Gerry Alanguilan's ELMER

I'm pobably the last person to read this book in a nation that used to love comics in its golden decade of the 80's. Considering that we're now in the digital era of reading stories in a tablet PC or a gadget like Kindle, one doesn't need to look that far in history when evolution of man and science became highly relevant. You might even say evolution is actually, always relevant and certain  whenever a new model of gadget is released, or a new hybrid machine is ready for tune-up, or a new novel is available for download, and so on and so forth. Evolution is always relevant and I couldn't agree more.

This book is about that kind of evolution. What if chickens suddenly acquire the linguistic, psychological, and spiritual aspects of man? That would be crazy, right? Would they fight for equal rights with humans, or special rights like an endangered species? And this is basically the main reason why I would consider this book thought-provoking in the sense that it keeps you thinking on the plausibility: what-ifs and how-woulds along the storyline even after you finished reading it. And as a by-product, it never fails to amuse the reader also. It wont stop you in thinking (with a dose of laughter) about how can a rooster make a woman happy in bed, or what will happen if the avian species Gallus Domesticus overtakes the primate species Homo Sapiens Sapiens in the food chain. That would be a challenging and fun idea to think about. This book is plenty of these kinds of thoughts and it might be the reason why it stood out among the batch of quality stories recognized in 2011 for award nominations in the US, Japan, and Europe. Because the main character here is a chicken.

I only wished that Gerry published Elmer with a colored edition because the beauty of an avian is best represented by colors. A peacock for example, is not complete without its irridescent blue, green, yellow, and brown tiny feather tips, just like a parrot without its ivory feathers and colorful blotches like an amalgam of paint on a canvas. The same with chickens. The main difference between a hen and a rooster is in their size and plumage--the rooster is bigger, and more colorful than the hen.

I wished the book to be more visual since I find it not easy to differentiate a mother chicken to a father rooster with just black and white rendering, as we all know that the human eye has that tendency to look at chickens as chickens and generalize that if something has a beak, a comb, and a plumage its probably a chicken. Once you draw many of them by just varying the comb and wattle without distinctive color or maybe shades of gray, your eyes will just see a group of chicken and there's no clear distinction. You need to look closer at those characters to see who they really is. The point is, I want to see a fighting rooster here deadly and nasty with its blood-red feathers ready to pounce on anyone who stands on its way. That would be a very cool picture.

A fight to death is always nasty, beautiful (and perhaps inhuman) like this one

"Fighting Cocks" oil on canvas by Mario Zampedroni 

Anyway, Gerry himself admitted that he saw some warts in the book and whether its about the grammar or illustration, this still remains part of the overall beauty of the graphic novel. A graphic novel is made by a human hand, not robots. And even robots can make an error too.

Reading this also reminds me of the sentimentality of his first book WASTED especially that letter-from-the-departed panels. And yeah, it feels very much like a Gerry Alanguilan book since it's not complete without the libido and onanism scenes---the reason that it's intended for mature readership. If you've already read his previous works like WASTED and Where Bold Stars Go to Die you know what I'm talking about.

I have been hyping this book by partially reading it in the past but now that I finally saw, dissected, and experienced it from cover to cover, my view is still the same. It's a good and unique book proudly made, in the Philippines. This book deserved to be nominated in the 2011 Eisner Awards.

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
Rating: 4 sizzling plates of 'adobong texas sa gata'

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