Sunday, March 20, 2011

Asterios Polyp

One of the most acclaimed graphic novels of 2009, Asterios Polyp is a beautiful, moving exercise in graphic storytelling. The story literally starts with a bang, as a lightning bolt strikes Asterios's apartment building and burns it to the ground. He gathers three items before he flees, a lighter, a Swiss Army knife, and a wristwatch. Bound by nothing, he uses what little money he has left to buy a bus ticket as far out of town as he can get. The rest of the narrative cuts between his past and his present, detailing his marriage, his childhood, his divorce, his attempts to reinvent himself as a mechanic, his self-absorbed behavior as a professor, and his repeated need to look at the word in binaries.

The constant changes in time still follow a strong narrative thread and contain a great number of human, emotive details. David Mazzucchelli's style is both static and radically different as suits the story. An example of this variety can be seen in this sample page:

As he writes in his bio, Mazzucchelli has been drawing comics his whole life. He began his career with very notable collaborations with Frank Miller on Batman and Daredevil, but he has worked on creator-owned works such as Rubber Blanket as well as a graphic adaptation of Paul Auster's novel City of Glass. This is his first graphic novel. This interview details much information about his career, focusing on specific works as well as his craft as a whole.

Asterios Polyp is a highly regarded book that won the Reuben, Harvey, and Eisner Awards for Best Original Graphic Novel. It also won a coveted Grand Jury Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Douglas Wolk wrote in his New York Times Book Review that the book was “a dazzling, expertly constructed entertainment, even as it’s maddening and even suffocating at times." New York Magazine's Dan Kois appreciates that Mazzucchelli created a book that reads like a great graphic novel and not "like a treatment for a future movie deal." Entertainment Weekly's Sean Howe called it "sprawling, trippy, moving, and a hell of a lot of fun."

This book was published by Pantheon Books. A 8-page preview is available here from New York Magazine.

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