Graphic Novel Review #1: ASTERIOS POLYP by David Mazzucchelli

in #comics3 years ago (edited)

Today I combine architecture, comics and graphic design.

In this post I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite graphic novels that completely blew my mind: Asterios Polyp. This is also a strong recommendation for everyone that is interested for diving into this magnificent world of 'ninth art'.

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***First just a little explanation: this is a graphic novel because it'a single storyline printed in one book (it can be a few ones also), but a comic book has many issues that follow one story. Graphic novels are often more complex and their authors mostly made them over a longer time periods in their 'free time' between their regular comic book projects.

Plot

Life of an architect and university professor named Asterios Polyp is told in non-chronological way. A story begins when lightning hits his apartment at Manhattan and sets whole building on fire. Asterios runs immediately and with his leftover money buys a bus ticket to anywhere. Completely broke, he exits at a small town and starts working as a car mechanic. In between these events, story unravels details about him and his life: he was a 'paper architect' because he never built anything in real life, he recently divorced his wife and deep down is bothered with his twin brother that died at childbirth... Anyway, the reason why this book is so special isn't that much at its story: it's a WAY it is drawn and designed.

Meaning

This is a masterpiece that shows all the possibilities of comics that is inherent only in this form of artistic expression, it's also a comic about a way you experience comics.

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Story is told not only in a classical way, but in special composition of frames in every page and their deconstruction. Distinct colors and the way different characters are drawn (lines, shades, shapes) strongly depict their moods and personalities.

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Every chapter presents some of the main topics that bothered humanity in their search for meaning through philosophy, but at the same time analyses depths of human behavior.

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Author intertwines main story with a myth of Orpheus or other elements of Greek mythology. At the same time, there can be found many really funny dialogues and witty observations.

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Artwork

FRAMES vary from large ones at whole page (intensive scenes) to total deconstruction (characters thoughts, introspective and memories). Composition of frames also varies, when events are chaotic frames are very small and dense (many everyday things that annoy Asterios with his wife). Frames often 'spills out' so the story can skip through timeline.

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DRAWING is a main tool in storytelling. When Asterios and his wife Hana fight, they slowly become abstract lines in different colors so their opposites are clearly visible (in opposition of the scene where they fall in love, when their lines and colors slowly intertwine). It makes sense because this whole story is told through duality.
When Asterios dreams or remembers, drawing becomes more abstract with every frame, emphasizing the emotion. His dead twin brother is drawn as dashed silhouette that follows him.

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COLOR is very important at expressing the characters moods and atmosphere of particular events. Asterios is rational and analytical, so he is always drawn in cold blue palette, Hana is in warm red colors. Author only uses particular colors so monochrome scenes enhance the story.

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Every character in a comic has his own different LETTERING (font) and shape of a word balloon, that is also in service of displaying their personality.

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Let me know if someone read this book or other good comics. It can also be found in Zagreb at City Library, Fibra edition (for my croatian friends).

For more existentialism check out inspiring movie character diagnoses with @matko-md

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This GN looks mindblowing. I'm going to look into this for sure and Mazzucchelli as a whole. Thank you!

Yeah, he's more famous for Batman: Year One with Frank Miller :)

Great review, you have piqued my interest. You caught my interest as soon as you mentioned it is not chronological, I love such storylines. When you explained his unique style of drawing and telling the story I only had one question, where can I get this? Then you provided me with an answer. I will add it to my reading queue somewhere near the top of the queue.
I will always take novels over comics, but I have also read a fine amount of comics. Some of my favorites are Alan Moore's comics and Dylan Dog series.

P. S. here is another architect from Zagreb who just started his blog few days ago, and he is doing some interesting stuff with lines. Based on your two posts I think you might like his blog.

Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate when someone is also interested in graphic novels, and I also love to be inspired, it's one of my favorite forms of artistic expression because comes in so many layers.
You can get this in any bookstore on online via fibra.hr. It's the croatian publisher that really made a breakthrough in croatian comics 'community'.
I LOVE Alan Moore, and will also make reviews of graphic novels he wrote, he is one of my favories also :) follow and we can discuss, gladly!
This Line-a-day is so bold, following, thank you!

I am currently reading The Book of The Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, than I am moving to Alan Moore's Promethea, so Asterios Polyp will have to wait a bit :)

@nightscape, whoa. Didn't know for this one, but I will definitely check it out.

Thank you. Definitely a recommendation!

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