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Asterios Polyp (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Hardcover – July 7, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For decades, Mazzucchelli has been a master without a masterpiece. Now he has one. His long-awaited graphic novel is a huge, knotty marvel, the comics equivalent of a Pynchon or Gaddis novel, and radically different from anything he's done before. Asterios Polyp, its arrogant, prickly protagonist, is an award-winning architect who's never built an actual building, and a pedant in the midst of a spiritual crisis. After the structure of his own life falls apart, he runs away to try to rebuild it into something new. There are fascinating digressions on aesthetic philosophy, as well as some very broad satire, but the core of the book is Mazzucchelli's odyssey of style—every major character in the book is associated with a specific drawing style and visual motifs, and the design, color scheme and formal techniques of every page change to reinforce whatever's happening in the story. Although Mazzucchelli stacks the deck—few characters besides Polyp and his inamorata, the impossibly good-hearted sculptor Hana, are more than caricatures—the book's bravado and mastery make it riveting even when it's frustrating, and provide a powerful example of how comics use visual information to illustrate complex, interconnected topics. Easily one of the best books of 2009 already. (June)
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Review

“Mazzucchelli manages to combine breathless formal experimentation and read feeling into a story where every line, color choice, and panel arrangement builds toward a cohesive whole, lending an air of epic proportions to what would otherwise be a simple tale.” –Library Journal
 
 “This is an epic, emotionally rich, symbol-laden work that promises to redefine the graphic novel...David Mazzucchelli has made a beautiful, elaborate construction that coyly juggles style and content in a way few cartoonists are capable of.” –Globe and Mail

“This brazenly original and complex work is easily one of the year's best novels, graphic or otherwise…Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.” –San Jose Mercury News
 
“David Mazzucchelli's boldly ambitious, boundary-pushing graphic novel is remarkable for the way it synthesizes word and image to craft a new kind of storytelling, and for how it makes that synthesis seem so intuitive as to render it invisible…Asterios Polyp is a fast, fun read, but it's also a work that has been carefully wrought to take optimum advantage of comics' hybrid nature — it's a tale that could only be told on the knife-edge where text and art come seamlessly together.” –NPR’s The Five Best Books to Share with Your Friends
 
“As ever, Mazzucchelli keeps both the visual and storytelling fireworks coming…This is a work that demands to be read, re-read, analyzed, and discussed.”—Comics Bulletin
 
“Formally daring yet stylistically self-assured, Asterios Polyp is a bona fide masterpiece and the early frontrunner for best graphic novel of the year…It’s the presentation— the use of narrative symbolism, color and visual metaphor—that truly sets the book apart. Much like he did with Year One over 20 years ago, Mazzucchelli has once again raised the bar for his entire artform.” –Chicago Sun Times
 
 “This is a comic for artists, and it plays with space and color in ways that maybe only artists will understand, but it is a story for everyone, and Asterios Polyp is easily among the best graphic novels ever made. Go read it, and read it twice.” –Providence City Paper
 
 “Mazzucchelli experiments with numerous art styles and pushes the envelope with challenging digressions into philosophy, religion and mortality throughout Polyp's tale. The engrossing effort culminates with a bombshell that will leave readers reeling.” –Toronto Star
 
“In Asterios Polyp -- the best of the summer's new releases -- Mazzucchelli employs spotlights, coloring schemes, knitting, Aristophanes, an identical twin who died at birth and the wide array of secretions from a woman's body to lead us into the self-centered world of the title character even as the center implodes…. Asterios Polyp is a primer for both the fervent possibilities and the rich rewards of the graphic novel.”—Portland Oregonian
 
“Now, after a decade-and-a-half, he has re-re-emerged with Asterios Polyp, an epic, emotionally rich, symbol-laden work that promises to redefine the graphic novel. Published by Pantheon Books (home to master-class cartoonists such as Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware and Dan Clowes), Asterios Polyp is Mazzucchelli's first graphic novel. It is also happens to be his masterpiece, the culmination of 25 years of promise….Mazzucchelli has made a beautiful, elaborate construction that coyly juggles style and content in a way few cartoonists are capable of.”—Globe and Mail (Canada)
 
