Sabrina is LA Times Book Prize winner Nick Drnaso's second novel and rendering of a sterile, modern world, where relationships are without intimacy and meaning is lost through glowing computer screens. In this graphic novel, Drnaso confronts and criticizes our modern world and its byproducts (namely fake news).
Drnaso is an ace boundary technician... With his fluid framing — fitting anywhere from two to 24 panels to a page — he dictates information delivery, allowing the mind to breathe. His drawing style is at once poetically attuned to details of neighborhoods and interiors (the lit canopy of a gas station at night, the banquette at an antiseptic diner) and deceptively plain when it comes to the people who inhabit them. Figures are airtight yet textureless, with eyes like pinholes ... Drnaso subtly suggests that the current climate of constant horror, weaponized by hashtags and spread by autofill, has its seeds in the fall of the Twin Towers and our response to the tragedy. It’s a shattering work of art.
'It has become a cliché,' wrote Susan Sontag in Regarding the Pain of Others, in “discussion of images of atrocity to assume that they have little effect, and that there is something innately cynical about their diffusion' ... Drnaso’s great achievement is that he never falls into Sontag’s cliché. He approaches his subject without cynicism, and without assuming cynicism in the characters he depicts ... Drnaso’s style...has a kind of subtle, dignified blankness ... He restricts himself to regular grids of square or rectangular panels, as few as six or as many as twenty-four per page ... Drnaso’s sustained rhythmic control is such that his carefully limited material never becomes tedious. Small panels speed us through ... It [the narrative] begins to feel like a series of setups and punch lines, banality unspooled and then cut short by horror. But as soon as we get used to this structure, Drnaso begins to complicate it. The punch lines stop coming ... We are left stranded there, on the thin tissue of the everyday—a futile hunt for a lost cat, the promise of a promotion at work—waiting for it to tear.
Drnaso’s simple, rigid drawings capture the bleak blankness of much contemporary life, anomie hovering over almost every interaction, both real and virtual. His muffled colors build the texture of a world bombarded with distraction yet void of connection, and his careful use of boxes and frames conveys the stunning lack of freedom the supposedly free space of the internet constructs, a dim and inert prison of both the body and the spirit ... Drnaso’s book leaves the audience holding its breath, hoping his flawed but sympathetic characters will find their way from lies to truth.