The first work of David Mazzucchelli I had experienced was 1987’s Batman: Year One, written by Frank Miller. It was beautifully illustrated, even if the story was typical Frank Miller crap. The interesting thing is… that was Mazzucchelli’s last superhero book, aside from guesting on a Fourth World section in 2000’s wonderful World’s Funnest (which deserves a post of it’s own). What kind of jerk starts with Batman and works his way up from there? It’s illogical. What could be better than Batman?!
Well, lot’s of things, but in particular: Asterios Polyp.
This book is so well considered that it’s hard to grasp. Every page is gorgeous to the point of contention. It took me a long time to finish, just because I was studying every panel. The visual language used backs up the narrative and the overall theme of duality and division so well. Man and woman, living and dead, cyan and magenta, backwards and forwards… this is a very complete work of art, and easily one of the best graphic novels I have experienced.
The story itself is… concerning. I’m not sure how else to label it. I relate too much to the main character to be able to discuss it properly. Basically: Asterios Polyp is a great artist (in the academic sense only) who has lost his true love due to his own pretentious ignorance. His view of the world has failed him and he seeks to rediscover himself. The story is narrated by his stillborn twin brother.
I can greatly expand on the beauty contained in this novel, but that would be at odds with the nature of this blog. I’m sure actual sequential art scholars already have that angle covered. Asterios Polyp is beautiful and heartbreaking, and easily worth the twenty bucks that you would normally spend on hoagies and Dogfishhead.