Friday, September 25, 2009

Asterios Polyp

David Mazzucchelli
I have a hipster friend who recently began to get into graphic novels, and began soliciting advice as to what books she should read. I got her to read some Love & Rockets collections, Fun Home, Scott Pilgrim, Chris Ware...and eventually she went off on her own to find what interested her in the field. When I mentioned that this book would be one of the big books she should read this year, she immediately read it, and came back with an "eh, it was okay." Having read this book, I'm completely baffled by this reaction, given her enthusiasm for comics, but I think what she looks for in comics isn't necessarily good comics, but rather things she's used to seeing other mediums do, done in comic form. What I mean is, I believe she likes a good story and interesting characters, something that film and novels can supply just as well (and in forms she's used to) and she may appreciate formal art...but when it comes to comics, she isn't seeing the form for what it is necessarily. Asterios Polyp is a perfect example of a creator really taking the reigns of the medium of comics, using it to do things that can not be done in any other medium, and executing his vision to superb effect. Mazzucchelli really proved his mastery over cartooning, using panels to create suspense and mood, and conveying a story through his art that conveys original ideas, betraying a real sense of the people that are a part of that idea in motion, and in a way unique to comics. If I simply tell what the story is about, it doesn't have a hook that would immediately grab many people. Like my friend. The characters, I would say, are all flawed and brilliantly handled as the narrative meanders through time, but again, this alone may not be enough to entice some readers into loving it. But when his ideas are conveyed through the lines and squiggles and colors to get across a philosophy he has, and seeing that play out with his characters through the book, it really becomes something special. There's plenty to talk about in this book, but my favorite thing that Mazzucchelli played with was how different people are from one another. Different how they learn, how they speak, how they act in public, how creative they are, etc. Some people are on similar wave lengths, but there are all kinds of different types out there, and they are portrayed here with different shades, colors, lines, or whatever, and sometimes two different types can click, blurring shades and colors into each other, making something new. It sounds simple perhaps, but watching it unfold throughout this book, seeing where he uses it and when, makes all the difference, and it really adds impact to scenes. It can make a seemingly ordinary circumstance extraordinary, and intensify the emotions surrounding it. But anyway, that's just one thing out of many to admire here. The overall book is fantastic. If I have any criticism for it, it's a small gripe, and that's the ending. I'm not one to have something "ruined" by the ending, but the final few panels were random, strange and unnecessary. A little blemish that the book really didn't have to end on. But maybe others feel differently. All I know is, I really enjoyed the experience of reading this book and devouring a work lovingly created by such a master of the comics medium.

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