ELMER is a new graphic novel by Gerry Alanguilan (primarily an inker, best known for his collaborations with Leinil Francis Yu) that explores a world where chickens have suddenly gained human-like intelligence and the ability to speak. That sounds ridiculous, and it is, but it’s also by turns funny, heartbreaking, horrifying, and thought-provoking. This black-and-white volume follows Jake, an unemployed chicken with some serious anger issues and a dysfunctional family, headed by a couple of ailing parents. When his father, Elmer, finally passes away, Jake inherits his journal. Elmer’s writings reveals the early days of what the chickens call “the great awakening”—that is, the mysterious flash in the sky that gives them sentience—as well as the near-genocide that follows, the resulting struggle for civil rights, and Elmer’s touching friendship with Ben, the local farmer who saved his life.
ELMER can be enjoyed on multiple levels—science-fiction allegory, dysfunctional family drama, or just a crazy book about chickens who can talk and coexist with man. Alanguilan’s intricate linework calls to mind other black-and-white indie comics craftsmen like Eric Shanower and Jason Lutes, and his writing is sensitive, honest, and occasionally really funny (at a job interview gone wrong, Jake screams out "EQUAL OPPORTUNITY MY PINK PLUCKED FLABBY SCABBY ASS!"). What could have been a fairly shallow, jokey premise gradually evolves into a highly original fable about family and intolerance, and it’s one of my favourite graphic novels of the year. Check out a preview at SLG's website here.