Nick Drnaso’s comic Beverly, reviewed.

These Cartoon Short Stories Will Make You Squirm Like a Todd Solondz Movie

These Cartoon Short Stories Will Make You Squirm Like a Todd Solondz Movie

Reading between the lines.
Feb. 3 2016 1:04 PM

A Comic for Readers Who Like to Squirm

Nick Drnaso’s unsettling book of short stories Beverly.

A panel from Beverly.
A panel from Beverly.

Drawn and Quarterly

In Nick Drnaso’s uncomfortable, fascinating book of cartoon short stories Beverly, a family’s vacation goes south when their son, harboring disturbing fantasies, finally acts on one. A new employee accidentally betrays the only guy on the team who actually cares about the job. A young woman reveals her feelings to a friend at exactly the wrong moment. Drnaso’s stories are full of moments in which the bubbling reservoir of anxiety or feeling or darkness boils to the surface. I read it in big enthusiastic gulps, then felt a little sick to my stomach afterward.

Beverly travels the same emotional and thematic terrain as the films of Todd Solondz, but unlike in the work of that sometimes artless director, Drnaso’s comics are visually compelling and carefully controlled. His deceptively simple cartoon panels build precisely designed landscapes for his characters to inhabit—the book’s cover, which presents the locales of the stories as honeycombed dioramas, is telling. Within those settings, his blobby characters are presented without texture, blank as babies, sometimes indistinguishable from each other. We all contain these disastrous eruptions within us, Drnaso’s stories assert—if we’re lucky, no one will be there to witness us at our worst. We’re very pleased to have Nick Drnaso illustrating the February issue of the Slate Book Review.

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Beverly by Nick Drnaso. Drawn and Quarterly.

See all the pieces in the Slate Book Review.

Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s culture department. He is writing a book called How to Be a Family and co-writing, with Isaac Butler, an oral history of Angels in America.