David Mazzucchelli’s impressive undertaking is beautiful to look at, and has some great moments. However, it is ultimately lacking something. It’s the tale of a world class turd, an empty blowhard who smashes everyone he touches. When his life falls apart and the universe takes a potshot at him, he walks away from it all and ends up at a garage in a backwater town.
As the story unfolds, we learn more and more about Asterios and his failed marriage. He reminded me of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character in High Fidelity. Always talking, but whatever comes out of his mouth is garbage. Everything about him seems to be a put-on, a show. He talks loud because he doesn’t do anything. He’s all theory and no action. When he meets a talented but unsure artist, he browbeats her into being his love.
Can a consummate bastard change his stripes? Can he do, instead of just talk? Perhaps. And, at the end of the day, does it matter?
The art is beautiful. It’s the real star of the book. It’s cartoony in the best way, capturing people in styles that reflect their character. The coloring, the shapes, and the panel design all help to further the story and keep the mood right. My favorite bit in the whole thing is the series of pages that highlight little moments of Asterios and Hana’s relationship. Those little memories that remain long after the loves and hates have faded.
This is certainly the sort of thing you can point to when people deride the medium for being all superheroes and goofy stuff. It is an adult story, dealing with adult issues, and complicated characters. Is it great? I don’t know. I enjoyed reading it, but it didn’t “speak to me” as it were. Some parts I found quite effective. Some less so. The ending? Well, it was unexpected, though not completely out of left field.
Author/Artist: David Mazzucchelli
Publisher: Pantheon Books
-Matthew J. Constantine