The story in Bayani and the Old Ghosts is a basic quest set-up. The sun has been shining non-stop, and night refuses to fall. The inhabitants of the island are dying, and something drastic needs to be done to save the only world young 11-year-old Bayani knows. Enter Pati, the Bringer of Rain, and a quest to find the nine daughters of the Moon who will not rise again until her daughters are returned to her.
As with all such heroic tales, quests from the gods involve the completion of seemingly insurmountable tasks and are imparted to humans with only the briefest of explanations. Give them enough to go on, but don’t help them too much, because, of course, where would the fun be in that? And, whenever the gods ask you to do something, the first question to ask yourself is, “Am I crazy?” because you know everyone else will be asking the same.
For such a quick story, Bayani and the Old Ghosts introduces us to a nice variety of characters. We meet the main players who are the human inhabitants of the island. On this front, the island might seem to be rather sparsely populated; however, gods, monsters, and spirits abound everywhere we go. And, there is one mysterious player who may just be a girl from a neighboring village . . . but maybe more.
The title character, Bayani, is all heart and heroism, ready to plunge into the quest he has been given without worrying too much about the details. Of course, he has a very personal stake in its success; his father lies dying in bed. Reminded by his father that the name Bayani means “hero,” Bayani seems ready to take on anything thrown his way in order to fix the island and make his father well.
The standout character in this issue, though, is Bayani’s friend and rather reluctant quest companion, Tal. She and Bayani feel like equals, but she clearly exceeds him in the exercise of logic. She is the essence of practicality, knowledgeable and impatient with Bayani’s idealism. Even after being confronted by hard evidence that Bayani has, indeed, been sent on a quest by supernatural beings, she quips, “As a rule, I don’t necessarily believe everything any old ghost tells me.” Hermione Granger couldn’t have said it better. There’s a lot of opportunity for the creators of Bayani to turn her into a wonderful role model for boys and girls alike.
The artwork in Bayani and the Old Ghosts is of a vividly colorful and simple graphic style. In some places, it borders on being overly simple and repetitive but is balanced out in the elegant construction of the larger panels and the inventive depiction of the various spirits, gods, and monsters. The palette is bold and uncomplicated, perfect for the depiction of a colorful island society. Most significantly, though, the artwork and story feels accessible, which I hope would inspire young readers and artists to create their own examples of contemporary folklore.