David Mazzucchelli, 'Asterios Polyp'

· Monday August 17, 2009

It took David Mazzucchelli ten years to make Asterios Polyp. I got through it within an hour. But what an hour! Asterios Polyp is the latest Great American Graphic Novel; it will win Pulitzers and National Book Awards and get people rabbitting on again about how graphic novels have grown up, can tell stories like no other medium, should finally get respect, blah blah blah.

Bypass all that. This is a handsome work of fiction, beautifully drawn. It tells an intriguing tale about Polyp, an architect who, after his Manhattan apartment is razed, moves to a no name mid-west town and starts a new life as a mechanic. A series of flashbacks reveal a turbulent marriage with Hana, a half-Japanese sculptor, her art project with a nutty contemporary dancer, and to Asterios' philandering years, where he is revealed as an art snob whose designs have never made it off the drawing board.

Even the knotty bits about postmodernism and perception can't ruin this masterpiece. Mazzucchelli's drawings, design and his radical re-thinking of cartoon conventions will mark Asterios Polyp a watershed for graphic novels, in the same way Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon changed art, and Seinfeld changed TV sit-coms.