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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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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This is a big, fat pleasure is to be relished. Titular Polyp is a "paper architect," an academician with nary a concrete example of his work. He has also imploded into inertia during a mid-life crisis. From his urbane, abstract, self-created realm he is exiled (by lightning, no less) into the "real world," somehow finding himself working as a grease monkey in the Midwest. Flicking back and forth in time, the story recounts cocksure Polyp's messy past with his wife, Hana (reminiscent of Updike's Rabbit). Polyp's stoical development is a reverse of the usual tame-your-rampant emotions type. Rather, he tempers his previous reticence and aloofness by developing emotions, behaving tenderly toward Hana, and caring for others. The acclaimed artist behind City of Glass, Mazzucchelli here offers confident illustrations that masterfully interweave with the dialog and propel the story forward. Though the characters are cartoonish in appearance, the book's grimy details (e.g., litter; wax dripping down a candle) demonstrate the difference between comics and a graphic novel. Characters differ in appearance widely, each seemingly created by a different artist.-Douglas Lord, Connecticut State Lib., Middletown (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Highly regarded for his work in comics both mainstream (Batman: Year One, 1988) and alternative (his adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass, 1994), Mazzucchelli has been largely MIA for the past decade. His long-awaited return is an ambitious tale of a celebrated middle-aged paper architect that is, one who has never actually built anything. After the sudden destruction of his home by lightning, he abandons his wretched life, skulking off to a small town, where he rediscovers his humanity. 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. The theme of duality recurs throughout the meticulously constructed work, most overtly in the form of Polyp's twin brother, who, despite having died in their mother's womb, plays a crucial role in the proceedings. 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.--Flagg, Gordon Copyright 2009 Booklist