Black Hole by Charles Burns (2005)

blackhole cover.jpg

L: 6.5/10

M: 7.5/10

Analysis from someone who wants to be brief and wondrous.

Charles Burns is a name I continuously come across at comic book stores. Several times I’ve flipped through trade collections of his work and was always intrigued. Black Hole was a staff recommendation one day, and I had the spare cash to buy, so I did, and it sat on my bookshelf for months and months. The opportunity arose to finally take some time and dive into it.

What drew me to Charles Burns’s work at first was the beautiful lack of color he uses. The tone is set in the darkest of blacks before any dialog is read. The story unfolds quickly, throwing the reader into the middle of sexually transmitted disease-riddled town. The entirety of the series never really explains this virus, besides references to it as “the bug,” and towards the end, an empty feeling begins to arise that you’re going to be left void of any real concrete conclusion or detailed resolution. That’s my biggest hangup with the story, I guess, the characters just kind of weave in and out with no real plans or future. I assume that this story is just a gigantic analogy for teen adolescence and sexual exploration. Maybe if I had consumed this collection of stories when I first stumbled upon it, a sharper connection could have been made.

This book will be a high recommendation for me to friends who believe all comics involve aliens in spandex and millionaires in robotic suits. I will as well seek out more of his work and gladly add it to my bookshelf.

Analysis from a Louise seeking Thelma who feels the cliff coming:

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to comics, I know nothing. I depend on the intellect and direction of my trusted advisor to lead me down the proper path, and with this one, as always, he was spot on.

Charles Burns feeds the “judge a book by its cover” version of me that I so often give into. His artwork is simplistic but expressive and so moody and dark. I honestly don’t think I could have enjoyed the book if it had been full of color. Black and white fit the grimness of the story perfectly. The STD running through a high school transforming kids into twisted monsters or almost animals was never fully explained or resolved in any way, but I stopped caring halfway through. The trotting back and forth between characters held my interest enough that the quick read seemed just too quick. I want more. I want answers, sure, but I want more corkscrew penises and chicks with tails. I want to explore how the disease changes each person differently and why it does so.

Maybe it’s my age that has left me missing the point, which I assume is about teenagers being careless dicks and making life hell for each other. I’m not taking away any life lesson or deep thoughts from this read. I’m happily handing it off to a friend saying, “You’ll love it, but put it back on my shelf when you’re done so I can reread it.” Sometimes that’s the best kind of book there is. Mr. Burns, you’ve earned yourself quite a fan.

charles burns in front of blackhole.jpg
Charles Burns

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