Published: 2014 by HarperCollins
No. of Pages: 168
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Subthemes: Menace of dreams and aspirations; chaotic effects of consumerism and capitalism
Exploring the primordial landscape of Halahala, replete with absurd creatures and mercurial circumstances, Aspyrus is a tale of the menacing power of aspirations and dreams. Derived from the word “aspiration”, Aspyrus introduces the reader to a dragon-monster hybrid incarnate of dreams and aspirations called Aspyrus. The dragon although naïve in its appearance (almost replicating a soft-toy) is amorphous and is always looking for hosts, and it is in this quest that Aspyrus invades Halahala.
Much like the previous two graphic novels based on Halahala, Moonward and The Legends of Halahala, Aspyrus too takes a circuitous route through the many chaotic tendencies of human nature and society. However, an understanding of the plot is not limited by the knowledge of the previous two graphic novels and the story remains coherent and decipherable even as a standalone graphic novel.
Using Appupen’s unique style of using silent panels, Aspyrus largely explores the menace of capitalism and consumerism in today’s world, the symbolism too, reflects the same. Panels in the graphic novel, give this cluttered, unending and chaotic sense of the modern world and this is largely explored through a protagonist, who is chosen as a host by the dream monster Aspyrus.
In an unending quest to fulfill his desires, often through brands and billboards, the protagonist is a feverish man who frantically runs for everything he wants, largely due to an endless seduction by Aspyrus. The panels are often replete with references to real life—there’s a direct interpretation of Picasso’s famous nude painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon); quite a few panels parody the fairness cream billboards and colas; in a panel we see a businessman inspired from the English businessman Richard Branson; there’s also a panel reinterpreting Ridley Scott’s Alien.
Aspyrus largely remains humorous, satirical, and ironical in its approach. The visual metaphor of menacing and seductive power of dreams finds its accurate representation in the dragon-monster Aspyrus. Whereas, the lack of space in the panels enhances the dystopian undercurrents of the plot. The text is used minimally, only to set the plot in the beginning of the graphic novel.
The plot is largely experimental and doesn’t feel linear, especially the final act where the reader is introduced to protagonist’s daughter who becomes a superhero to avenge her father.
Articulating dystopian elements through visuals, Aspyrus like Moonward, is a graphic novel which requires rereading to grasp the many undercurrents the plot and the art have to offer.
Aspyrus the dragon-monster is a direct visual metaphor for dreams, its represented as amorphous, cute-looking, to give it a seductive appeal much like real dreams.
Billboards, brands, and catchy-advertisement slogans are used to replicate attention-seeking consumerism, whereas capitalist symbolism is evident in the use of space in the panels which show organizations, assembly lines and big factories.