Review: Asterios Polyp

    If you happen to find yourself in a bookstore these days (which can’t be many of you, who the hell reads nowadays?) “Asterios Polyp” is bound to stand out amongst the other books. First of all, its a comic book (or “graphic novel” for you pretentious nerds out there). Second, its not a comic about a character in form-fitting spandex fighting other characters in form fitting spandex. What it is, however, is one of the most interesting works I’ve encountered in any medium in a long, long time.
    “Asterios Polyp” is written and illustrated by famed comic artist David Mazzucchelli who is best known for his collaborations with Frank Miller on “Batman: Year One” and “Daredevil: Born Again” (both of which are excellent). Mazzucchelli, strangely, dropped out of the comic world and until this book, hadn’t been heard from in years. The notorious recluse had disapeared completely and had started teaching. With “Asterios Polyp” however, not only has he returned, but he now stands head and shoulders above his peers.
    “Asterios Polyp” is a surprisingly simple story. It details the life of fictional architect, Asterios Polyp (hence the title) and his search for meaning. On his 50th birthday, while remembering his better days with his ex-wife, his house catches fire and burns down. This sends the depressed Asterios on a journey to discover meaning in his life, while the reader is given flashbacks of his past with his wife, Hana.
    Asterios is one of those people who sees life very simply. Everything to him is very simple, there is a right way and a wrong way, everything is black & white. He is hailed as a genius in the world of architecture, even though none of his designs have ever actually been built. He then became a hard-nosed college professor, spouting his no-frills ideas when it comes to design: No decoration, if it does not have a function or purpose, get rid of it.
    Hana is his polar opposite, she “completes” him, if you want to be cheesy about it. She’s the starving artist type (although thankfully she’s not the pretentious kind) and is very much about emotions and feelings, whereas Asterios is cold and closed-off. It’s this that is the beginning of the end of their relationship, although it quickly grows worse due to some shall we say “outside interference”.
    The presentation is what sets “Asterios Polyp” apart. The story is narrated by Asterios’ twin brother Ignazio. Problem is, Ignazio died in the womb, Asterios never even knew him. Yeah, weird. The other thing is the artwork. The book is draw in an almost abstract manner in some spots. For example: in scenes where Asterios and Hana are arguing, Asterios will be drawn in a arcitectural design style whereas Hana will be drawn in a very sketchy, shading kind of way. This illustrates where each character is coming from and their different perspectives on life.
    “Asterios Polyp” is one of those things thats more than the sum of its parts. Each element taken on its own may seem novel or kind of clever but its not until you see it all come together that you realize the genius of it. This isn’t a book for everyone, in fact, its probably not for most people, but you don’t have to be a “comic book guy” to enjoy it. If you’re worn out by bad movies and TV shows that lack imagination or creativity, you owe it to yourself to check this book out.
Grade: A+