You don’t need us to tell you that graphic novels aren’t just about beings with superpowers. The likes of famed illustrator Chris Ware, after all, have done away with that notion for good. His seminal Building Stories showed the potential of graphic novels to do clever things with both form (multiple multimedia mystery books) and content (telling human tales of residents of a single apartment block). But it’s only in Nick Drnaso’s second work, Sabrina, that the graphic novel can claim to not only rival the literary novel of ideas, but genuinely surpass it.
The first great work about our current age of disinformation, paranoia and fake news, Sabrina is part Don DeLillo, part Jim Jarmusch, all fridge-humming domesticity and quiet dread.
It follows, in washed-out minimalist panels, the fallout from a woman going missing in the American Midwest, starting with her distraught boyfriend and the childhood friend he stays with, whose own life is as muted as the palette. As the tragedy becomes news, it quickly gets distorted by conspiracy theorists and cranks, each with a reality of their own.
Zadie Smith called Sabrina a masterpiece – she’s not wrong.