Asterios Polyp

11Sep09

A dictionary-heavy, hardcover graphic novel, Asterios Polyp manages to be visually impressive, and pack a few impressive ideas. David Mazzucchelli is no stranger to the graphic novel, having illustrated a graphic novel adaptation of City of Glass by Paul Auster, among other works. His style is interesting for being a curious balance of clean and detailed, neat and messy. I’m not sure exactly how that appeals, but it does. Mazzucchelli tells the story of architect and designer Asterios Polyp, starting a journey at age fifty to try and heal a couple of tremendous wounds, he grabs a few precious items as his apartment — struck by lightning — burns to the ground. polyp

The story isn’t a wildly original one, but it has a number of great moments, including characters saying something memorable and valuable, even as Mazzucchelli employs various smooth visual tricks — chapters are titled with an illustration on a blank page, illustrations blend together as a way to demonstrate how quickly something happens, or word bubbles intertwine as characters grow closer. The only frustration I found with the book is in the last few pages, when Mazzucchelli arranges for the whole journey to be… well, to be for nothing. I don’t need a happy ending to enjoy something, but I do seem to instinctively dislike it when the message is ultimately that there can sometimes be little point in the long, tremendous struggles involved with change and growth. Still, there’s lots to enjoy here, and I’ll be visiting his work again.

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