Description: Meet Asterios Polyp: middle-aged, meagerly successful architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer, whose life is wholly upended when his New York City apartment goes up in flames. In a tenacious daze, he leaves the city and relocates to a small town in the American heartland. But what is this “escape” really about?
As the story unfolds, moving between the present and the past, we begin to understand this confounding yet fascinating character, and how he’s gotten to where he is. And isn’t. And we meet Hana: a sweet, smart, first-generation Japanese American artist with whom he had made a blissful life. But now she’s gone.
Stats: Graphic Novel, 344 pages, Edition Published by Pantheon, July 2009.
My Rating: 4 STARS
Asterios Polyp is a graphic novel that takes imaginative originality to a new high within the mundane life of a struggling, fifty year old architecture professor.
It's difficult for me to express just what exactly it is that makes this book work so well. David Mazzucchelli has an undeniable way with words and art and when they meld together they create something that is pretty damn fascinating to read.
I'll admit up front that sometimes I could actually hear the whoosh sound as sections of dialogue passed over my head, but as a testament to the book it made me want to understand it. My mind was working the entire time I was reading with gears turning. It was a mental work-out as it consistently and constantly asked me to question both Polyp's world and my own and I loved that.
The art is also so beautiful. The lines, details, shadows, reflections, settings, and colour palette were all wonderful. Part of what makes me praise this book so highly is the nature of how the art and speech design plays into the narrative. In the images above and below we see Polyp and Hana, even though I've taken these two images out of context the story in each moment is expressed through the art. The art isn't just a medium in which a story is told it is an integral part of that story itself. In Asterios Polyp characters personalities are often expressed in their design, which creates interesting visuals and fascinating commentary when characters interact on both a conversational level and a design level.
I want to come back to Asterios Polyp, and read it again and again, just to see how my perceptions of it change. This is definitely something I would recommend to anyone wanting a new experience in the realm of graphic novels.
I've got to give a big thank you to Anila for bringing this to my attention!