Two birds are scavenging for food; one of them has a tendency to go off on philosophical tangents. Nearby, their friends are waiting for the old lady and her intellectually disabled grandson to come sprinkle crumbs of food in the usual spot. It’s a typical day until a giant egg falls from the sky and leaves the birds befuddled. The egg is actually a bomb that didn’t detonate, but they can hear something ticking inside. Some of the birds believe they should sit with the egg until it hatches, while others feel something terrible is going to happen. Not long after, a giant featherless bird crashes down from the sky and lands on the old lady’s house. Out pops a featherless hatchling, and the birds come to the conclusion that they should try to care for it until it can fend for itself.
Big Question is a graphic novel based on a very simple plot, but the book turns into a beautiful metaphysical fable about life and human (and animal?) nature. Once the initial chain of events is set into motion, the birds will bear witness to violence, death, the afterlife, and life’s small wonders. It’s funny and sad, and there’s never really any closure, but I found it positively marvelous. I don’t want to go into much detail because uncovering all the little subplots is a major part of the experience, so I’ll just show you some of the illustrations (click on the image to make it larger):
The book is nearly 600 pages long and composed entirely of black and white sketches, and it took Nilsen fifteen years to complete. I think it’s a masterpiece, and it was such a pleasure to have stumbled upon this book so randomly.
Big Questions, or, Asomatognosia: whose hand is it anyway? was published in 2011 by Drawn and Quarterly.