Writer/Artist – Nick Drnaso
I picked this one up after hearing it was longlisted for the Booker Prize. It’s a difficult book to describe in terms of plot. It deals more with themes likes misinformation, paranoia, and depression. Despite it being the sort of serious subject matter that typically gets a book awards nominations, I didn’t think it was particularly of a downer to read.
As far the plot goes, the story follows a few main characters named Teddy and Calvin. Teddy’s girlfriend (Sabrina) goes missing and is assumed to have been abducted and murdered. He goes to stay with his friend Calvin who works for the department of defense. While Teddy is staying with Calvin, several developments happen in Sabrina’s case, including the answer to what happened to her and who is responsible for it. Shortly afterwards, an Infowars like radio program begins to stoke a conspiracy theory that Sabrina’s death is a hoax and that Teddy and Calvin are crisis actors. Sabrina’s sister Sandra is also lumped into this, though her story felt more like it was shoehorned in as an after thought than as the primary plotline.
If I had to rate my interest in the individual storylines, I’d give Calvin’s a 5 and Teddy’s and Sandra’s a 3. Calvin was particularly sympathetic, as he got stuck dealing with so much just because of his willingness to take Teddy in, while he also is dealing with his own separation and a big career choice on the horizon. Teddy and Sandra were much more mopey and static by comparison. The story moves quickly enough that even the less interesting moments pass along without killing the momentum. I’m also not sure I understood the ending of the book book… maybe somebody else can explain it in a comment.
The art is very minimal, with very simplistic backgrounds and characters that wear the same outfits through much of the book (for Calvin, it’s a military uniform, for Teddy it’s white tidies and nothing else). The people look more realistic than most comic art, but the forms are very round and pudgy across the board that can make the men and women look a lot closer to each other than other comics. One of the best things I can say about my hardcover copy is the paper was thick and the colors printed very solidly, making the most of the simplistic art.