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Tongues 1

Tongues 1

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By Anders Nilsen. Self Published. 

Softcover, 52 pages, Colour, 2017.

The first chapter in Nilsen's first long-form graphic novel since 2011's . Tongues follows the story of a god chained to a mountainside and his friendship with the eagle who comes everyday to eat his liver. Also: a young girl on a mission of murder and a boy with a teddy bear strapped to his back. Adventure. Revenge. Human evolution. A talking chicken. The fate of the world.

In the remotest reaches of Central Asia a minor god is chained to a mountainside. Tongues follows his friendship with the eagle who comes everyday to eat his liver, a young girl on an errand of murder and a young man with a teddy bear strapped to his back lost in a wilderness and heading to a crossroads.  

Set in a version of modern Central Asia, Tongues is a retelling of the Greek myth of Prometheus. It follows the captive god’s friendship with the eagle who carries out his daily sentence of torture, and chronicles his pursuit of revenge on the god that has imprisoned him. Prometheus’ story is entwined with that of an East African orphan on an errand of murder, and a young man with a teddy bear strapped to his back, wandering aimlessly into catastrophe (a character readers may recognize from Nilsen’s Dogs and Water). The story is set against the backdrop of tensions between rival groups in an oil-rich wilderness.

Tongues is loosely based on a trilogy by the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, of which two plays are lost and only dimly reconstructed by historians. Key to the story of Tongues is Prometheus’ role as creator and protector of humanity. In flashbacks and in Prometheus’ conversations with the eagle and others, the book will touch on humanity’s deep evolutionary past and its complicated prospects for a future. Tongues is both adventure story and meditation on human nature in our present fraught historical moment.

Tongues will be serialized in large-format full-color comics and self-published over the next few years by the artist himself, making it his most ambitious work to date. Issues 1-5 are available to order now.

Upon the series’ completion collected editions will be published in the U.S. by Pantheon Books and in the U.K. by Jonathan Cape.

It’s more than just pretty to look at, of course. Nilsen’s episodes bewilder and engage the reader, building to climaxes that are wryly humorous or downright sinister—-and often both funny and sinister. Nilsen’s inventive register in Tongues though shows an artist surpassing any anxiety of influence. We have here the promise of something original, strange, and engaging. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
We live in a fallen world, but perhaps we can take some comfort in the knowledge that that’s nothing new. Millennia ago, Aeschylus wrote of humanity’s inherent fallibility and venality, and today, the brilliant Anders Nilsen is bringing us a rendition of three of the Greek tragedian’s tales in one utterly gorgeous comic.
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