“The beauty of Asterios Polyp is that its core tenet, the need to pay attention to life as it happens, is so well reflected in the book itself—in its lush paper tone and rough-hewn, elegant design—and in the way all the formal devices serve the story. As such, it rewards attention and even devotion.” –Bookforum
 
“The more you study Polyp, the more there is to discover. This is a book that stands with works by Updike, Roth, and other giants of American literature. It is undoubtedly one of the best novels of the year.” –The Stranger
 
“Asterios Polyp is a perfect marriage of words and pictures. Every drawing, color choice and panel layout is pregnant with meaning.” –Columbus Dispatch

“Mazzuchelli is using color to convey ideas in a way not attempted by most graphic novelists. The book is all about style, design and visual language, and Mazzuchelli is moving the discussion of all of these forward with Asterios Polyp.” –Matt Price's best graphic novels of 2009
 
Asterios Polyp will cause comic-book buffs to swoon, sure, but the narrative — after a fire, an arrogant architect slowly begins to rebuild his own life — makes it much more than a pretty picture book.” –Modern Tonic 
 
“What Mazzucchelli accomplishes, though, with remarkable clarity and a jazzy pop-culture eye, and which the written word has a tougher time with, is portraying silence, moments between something said and something to come -- even thought itself. That sticks; those last pages are as tender and heartbreaking a portrait of lost time as I can recall, and no less powerful for being nearly wordless” –Chicago Tribune
 
“Critics have decried the modern graphic novel's focus on form at the expense of content. With "Asterios Polyp," Mazzucchelli has put paid to that charge: It's funny, it's warm and it's beautiful. Go read it.” –Newsday.com
 
“It contains a relatively simple story (and probably a deceptively simple one), but told in a dazzlingly stunning array of comic book techniques not possible in other mediums. Mazzucchelli is a genius of the form.” –Forbidden Planet

“Each panel is a moment in the story that when connected to other panels becomes part of a scene or sequence that is rich in storytelling and fertile with ideas, inquiry, and themes.” –ComicBookBin, A+ review
 
 “Visually, Asterios Polyp is the lushest comic of the year--maybe of the last the 10 years, a decade not exactly thin on astounding cartooning. Mazzucchelli's work has all but abandoned the realistic musculature and architecture that made him stand out from his superhero peers. Asterios Polyp feels like three or four cartoonists working in concert, often on the same page, all of them firmly working on the "stylized" end of comics' spectrum.” –Baltimore City Paper
 
“This fan of the novel is an ever bigger fan of the magic that happens in comics, and only in comics, when text and art work together to create something wholly, wonderfully new. In books like Jimmy Corrigan -- and the just released ASTERIOS POLYP by David Mazzucchelli, it happens on every. Single. Page.”—NPR.ORG
 
“This absorbing, idiosyncratic tale of love, ambition and opportunity marks the return of one of the modern masters of graphic storytelling.”—Miami Herald
 
 “You’ll be in awe of how perfect it is and certainly envious of it if you are a writer. What a beautiful, staggeringly brilliant piece of literature.”—Contra Costa Times
 
‘The book is a satirical comedy of remarriage, a treatise on aesthetics and design and ontology, a late-life Künstlerroman, a Novel of Ideas with two capital letters, and just about the most schematic work of fiction this side of that other big book that constantly alludes to the ­“Odyssey.”…. “Asterios Polyp” is a dazzling, expertly constructed entertainment, even as it’s maddening and even suffocating at times. It demands that its audience wrestle with it, argue with it, reread and re-examine it. Isn’t that the ultimate purpose of style?’—Douglas Wolk, NYTBR
 
“Heady with philosophical and mythological references, Asterios Polyp vaults Mazzucchelli into the top rank of graphic artists. It’s a sweeping, provocative book that blends the richness of the traditional novel with the best modern art. Mazzucchelli’s style - effortless and so versatile that you can’t imagine Asterios in any other medium - is sweeping in every sense.”—Boston Globe
 
