Asterios Polyp is a brilliant yet arrogant and flawed architect. When his Manhattan apartment building is struck by lightning and burns to the ground in the middle of the night, Asterios sets out on a journey of discovery, both physical and emotional. Hopping a bus to the middle of nowhere, the architect begins a new career as an auto mechanic in a small Southwestern town, a life very different from the one he has left behind. Intercutting through Asterios’ present-day experiences are flashbacks to his troubled past.
Having collaborated with Frank Miller on two of the most iconic super-hero stories of the 1980s, Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One, David Mazzucchelli subsequently made the decision to focus on more personal and experimental works. In stories for the Drawn & Quartery anthology, his own self-published magazine-sized anthology Rubber Blanket, and his adaptation of the Paul Auster novel City of Glass, Mazzucchelli sought to grow as both a writer and artist.
Clocking in at 344 pages, Asterios Polyp appears to see Mazzucchelli pulling together all of his narrative & artistic techniques to craft a very philosophical & introspective work.
The diversity of style & storytelling can be witnessed on this page from early on in the graphic novel. The top third is drawn in a straightforward fashion, flashing back to the various young female students who Asterios slept with during his time as a college professor bringing him his morning cup of coffee. In the middle are Asterios and his wife Hanna in their apartment. On the left Hannah, an emotional and passionate individual, is rendered in rich detail with thin, naturalistic red lines. On the right, the logical, cerebral Asterios is drawn with sparse blue lines, a precise, minimalist geometric figure. The bottom third of the page is an otherwise blank white space with just one short sentence, “Wouldn’t that be nice?” a response to the question that had been posed at the very beginning of this sequence several pages earlier: “What if reality (as perceived) were simply an extension of the self?”
Asterios Polyp is a very complex & dense story. I read it when it first came out, and I could immediately tell it would benefit from re-readings. Having skimmed through it again earlier this week, a number of things stood out for me that I had not previously noticed, things that became clearer now that I knew where Mazzucchelli’s narrative was heading. I look forward to sitting down with the book again and taking my time to explore it.