Big Questions by Anders Nilsen

Big Questions
by Anders Nilsen
Drawn & Quarterly, 2011

The most luxurious reprint of an independently-published comic ever, and probably the heaviest graphic novel I’ve ever read – a 658 page hardback with four appendices, previously published in 15 parts over 15 years. Starring birds. A bunch of ’em. In a field next to a forest, near a small hut occupied by a simpleton and his grandmother. The birds squabble over seeds, are bullied by much-larger crows, and occasionally hunted by owls and snakes. Then, one day a bomb drops into the field (but the huge metal egg doesn’t explode) and then a pilot crashes his plane into the hut. These things always happen at once, don’t they?

Some of the birds quickly form a religion based around the unexploded bomb (with messy results) and others annoy the pilot (who they think is a hatchling from the plane) by bringing him worms. The crows fight over the edible contents of the destroyed hut, an injured bird is rescued by a snake and taken to a mysterious cave of souls. It’s like Tales of the Beanworld if life were a lot cheaper and the microcosm made no sense, no matter what level you were on.

The appendices contain a brief explanation of how the chapters were originally printed, as well as the covers and extra material, which is sometimes more enjoyable than the main story. Nilsen explains how he named it Big Questions after a two-page strip in the first issue, and later tried to change this to the loftier Astrophysics – but an astonishing number of low-key pages later, Big Questions stuck.

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