Beverly is Nick Drnaso's debut full length work, and a very impressive one at that. The superb Escher-like cover showcases both his deceptively gentle pastel palette and the problems - alienation, loneliness, sexual confusion and more - that lie under the suburban lives he depicts. Inside there are six chapters, with some characters appearing more than once, but which can all function as standalone stories. His chunky characters hide behind mask-like faces with scant details, leaving us to speculate on their internal voices.
In The Lil King a family of four go on a trip to Massachusetts to spend some time together before the children return to school. Tyler will be going into the sixth grade, while Cara will be a high school senior. The parents are full of cheer, returning to the place where they got engaged 25 years ago. The children, however, are less enthralled; there’s a palpable sense of disconnect between the generations. While the parents babble on, the children are silent for pages, and Tyler never speaks. He appears again in King Me the final story as an adult, speaking normally, but for now he is totally silent. The parents colour everything with their happy reminiscences, while the boy entertains darkly violent and sexual fantasies. It’s ambiguous about how he feels about them, and the result is both chilling and yet also blackly comic like a Todd Solondz film. In another standout story, Virgin Mary the expertly structured narrative demonstrates Drnaso's considerable skill as he lays out depressingly plausible events based on an incident from his own high school.
The artwork throughout is clean and precise, with lots of space. Visually, the influence of Chris Ware can be seen, but this is distinctively Drnaso’s own voice in both the art and the storytelling. The combination of the repression and uncertainty the characters feel is echoed in the numerous panels that are wholly devoid of people, showing just places but no life. Beverly is an accomplished graphic novel, and is highly recommended.