best example of that being his homage to Joe Shuster with a super strong character lifting a car above his head and about to bring it down. It’s a stunner. That, of course, is in addition to the usual first rate supernatural action.

Tan’s a good enough writer not to take the obvious route with a vengeful superhero, but in connecting the individual stories he seems more concerned with setting up people for the future than following the usual formula of successive supernatural threats. The eventual result is nearer to a crime thriller than anything else, and it weakens what Tan does extremely well and instead delivers what other creators can do better. Because between them Tan and Baldisimo generate a unique synthesis meaning Trese is unlike any other supernatural series, Midnight Tribunal is still interesting, but just not what they’re best at. While one threat is ended, the plot continues into High Tide at Midnight.