Before I get into this, the goal of this review is not to spoil anything, but I will not say that there is no spoilers to follow. I promise to not spoil any plot points, or to tell you the end, but I am going to get into my feelings on “Asterios Polyp”, so if you want to say totally clear minded on this book, do not read what is below.
There are a few comic creators that seem to only pop up every so often, lay out an amazing work, then go back to ground for a while. Creators like the late Will Eisner, or Blanket’s Craig Thompson come quickly to mind, but there are others, like the author of Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli.
You may or may not remember David Mazzucchelli, artist of two of my all time favorite comic stories, “Batman: Year One,” and “Daredevil: Born Again” (both with writer Frank Miller.) These two stories came out in the mid 1980’s and soon there after, Mr. Mazzucchelli seemed to vanish, appearing here and there with a story, but for the most part he fell completely off the radar. Then earlier this month he put out the new graphic novel “Asterios Polyp”.
“Asterios Polyp” is the story of a man by the same name, who is a renowned “paper architect” (meaning he has never actually built a building, just designed amazing works) and academic, whose life has recently changed. Asterios Polyp then embarks, after a well placed lightening bolt, to examine himself, where he has been, and where he is going all of which Mr. Mazzucchelli handles amazing skill.
While the story is a meditation on change, Mr. Mazzucchelli is using “Asterios Polyp” as a meditation on graphic storytelling. In fact it is Mr. Mazzucchelli’s skills as a storyteller which makes this book so amazingly good. He uses the art of this book to tell us as much about all the characters as their actions do. Each character has their own color pallets, and there own art style, and Mr. Mazzucchelli puts this all seamlessly on a page, making sure the reader only realizes these differences when he wants them to. In many ways it feels as if Mr. Mazzucchelli has thrown this book on a table and said, “here everyone, this is what you can do with graphic storytelling.” This polite slap in the face to all creator’s may be the most wonderful things about the book.
There is one other amazing thing about this book though, and that is Asterios Polyp himself. This curmudgeon of a man is almost instantly relatable, and his journey is one that anyone who has ever felt a moment of melancholy can relate with. The very personal moments, like when he admits that he has always felt like he is being watched, make the reader feel as if they are no longer reading a graphic novel, but rather are looking at a fellow person bearing their soul.
While the third act of the book falls some what short, seeming to offer very little resolution (though the argument can be made that life itself offers very little in the way of resolution), the storytelling of this piece more than makes up for it, and this is a must read for anyone who likes a good character study, or a masterfully crafted graphic novel, or both.