#15: Black Hole by Charles Burns

What the fuck did I just read?

If people want teens to stop having sex, this book should be mandatory reading and taught as TRUTH, just like that shit Go Ask Alice book.  It’s a TRUE STORY, kids.  No, wait… I need to apologize to Charles Burns for putting his book with that thing.  I should start over.

Black Hole is the story of the worst STD ever.  It’s 1970-something and teens are becoming mutants and no one seems to know what in the holy hell is going on.  The kids at school will suddenly notice someone has a… thing, and then that kid stops coming to school and no ones knows where they went and what happened.  The… thing seems to be different for everyone.  Webbed fingers, an extra mouth, a tail, and who knows what else.  The lucky ones can hide the disease but others have leave society.  There is no compassion or pity for the infected.  Once you are outed, life as you’ve lived it ends.

The story mainly focus on four stories.  Chris contracts the plague after sleeping with Rob.  She didn’t realize he was infected until it was too late.  She dreams of water and shedding her skin but doesn’t seem to realize what’s happening until one of her girlfriends tells her that her back is changing.  When we meet Rob, he’s already a mutant and is guilty and confused that Chris didn’t know.

Keith, who has been in love with Chris since forever, is shocked that she hooked up with a guy at a party.  He can’t comprehend how someone so clean is now infected.  When he meets Eliza, he is fascinated with her tail and at the thought of losing his virginity to such a mysterious woman.  This part was weird to me though because I couldn’t tell if he knew this was part of the plague.  Either he was so horny that he chose to ignore it, he didn’t understand it, or he is so nice that he doesn’t mind.  Keith is sweet and it’s possible he sees Eliza as a person and not a mutant, but it’s weird that he’s disgusted when he finds out about Chris but OK with Eliza.  Maybe it’s because he knows he has a chance with Eliza and only knew her as having the plague, so he didn’t lose his innocent crush version of her.

Things start to get harder for the mutants.  Chris has to leave home and moves into the mutant camp in the woods.  The infected teens with the most deformed bodies have found a place to hide and are taking care of each other the best they can.  There are people who will hurt them so they try to stay invisible.  Rob stays with Chris when he can, but since he can hide his mutation he’s able to stay in school and pass as normal.

And then someone starts murdering mutants.

The thing that bothered me the most about this book is that there are no parents.  Yeah, I’m totally fine with kids picking up a STD that makes them a mutant, but c’mon… where are the grown-ups?  However, this follows a lot of 1970’s teen fiction I’ve read.  Clearly this was a time when adults were doing their own thing and teens were free to get as fucked up as possible.

The artwork is beautiful.  The comic looks like it was done by woodcut.  It’s inky black with harsh lines.  Some of the pages look like Burns poured ink onto the page and worked out his visions in swirls.  It’s amazing.

It’s interesting to see how different people read into this book.  Some see it as a metaphor for AIDS.  Others say it’s a warning to teens against drugs and sex.  Others say it’s just any other regular teen age sexual awakening, except, you know, with tails.

My one complaint is that there’s no introduction of the plague.  I think I read the back of the book first which explains what happens, but in the comic itself, it’s just sort of there.  Because it’s told from the POV of teens who are already in the reality, they don’t stop to discuss what’s going on.  I wish there was an introduction of what happened before.

Woah!  Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary are writing this into a movie!  How in the fuck is that going to work???


2 responses to “#15: Black Hole by Charles Burns

  1. Pingback: pyrajane’s review #15: Black Hole by Charles Burns « Cannonball Read IV

  2. I felt completely jilted at the end. Why the hell was “Rick the Dick” killing people? How did no one find Rob’s body? I liked the artwork and the writing style but the plot didn’t do it for me :/

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