Ten years in the making, Asterios Polyp (Pantheon, $29.95) has everything literary fiction has: compelling plot, complex characters, ideas, social critique, symbolism, allusions—plus great images. David Mazzucchelli’s colors are brilliant and, with his versatile lines, styles, and fonts, signal a scene’s emotional frequency, flesh out character, heighten drama, distinguish dream from reality, and deepen all kinds of resonances. As for the plot, it’s a late-coming-of-age tale, a love story, an odyssey. Asterios is of the anti-hero tradition, yet he’s oddly affecting despite being arrogant, pedantic, and so inflexible that his dialogue balloons are always sharp rectangles. When he loses everything—wife, career, possessions—and hops a bus for wherever, he starts to put the pieces back together. Many of these pieces come from classical myths (Castor and Pollux, Polyphemus, Orpheus), offering yet more interpretive fun.
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