“It's a remarkable, bravura achievement - funny, harrowing and thought-provoking.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
"A dazzling expertly constructed entertainment...that is a satirical comedy of remarriage, a treatise on aesthetics and design and ontology, late life Künstlerroman, a Novel of Ideas with two capital letters..." –The New York Times Book Review
 
“Asterios Polyp reads like an intricately designed and heartfelt work of metafiction, juggling design theory, philosophy and sly nods to other cartoonists to create a dryly funny masterpiece.”—Time Out New York
 
“It's as if John Updike had discovered a bag of art supplies and LSD. Elegant, deceptively simple line work and nearly subliminal color symbolism make everything go down like candy. The narrative comes back to earth for a profoundly satisfying climax, but you'll want to keep turning pages - all the way back to the beginning, for another read."
Entertainment Weekly
 
“Haunting and beautiful.”—Los Angeles Times
 
"The simplicity of that facile summary, along with the deceptively cartoony drawing style Mazzucchelli has adopted for the work, makes it easy to miss its genuine accomplishment. The sparseness of his illustration gives necessary clarity to his complex storytelling, which employs intricate and imaginative panel arrangements and a constantly shifting chronology.meticulously constructed.It's a testimony to Mazzucchelli's skills that by the end of Polyp's odyssey, the arrogant academic has been rendered a tragic and sympathetic figure deserving of the tale's (possibly) happy ending." –Gordon Flagg, Booklist
 
“I was completely blown away by Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli’s latest comic book, a pull-out-all-the-stops package that’s funny, poignant and deep, with panels of thoughtfully shaded images that form a visual novel, a paper movie, and finally, an existential meditation on things that matter to us: religion, art, science, love and memory.”—Pop Culture Nerd
 
“Mazzucchelli's masterwork is by no means an easy read…but it is a transcendent one.”—Austin Chronicle
 
“The comics world is abuzz over Mazzucchelli’s first solo book, Asterios Polyp. Rightly so: It’s terrific.”—New York Magazine
 
A sprawling work about the life and loves of a middle-aged, philandering architect who loses everything in a fire. The coming release has been compared to the idiosyncratic work of Thomas Pynchon.”—Wall Street Journal
 
“An absolutely incredible piece of visual communication.”—Portland Mercury
 
“Easily one of the best books of 2009 already."—Publishers Weekly
 
“A visual and even philosophical stunner."—Kirkus
 
“One of the greatest comics of all time.” —Comic Book Resources
 
“We can all stop reading comics now, because David Mazzucchelli’s crafted the ultimate comic book statement. Just take everything on your reading pile right now and chuck it out. Asterios Polyp is the new standard bearer. Mazzucchelli has somehow managed to jam just about everything great about comics into 340 pages of humanity, soul-searching, graphic design, philosophy and humor.”—Newsarama
 
Asterios Polyp is the work of a veteran artist firing on all cylinders, who, despite having worked his way through the sequential art ringer for a few decades now, has managed to craft something remarkably fresh.”—Daily Cross Hatch
 
“One of the smartest and most rewarding graphic novels of the year to date.”—Pop Matters
 
“Mazzucchelli manages to combine breathless formal experimentation and read feeling into a story where every line, color choice, and panel arrangement builds toward a cohesive whole, lending an air of epic proportions to what would otherwise be a simple tale.” –Library Journal

 “Mazzucchelli is a gifted artist/writer, and as a reader moves through the lush and varied pages of Asterios Polyp, stylistic surprises abound amid what feels like a master lesson in the form and function of design. He delivers a truly transformative tale of love and trust.” –World Literature Today

 
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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Graphic Novels
  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377326
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.2 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Seth T. Hahne on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Reading Asterios Polyp is a daunting experience. Or maybe not so much the reading, which can be accomplished easily enough, but the being able to speak sensibly about it afterward. I feel kind of like how I did after finishing Bolaño's 2666: A Novel, only not quite so out of my depth. Like Bolaño, Mazzucchelli's work here displays a breadth and depth that overtly requires multiple readings in order find ground solid enough to speak with any authority about the book.

