Nick Drnaso’s Beverly, released today, is a brilliant set of six intertwined stories that show the underside of suburban life. Each story starts off with a smile, while pretty pastel colors and manicured lawns are plentiful. The art is crisp, geometric, simple and orderly. But scratch just a bit underneath the astroturf and horrific, heart-breaking details emerge. Broken-down parents cut their family vacation short after walking in on their sexually-repressed son in the middle of a cringe-inducing act. A teen girl who disappears from the diner she works at isn’t as innocent as her xenophobic town first thinks. A lonely housewife has stars in her eyes when she takes part in a sitcom focus group, only to find out she’s been duped.
With a structure like Richard Linklater’s Slacker and the temperament of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World, each story of bored, angst-filled teens and desperate adults features at least one character from one of the other stories, and yet each is its own separate tale. I was completely taken in, thinking at times that I was right there sharing the same stifled air as these folks, and now they exist in my mind as memories, rather than pieces of a graphic narrative.