It’s always a headache to start something, so I am going to take the easy way out and start this review with a cliché: David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp is really a good story.
The titular character is a professor of architecture who lives by his own beliefs. One day, his apartment is destroyed by a fire caused by a lightning strike. As a result, he is forced to moves into an unfamiliar place and start anew. As the story slowly unfolds, aspects of Polyp’s character are revealed in how he comes to terms changes in life and flashbacks from his past. The author also plays on Polyp’s Greek heritage by weaving in allusions to Homer’s Odyssey. Though the story is a simple one, Mazzucchelli has packed in lots of ideas that sometimes requires re-reading the same page several times.
The illustration in this book is a good exercise in the art of using colours and lines. Through the use of only three colours – red, blue, and yellow (excluding white and black) – and varying lines – thick, thin, well-defined, and sketchy – readers can know what the various characters are like just by the way each character is drawn.
The typeface is another point of interest. A different typeface is used for each character’s speech; this small detail seems to be Mazzucchelli’s way of saying everyone is different.
Given all this, it is easy to assume that Mazzucchelli is an experienced storyteller. However, this is in fact Mazzucchelli’s first graphic novel that won three Eisner awards (the comic-book equivalent of the Oscars) and four Harvey Awards.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how complicated yet simple the world is after reading this book. Perhaps the beauty of life is that there can be complexity in simplicity and simplicity in complexity. Go pick up this book and see for yourself how Mazzucchelli has the amazing ability to change the way you see life.
Contributed by Yock Hwee Fang, Associate Librarian, Public Libraries Singapore