Big Questions #12: A Young Crow’s Guide to Hunting
Anders Nilsen, writer/artist
Drawn & Quarterly, 2009
I don’t remember what I paid for it–$6.95, maybe?
Of the three action comics I reviewed this week, the most thrilling, best choreographed, most suspenseful, most pulse-pounding was not the Frank Miller/Jim Lee team-up or the Geoff Johns event comic but a little black and white story about birds. In this antepenultimate installment of Anders Nilsen’s long-running magnum opus, things come to a head between our “hero” birds and the big black crows who’ve been harassing them throughout this bleak story about how difficult it is to process tragedy. Because it has been so bleak, the tension here is almost unbearable. As the crows make a mockery of the birds’ noble but feeble attempts to defend themselves, just one big question filled my brain: Just how far will Nilsen take this?
As the action picks up the panel borders disappear, leaving Nilsen’s already feather-delicate images feeling more vulnerable and exposed than ever. Each image is a marvel of composition and clarity as the black and white birds clash, calling to mind everything from yin and yang to that incongruous cover image on the original hardcover versions of Stephen King’s The Stand. Each visual beat is so strong, and complemented so chillingly with the crows’ callous dialogue, that even as I raced to find out what happens, I couldn’t help but linger on every panel, trying to squeeze out every last bit of detail. I refuse to spoil the ending, whether devastating or joyous–frankly, everyone should experience it for themselves–but I will say that it made me more confident than ever that Big Questions is a masterpiece in the making.