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A Year of Cool Comics – Day 71

by  in Comic News Comment
A Year of Cool Comics – Day 71

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp…


Asterios Polyp was probably the most acclaimed comic book release of 2009, but I think that it’s one of the rare examples where so much of the acclaim might have actually skewed the expectations people have about the actual book itself.

You see, Asterios Polyp is a masterpiece of comic book art – Mazzucchelli practically delivers a Master’s course just on how to use different artistic approaches to deliver a comic book story.

However, BECAUSE of the great acclaim his style has received, I think that the actual plot of the comic has been SO over shadowed by Mazzucchelli’s technical wizardry that it is seen as not that good, and I think that that is a shame, as there is a strong story at the heart of Asterios Polyp, about a man who seems unable to adapt himself to others learning to do so.

But yes, the general plot of the book is not as important as the character work, developed both through the writing and the stunning artwork by Mazzucchelli.

When we first meet Asterios, his life is in a bit of a shambles, and we see him watching something on television…

And that’s when lightning destroys his apartment…

With only enough time to grab a few things, Asterios takes three objects…

The symbolism of the three objects is explained over the work…

Mazzucchelli does an especially nice job taking advantage of the comic book format when it comes to demonstrating things like flashbacks, like in this look back at Asterios’ life (Asterios is a renowned architect who has never actually had a building built – he is more of a theorist/critic)….

The book is actually narrated by Asterios’ never-born twin brother, Ignazio, who died in the womb.

Asterios, now with a life totally thrown out of kilter, ends up just taking a bus to a rather random town and applies for a job at an auto repair shop. He promptly then learns about how to repair cars…

Asterios ends up getting caught up in the lives of the man who hires him and that man’s wife and son (plus their friends), and he slowly learns that he CAN let go of his hubris, his ego, his inability to adapt to others because of the high esteem he holds himself in.

Here is interacting with the other family…

That lack of being able to separate himself from his hubris is the main reason for the separation with his wife.

His wife, Hana, is spotlighted by, well, the lack of a spotlight (a wonderful little touch by Mazzucchelli)…

And when they first met, well, they were clearly different people…

The relationship between Hana and Asterios builds the foundation for most of the book, and it is expertly done by Mazzucchelli, as he shows Hana going from being drawn to Asterios’ strong personality to eventually resenting the way that he cannot allow himself to let her have the spotlight ever, demonstrated in this incredible sequence…

What’s awesome is that there is SO much more to the comic than what I’m showing you, including a number of dramatic dreams by Asterios, including a brilliant one involving Asterios going to Hades.

As you can see from the samples provided, this is a remarkable artistic achievement by Mazzucchelli, but it’s also a good story, as Asterios changes in a way that makes his relationship with Hana possible once again.

A question for those who have read the book – would you say that the comic has a “happy” ending?

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