Imagine if I Heart Huckabees and The Celestine Prophecy didn’t bathe in their own existentialism, and instead they both just…well, just “were”.  That’s Asterios Polyp.

Written by Dave Mazzucchelli (of Batman: Year One and the City of Glass graphic novel fame) Asterios Polyp follows an ingenious architect through portions of his life.  The story jumps around a lot in time, but it mainly focuses on how he met his wife Hana and what he has done since she left him.  Despite being a multiple award-winning architect, none of Polyp’s designs have ever been built.  One night, lightning strikes his building, setting it on fire.  Polyp quickly (but deliberately) grabs a few personal belongings, and off he goes.

It may not sound like much, but Asterios Polyp isn’t about a storyline…where it really shines is in the cleverness that is on display, both in the drawing style and the dialogue.  The drawing style is similar to rough sketches that have just been touched up a bit…lines appear all over the place, and there is even a heavily black-inked section of the book with no dialogue that follows Polyp through a rather frightening dream.  Polyp’s character design is also very interesting…as he gets nervous, he changes from a crudely drawn person into something resembling a woodblock model outline.  The more nervous he gets, the blockier he gets.

In addition to the subtleties behind Polyp’s design is his wife.  A brilliant sculptor without a lot of self-confidence in her work, she seems to be Polyp’s intellectual equal.  They don’t have a lot in common, however they seem to compliment each other’s existence and way of looking at the world quite well.  Whenever she gets frustrated or angry, she begins to turn red.  As she gets angrier, the environment around her begins to take on a red tinge.  It’s an excellent representation of the energy that seems to radiate from people when they get flustered.

There seem to be no stupid people in Asterios Polyp’s world…everyone has something to contribute (even if, to Polyp, it’s not as important as what he has to contribute.)  Masterful observations of life, the universe, and everything seem to be grasped by the entire population.  Even if someone in the comic appears to be just average, their observational skills are exceptional and their ability to participate in complicated social interaction is present.  Even the young child in the story has his own brand of simple but truthful wisdom.

It’s difficult to convey just how great Asterios Polyp is without having read it yourself.  This is an absolutely amazing piece of work; make sure it finds its way into your collection asap.