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Three Bloggers Blogging on Gerry Alanguilan's Graphic Novel Elmer

In the fall of last year, SLG released Gerry Alanguilan's graphic novel Elmer, which had previously appeared in four comics volumes in the Philippines. Elmer received starred reviews in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. As PW wrote, "It is not until we are several pages into the book that we discover that [the main character] is also a talking, thinking chicken. He is no anomaly; decades earlier, all of chickenkind suddenly gained intelligence and speech; by the 2000s they are legally human. Jake's father's illness and subsequent death lead Jake to read his father's account of the early days after the change; this in turn allows Alanguilan to show the reader the often horrific sequence of events that followed chickenkind's sudden elevation to sapience. The gorgeous b&w art, full of lush pen work and strong expressions, takes what should be a self-evidently ludicrous proposition and somehow imbues it with plausibility."

Elmer is a poignant and original graphic novel, complex and deep. Given its unique qualities, it seemed like a good candidate for the troika of blogger reviews that myself, Larry Nolen, and Paul Charles Smith have engaged in for Grace Krilanovich's The Orange Eats Creeps , Matt Bell's story collection How They Were Found, and Michael Cisco's The Narrator. Here're some excerpts from those reviews to give you further triangulation and, hopefully, make it clear this title deserves your attention.

     Elmer 

Larry Nolen: "The stark black-and-white images complement the narrative action beautifully.  These images, when combined with the nuanced text, create an indelible afterimage that lingers in the reader's mind.  Elmer simply is a powerfully-written and drawn tale that utilizes the best storytelling elements of narrative and illustrative formats to create a deeply personal and moving story which explores a complex mindfield of emotions and prejudices in a fashion that could never be accomplished as adroitly if it were told as a traditional narrative." Read more.

Paul Charles Smith: "Admittedly the premise is quite ridiculous. In the seventies, humanity is shocked to find that chickens have not only begun to talk, but also inexplicably evolved to a level of sentient intelligence similar to that of a human. Despite that, the universal themes of prejudice, fear, anger and collective suffering makes Alanguilan's novel resonate. We see the world through the eyes of two different generations of the Gallo family, Jake, the son angry at the discrimination that he faces in the world (that in turn causes him to discriminate against humans), and his late father, Elmer, who lived through the hard times. As Jake struggles with the memoir that his father has left him, he comes to understand the suffering and sacrifice of his parent's generation, and re-evaluate how he feels about humans due to his father's relationship with a farmer called Ben." Read more.

Jeff VanderMeer: "Elmer is also solidly about family. All the great art in the world wouldn’t matter if Alanguilan didn’t keep the spotlight firmly on this family of chickens and their bond to human allies. Son Jake is a good kid, the father is admirable if at times distant, the rest all have their quirks, their foibles, the things that make them distinctive. You genuinely care about these people, and you worry terribly about what they go through. A real depth of feeling comes through on the pages, a sense of the author knowing these characters very well. To accomplish this in the short span of a relatively slim graphic novel is nearly miraculous and speaks to the level of the creator’s skill." Read More.

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