Some printed materials seem to defy their genre at the same time as they define it. Ulysses comes to mind as far as novels are concerned, and Spy magazine is surely an exemplar of that medium. These events are few and far between– no one said innovation was easy. It’s not insignificant, then, that the graphic novel canon has recently welcomed a similar opus into its midst with Asterios Polyp.
David Mazzuchelli’s epic tale is intelligent and funny and dense with references to everything from Hermann Hesse to Isamu Noguchi. There’s something for everyone on every page: double entendres cozy up to explorations of language theory; cosmic ponderings share space with pocket analyses of Italo Calvino.
Looks are as important as brains in a graphic novel, of course, and Mazzuchelli’s aesthetic is dizzyingly beautiful. Every stroke has meaning–really, every stroke–and you could easily isolate a random frame and find it good enough to mount on your wall.