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Elmer Paperback – November 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Jake Gallo is an angry young man, frustrated at his lack of employment and easily provoked by perceived slights. It is not until we are several pages into the book that we discover that he 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. Used to seeing chickens as food or worse, humans are not shown at their best as they react, often violently, to this sudden alteration of the natural order. 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, drawing readers into a brutal, blood-soaked tale of a transformed species and the outrage and savagery of their former owners. A peculiar but engaging work that deserves attention. (Nov.)The Adventures of Unemployed ManErich Origen, Gan Golan, Ramona Fradon, Rick Veitch and Michael NetzerLittle, Brown, .99 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-316-09882-3A superhero-filled parable of the current economic crisis that is in turns informative, smart, funny and preachy. Origen and Golan's story follows a superhero formerly known as the Ultimatum, who had championed a misguided campaign to educate society's poor on how to best lift themselves up by their bootstraps. After he's fired from the job, he hits rock bottom and joins with other heroes who tried to make an honest living by following what they'd thought were the right rules only to be crushed and tossed aside by an unfair economic system. Together they fight an organization led by the uncaring Invisible Hand and filled with characters meant to represent everything from key economic officials of the past decade to current and former investment banks. They realize that in order to succeed they'll need coordinated efforts from far more than a small band of heroes. Though the entire message comes off as preaching to the choir, the superhero pastiche, drawn in a Silver Age comics style with nods to Jack Kirby by three highly individualistic artists, gets the point across in an enjoyable way. (Oct.)
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*Starred Review* Gorgeously drawn black-and-white artwork combines with outstanding storytelling in this modern-day fable of ethnic strife, identity, friendship, and family. The titular character has been a writer all his “human” life, keeping a secret diary that his son Jake discovers and reads after Elmer’s death. Along with his newly engaged sister and gay movie-star brother, Jake returns to his childhood home for Elmer’s last days, stays on for his funeral, and helps his newly widowed, delicate mother. Oh, and Jake and family are sentient, well-spoken chickens, a result of a never-explained but carefully depicted world event in 1979. Elmer’s old human friend, Farmer Ben, offers Jake insight on Elmer’s past—both pre- and postsentience—and advice as Jake works through his family’s victimization at the hands of Ben’s kind. Bloody world wars pitted chicken against man and led to a wave of antichicken prejudice and even attempts at genocide before the UN declared chickens an equal part of humanity. Ethical and moral issues touch on wide-angle politics but also keep close to familial events in Jake’s childhood (bullying, child-parent strife) and adulthood (inter-“ethnic” marriage). The fine-lined artwork depicts the differences between sentient and presentient chickens, while some full-page panels show the lush scenery and relative calm between action sequences. Set in Alanguilan’s Philippine homeland and marked by its culture, Elmer deserves a wide international readership (for teen collections, note brief female nudity and strong violence) and shows how the sequential-art format can challenge even such canonical predecessors as Animal Farm. --Francisca Goldsmith
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The story follows Elmer and his family through the changes in society as mankind struggles to adapt. A bird they once ate can now speak and reason as people do. It's shocking in some parts, sentimental in others. The story develops in a realistic manner over several years. It may seem like science fiction or something that belongs in The Twilight Zone but it's interesting.
Despite being in comic book form, it's not meant for young children. Older children or teenagers might like it. Adults might like it too if they can accept the basic premise.
Unlike comic books, Elmer is published in black and white. There is no color version of this story. I enjoyed this very unusual story.
What makes this book stand out are the impressive details in every frame. It is a graphic novel that can carry the story forward even without text. Page after page of passionate illustrations will keep you going forward, and the supporting text is just right to bring you to tears.
The drawings are beautiful, with detailed, slashing inks, using lots of parallel lines, that, at their best, are reminiscent of Bernie Wrightson's illustrations for Frankenstein. The drawings of humans are so-so, but it's really not the humans who matter. The chickens, and the world they live in - bookshelves, trees, fields, skies - are beautifully rendered in a way that does the important work of selling the unlikely premise as everyday reality.