Tongues, Chapter 1
Anders Brekhus Nilsen, 48 pgs, self-published, andersbrekhusnilsen.com, $15
A Prometheus-like god, chained to a mountainside, tells an eagle his last dream before the bird slices open his stomach and eats his liver.
A boy, with a teddy bear strapped to his backpack, wonders a godforsaken desert, out of food yet filled with teenage angst.
A 13-year-old Swahili girl is told by a chicken that the fate of the world rests in her hands.
References to an ancient god, the fate of the world hanging in the balance — these are hardly underemployed tropes. Yet Tongues feels fresh thanks to Anders Brekhus Nilsen’s way with a colour palette and storytelling.
From the cover to inside flap, it’s clear a great deal of thought went into perfecting the long-form comic’s design. Visually, my favourite part was a sequence of pages illustrating the nativity dream of the aforementioned god. While the rest of the comic is geometric with the dry colours of a barren desert, the dream sequence is outlined by the bodies of men and beasts, with entrails pulled and stretched out to frame dawn-coloured images. I’ve half a mind to cut the pages out and frame them on my wall.
Throughout Tongues, Nilsen plays with expectations. For example, in the opening scene, an encounter between an eagle and monkey had me sure I’d soon be saying: bye, bye, monkey. But things don’t turn out as expected, and such twists and turns throughout the comic keep anticipation up and pages turning. With this only the first chapter, many questions arose and remained answered by the conclusion. But if this installment is an indicator of anything, it’s that for this series more good things lie ahead. (Anisa Rawhani)