Readers looking for a comics epic after Craig Thompson’s Habibi will be happy to know that another hefty tome exists this fall: Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions. The page counts of both books top the 600-plus mark, but due to publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s choice in thick paper stock, Big Questions outsizes Habibi, not that it’s the weight that counts--but with Big Questions, Nilsen delivers a feast for even the most voracious of appetites.
Whereas Habibi rewards its readers with delicate intricacies and unfathomable details, Big Questions sprawls, stretching in wide open, full-page panels often populated by tiny birds and fields of grass and empty plains (or in pages full of white space, broken up by uneven, small panels). It’s with such birds that Nilsen opens the book, having them quip and peck over crumbs: “Sh_t. Seeds again,” one bird says, only to be met by another dropping in: “Oh great! Seeds. I love these.” Similar understated exchanges occur during the book’s first section--birds meeting over a meal to discuss a grand topic (“To what extent are we responsible for the fulfillment of our destinies?”), pausing (“munch, munch”), only to finish the scene with a deadpan response (“Uh…”). Such exchanges sustain for its first 20 or so pages, but then Nilsen’s ambitions expand along with his scope.