But since I've only read the book once, you'll have to be satisfied with my initial thoughts. Asterios Polyp is, in the simplest terms, a coming-of-age story--one in which the fifty-year-old lead, celebrated architect Asterios Polyp, begins a quest to put away the childish things of his past and embarks on journey of both self-discovery and exploration of the world as it is rather than how he has intended to see it for so long. In this aspect, Asterios reminded me of Mr. Ryder from Ishiguro's The Unconsoled, a man at the top of his rarefied field who still must learn to grow up. And like Ryder, Asterios suffers from an inability to see the world as it is and is (really, like us all) victim to his own perceptions.

Reality, perception, and memory play a huge role in Mazzucchelli's work here even as they do in everything I've yet read by Ishiguro.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you've followed the work of David Mazzucchelli then you already know the man possesses far greater gifts than just being an artist. His work on Daredevil defined his hand and his self-published Rubber Blanket defined his passion.

In Asterios Polyp he defines his genuis.

When I'd heard he was going to "redefine the graphic novel" I immediately thought it was press release pretension. But you know, everyone deserves credit for trying. What Mazzucchelli does is makes it look like he's not trying. It flows seamlessly from color to line, to form and shape and before you know it you're really reading words and pictures in a very unique way; yet still familiar.

Anyone who loved Rubber Blanket and Paul Auster's City of Glass will want this book. Anyone who likes smart literature who wants a new challenge for themselves to mix words and pictures will learn to appreciate what comics can be.

This is just another step in the right direction for the medium as well as the man. I hope David Mazzucchelli continues to practice in the medium he makes us appreciate so much.

=s=
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Format: Hardcover
"Asterios Polyp" is a fascinating work of fiction. It demonstrates the depth and complexity that can be achieved within the graphic novel medium, accomplishing philosophically what "V for Vendetta" accomplished politically. It confirms that the graphic novel is capable of conveying ideas and emotions in ways that no other medium can. Despite this praise, however, the final outcome was not entirely satisfying despite being a very enjoyable experience - hence four instead of five stars.

The story begins on a stormy night with the titular character, Asterios Polyp, who though alive has stopped living. The narrative follows him as he copes with loss and struggles to move on while providing substantial background that informs who he has become. Interspersed throughout are philosophical ruminations on life, love, god, time, memory, architecture, etc.

The visual style is simple but captivating. The color palette and drawing style inform the narrative as fully as the text. For example, the emotional differences between Asterios and his wife, Hana, are strikingly represented by the use of reds and blues and mechanical embellishments to figures (occasionally the styles switch or overlap pointedly). Another vivid visual is the introductory sketch of Hana. She stands with hands clasped behind her back, head bowed, and eyes lowered or closed. A spotlight shines beside her illuminating empty space. We learn she has been overlooked throughout life. The picture is worth a thousand words. The same visualization is leveraged later when Asterios compliments her sculptures. A spotlight shines on her as she thanks him, clearly relishing the adoration. But the spotlight slowly pans away from her as Asterios rambles on about his interpretations of her art.
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I'm definitely going against the grain here of the mostly 5-star reviews and "best graphic novel of the year" accolades being given this book. On the positive side the artwork is wonderful. Mazzucchelli uses a number of inventive layouts to try and break the mold of the tradition square panel format of comics. Sometimes it's successful, sometime it just comes across as in exercise in 'look what I can do'. I found it especially disappointing that the lettering felt very computer generated/typeset while the artwork was much more fluid. The story was a little too distant for me, too abstract or academic in its construction. I never felt attached to the main protagonist of the book so ultimately never cared what happened at the end. If I had to sum it up, this book, the art and the story, are almost too smart for their own good and the emotion got left behind in the inventive layouts. Still, I'm recommending it for comic fans because the attempt alone is worth the purchase.
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