Geungsi Vol 2: Brotherhood by Sean Lam
Review by CT Lim
The long awaited volume 2 of Geungsi. It should have come out earlier to ride on the wave and buzz of volume 1 which was released late last year. But comic making is hard work. Better to do a good job and tell a good story than to rush out something sub-standard.
Sean Lam has been keeping busy. He was one of the core artists featured at the Comic Embassy and he gave a few talks to the NAFA comic club students and the public. He engaged well with the students and encouraged them to go on drawing their comics.
To me, Sean’s trajectory as a comic artist is unusual and transnational. After graduating from NAFA, he went to work in Japan and later the USA, drawing comics but largely unknown in Singapore. But he was making a good living and making appearances at comics conventions overseas. Note to self: take fortune over fame anytime.
He came back in 2020. We met up and he asked me about the local comic scene. I must admit my overview was pessimistic. Maybe I have been here for too long and all I saw were roadblocks – our market was too small, blah, blah. Sean was more optimistic. He believed that when you have a good comic book and you promote it well, the readers will come.
One thing we agreed on was that we should target our comics beyond Singapore and have our books sold in Southeast Asia. And horror is a good genre that is popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere.
Cut to 2021. Geungsi Vol 1 was released and it ended with a cliffhanger. Now volume 2 is out in time for Halloween. The skinny: it is even more exciting than volume 1. Our heroes, Shaun and Meng fought a Xieshi, basically a geungsi that had drunk the blood of another geungsi which is always bad news. It is more powerful but mindless. Won’t give away any spoilers but it is also a social commentary on the pressure parents placed on their children – the constant comparison between siblings leading to damage and trauma. Bad shit happens.
There is also more character development for Alice, the villain of volume 1. She is shaping up nicely to be a more complex character – hope she survives in this series! She is too good an evil character to be gotten rid of.
Sean has said that comics can say things about what is happening in society. The second social commentary in this volume is about agism. Despite what the government promotes about not discriminating against the old, the fact is that you can feel the negative vibes the young has for the aged – we are just not woke, with it and we are to be blamed for all our current problems (climate change, economic downturn) in their eyes. The world belongs to the young. Go watch The Ballad of Narayama.
But it is not all darkness and doom and gloom. There is humour and the improbability of how Meng the slayer ends up as a tenant in Shaun’s flat. And Meng wanted to kill Shaun in volume 1. Now they are good friends or so it seems. I think Shaun’s sister will have a bigger role in subsequent volumes. As for the artwork in this volume, Sean’s lines remain dynamic and fluid. The kinetic energy and adrenaline is there. It is a work of a matured artist who knows how to pace out a story – when to pick things up and just keep going, and when to slow things down with humour.
Let’s hope we do not have to wait too long for volume 3. There will also be two spin-off stories, one of which will show what happened to Meng in Hong Kong before his arrival in Singapore. Now go and buy Geungsi Vol 2.
NB: Sean will be one of the speakers for The Globalisation of Manga Style panel at the Singapore Writers Festival on 12 November, 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm.