photo & text by nacrowe
at its heart the graphic novel ASTERIOS POLYP (PANTHEON, 2009) by cartoonist DAVID MAZZUCCHELLI is a visually stunning examination of the METAPHYSICAL nature of IDENTITY, MEMORY and LOVE. the plot deals with a celebrated architecture professor named ASTERIOS POLYP who is renowned internationally for his REVOLUTIONARY designs which are highly CONCEPTUAL and THEORETICAL, as they have never been built. and it is that DUALITY regarding the space between the IMAGINED and PHYSICAL REALITY that underpins this graphic novel.
visually this concept of competing REALITIES is visually represented by self-constructed identities whereby characters are seen drawn in different manners. POLYP is often seen depicted as a DECONSTRUCTED line drawing (which relays his austere, cold, intellectual character) and his wife HANA is seen in full chiaroscuro shading (which exudes her WARM, COMPASSIONATE nature). when the two fall in love their visual depictions are blended. it is quite the VISUAL METAPHOR and wholly effective in translating how opposites compliment one another. or dont. in fact the whole narrative is full of characters that express variations on this theme of DUALITY.
and my understanding is that our sense of IDENTITY is tied to our own sense of individual and collective HISTORY. in a sense we are all solipsists walking through our own SOMNAMBULISTIC reality that only we inhabit, unable to truly pierce those of others. POLYP through his INTELLECT, HUBRIS and occupational standing allow him to interact with the world solely on his terms. HANA on the other hand is NURTURING, EMPATHETIC and COLLABORATIVE by nature, who ironically sees a more complex world based on MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES. she is in touch with the complexity of life through listening and not attempting to control situations, make them bend to her will as POLYP does.
this is fascinating graphic novel that has a coordinated visual aesthetic that thematically matches orbiting themes surrounding DUALITY in a very effective manner. it is the kind of book i will revisit and find new strands and interpretations, i am sure, upon successive readings. i could not celebrate or more enthusiastically recommend this book. a real achievement.