Written & Illustrated by Gerry Alanguilan
Published by SLG
After reading Gerry Alanguilan’s chicken-centric Elmer, I’m left wishing that he didn’t need to spend precious hours inking other people’s comics to pay the bills. So I’ll ask you all to go pick up a copy of this amazing book so Alanguilan will have money and time to devote to his own comics.
Elmer tells of a world where chickens, spontaneously, gain human-level intelligence. Told via the framing device of a son reading a father’s journal, the story deals simultaneously with its titular lead character’s struggle for acceptance in the post-talking-chicken world, while his son, Jake, copes with his father’s death and the anger that comes of being a disrespected, often mistreated minority. Firstly, Elmer is beautifully drawn, with detailed renderings and careful pacing. Alanguilan lays out each page precisely, building emotional connections with close-ups, while pulling back to give proper impact and scale to the dramatic confrontations that occur frequently throughout the narrative.
But Elmer’s greatest strength is Alanguilan’s scripting, and his knowledge of the subtle fears and biases that lurk beneath even the most benign exterior. The anger of chickens, no longer fodder for McNuggets, is played perfectly, mixing confusion, depression, ire and a desire for peace and comfort. Alanguilan plays with the intial chaos, and the subsequent biases that arise, while still taking time to form strong emotional connections between his chicken family and their human friends.
It’s oddly tender and saddening, but also uplifting and charming. Far from being simply a broad recasting of human bigotry into a chicken parable (though it is that, as well), Elmer reaches into the complexities of family dynamics, father and son connections, and finding one’s place in the great chaos of human civilization. And it looks great while doing so.
In short, Elmer’s an amazing comic, and one I heartily recommend.