Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah succeeded in deconstructing Darna and Wonder Woman.

Using the traditional Darna storyline, author Carlo Vergara gave the famed magical stone – not the marble-sized one Narda swallows, but a big weird-looking rock – not to a pure-hearted promdi girl but to a homosexual beautician Ada.

As for the trusty sidekick, Ada doesn’t have Ding but Didi, his fast-talking homosexual best friend. And of course, no story would be complete without a leading man, the object of Ada’s affection, Dodong.

To become the beautiful female heroine, Ada has to swallow the stone and shout the magic word Zaturnnah. The magical stone then gives Ada superhuman powers, which makes her strong enough to lift a tree from its roots.

But unlike Darna, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah can’t fly – she has to learn it the hard way. Her over-sized mammary glands, however, can deflect projectile attacks from her opponents. Her “golden” bracelets, which are made of plastic, can repel bullets.

Zsa Zsa is the perfect heroine for her small town, which is in danger of being overrun by rampaging zombies, a giant frog, and weird extra-terrestrial female warriors called Amazonistas who speaks in English but understands Filipino perfectly.

Surprisingly, the vulgarities in the characters’ dialogues do not make the novel appalling, instead making it more hilarious and real.

Likewise, the author’s vast knowledge of gay lingo is also commendable. The supposed “sound effects” achieves its purpose too. It would have been overdone for others, but Vergara got away with it because of the candid nature of the novel.

The dreadful and the duplicate

Vergara’s art style is very crisp and clean. Funny moments are made convincing by the distorted forms of the characters, and serious ones are emphasized by close-ups with elaborate hatching (shading made with alternating spaces between small lines). He did away with the tones as his inking made the whole end product dynamic.

His perspective for backgrounds is flawless, and purposely left out the small details to call attention to the foreground. The paneling is superb too since it is tricky to panel action sequences. Vergara, however, succeeds in making it seem fluid.

Vergara borders on ideal and heroic proportions, which clearly shows that he is used to doing superhero illustrations. Though his illustrations may remind readers of those that are seen in Marvel or DC comics, the distortion he used is very Pinoy – giving it somewhat of a slapstick feel. The book won for Vergara a Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Award.

Though it is already obvious that Zsa Zsa would prevail in the end, Ada, however, is not sure if he would win Dodong’s heart. In the beginning, his affections would have seemed unrequited, but as the story unfolds, it was evident that Dodong deeply cares for him. The novel has a feel-good ending and eventually gives one reason to smile.

Gay talk, unrequited love, a magical stone, zombies, men-hating Amazonistas, skimpy battle outfits – Vergara succeeded in combining all these unrelated elements to make a dynamic whole. In all, Ang Kagila-gilalas… is purely fun, entertaining, and, as the author warns, for mature readers only.

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