It’s been awhile since there’s been an indie comic that has received the sort of rave reviews being heeped upon David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. The last time was probably Blankets back in 2003. It’s an awful lot of hype to live up to, and my God does it pull it off.
It’s a stunning book, one that makes it easy to forgive Mazzucchelli’s virtual disappearance from the industry for the last decade. It’s also a very straight forward book on the surface. The title character is a know-it all academic whose marriage falls apart due to neglect, causing him to start his anew on his 50th birthday.
But the craft on display puts this book at the pinacle of the form. Asterios is a character who is only capable of understanding the world as a series of dualities. And to help illustrate this point he is nearly always drawn in profile. In fact I believe there are only six exceptions to this (the first time he’s shown, once when facing his dying father, during a dream sequence with his deceased twin, during another dream based on the Orpheus legend, and then twice at the book’s end). The book is also a lettering tour de force. Every character is given a differently shaped word baloon and font. And this actually works instead of being distracting.
As a story this book is a huge success, as a work of art it’s a masterpiece. At year’s end I will be very surprised if this doesn’t prove to be my favorite book of the year.