Wednesday, 30 March 2011

30/111 – Black Hole by Charles Burns

Just a little something to bear in mind before I get started with this review: the quality and frequency of things on here might be a little limited over the coming weeks, as I’m having some personal problems as well as my continuing (and seemingly unending) state of unemployment. I want to keep on doing my best with this, though, and so I will try. So far I’m enjoying this little project of mine very much and I intend to continue with it.

Black Hole was pretty fantastic. Set in the 1970s, it follows four loosely linked teenagers. They are beset with all the usual drama associated with being a teenager, like friendships, relationships, drugs and discovering who you are. However they are also plagued by a different problem. A disease, known only as ‘the Bug’ is spread amongst the teenagers by sexual contact, which means it spreads pretty damn fast. The Bug is accompanied by a colourful array of symptoms such as strange dreams and odd mutations – one girl develops a tail and a boy develops an extra mouth on his throat, which seems to speak only his darkest fears. Most disturbing, the Bug causes those people with visible mutations to be cast out from society, and the misfits all live together in a campsite in the woods. Their shared disease does not, however, automatically lead to harmonious living, and there are some frightening things that occur in their new community.

The artwork is gorgeous. It’s black and white, but heavily black, and there is a wonderful sense of precision. So crisp. I also really liked the inner-monologue style of the narration, too. I don’t think that’s something I've ever really picked up on in a comic before, or if it was there, maybe I didn’t notice. It’s also remarkable how well done it is without the tone becoming whiny or self-pitying, which is how I tend to view teenagers.

Black Hole is obviously a metaphor for growing up and emerging into adulthood, and there is also a lot of stuff about sexual awakening, too, which I hadn’t expected. Burns handles it really well, and both the male and female characters feel real and evoke a slightly painful nostalgia for the special hell that is adolescence.

I really, really enjoyed this. Totally spellbinding.

Next up: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill 

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