Review: Beverly by
I’m trying to push through some writer’s block on a pile of
newish comics. The first on the list is Beverly,
the debut work of Chicago-based cartoonist Nick Drnaso. Beverly was published in the Spring by Drawn & Quarterly in
There’s a sort of malaise to Beverly that feels right at
home in the suburban Midwest. We’ve seen cartoonists like Noah Van Sciver
harness this sort of dull, intensifying terror, but I think it’s
particularly well done in Beverly. That
is to say, done well in a different way. Drnaso’s work is all smoothed edges
and flat affect. Beverly never
reaches the fever pitch of Saint Cole,
and never can.
But Drnaso isn’t necessarily trying to capture heartbroken,
terrorized, low-income America. Beverly
is more interested in the drumbeat of mediocrity, that racist and sexist “safe
place” that exists in the suburbs, the quiet desperation of people realizing that things aren’t ever going to get better, and the self-contradicting “I got mine, fuck
you,” of the mostly conservative upper middle. In doing so, Beverly paints a vivid picture of
America (even while only using the most unassuming pastel colors).
The cartooning itself strictly adheres to the grid,
generally in a 3×4 or 4×4 page, sometimes modified based on Drnaso’s needs.
Drnaso specifically avoids the sensation of motion; each panel looks like a
still shot, and with the simple character design, thin line, and big block
colors, it makes the page taken in as a whole look frozen. The effect is troubling. All of the
characters are featureless blobs, interchangeable pieces in a story that’s not
really about people, not really. More
accurately, Beverly is about the horror
of daily life, in the casual and all-consuming drive for wealth, happiness, and
status. Beverly is hopeless
When all of these things are done right, the result is a work of art that is intensely reflective, upsetting, possibly unsettling. Soak it all in.
Nick Drnaso’s work can be found at @nickdrnaso.