Comic: "Black Hole"
Published by: Fantagraphics
Written by: Charltes Burns
Artist: Charles Burns

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 3/2/2008

Plot: In the 1970s, a mysterious sexually transmitted disease known only as "the bug" spreads across the youth of Seattle's suburbs, leaving teenagers horribly mutated, turning them into social pariahs.

Review: Black Hole is a great and bizarre story about the awkwardness of being a teenager and the transition into adulthood, told via the metaphor of a (mostly) sexually transmitted disease that leaves all who catch it horribly mutated. In this way all sexually active teens who catch the disease cannot hide it from their parents, and most of them, unable to hide the shame of their often disgusting physical mutations, flee to live in the woods outside of town, gathering at an encampment known as "the Pit". They become outcasts, looked down upon not only due to their mutated and contagious condition, but also because of their promiscuity.

The story follows two main characters, Keith and the girl he has strong feelings for, Chris. Keith soon discovers that Chris has been infected with the disease, though lucky for her, her mutation is not as obvious as most. Initially Keith feels crushed by the fact that Chris is diseased, thus broadcasting her sexual impurity. The girl that he felt was so pure and perfect has been around. But Keith soon feels that if she's diseased, maybe no one else will want her and he has a better chance at getting her. Unfortunately for him, she's already in love with Rob, the guy who gave her the disease in the first place.

I don't want to say too much, but let's just say things work out okay for one of them and well, not so well for the other. The story deals with all kinds of themes like what impulsive teenage love can do to someone, isolation and alienation, shame, the confusion of drifting aimlessly through life with no plan or purpose, sexual awakening, and unrequited love. Not quite happy, not quite sad, Black Hole is a story about the messy, confusing nature of life and all the trouble that comes with it.

If the story has a weakness, it's that some of the dialog comes off a bit hokey, but that may have been the intent of Charles Burns, as he has said in interviews he tried to capture the look and feel of 70s horror films like "Halloween" and "The Last House on the Left". Black Hole is by no means scary, but it is fairly creepy and disturbing.

Burns has a clean, heavy-on-the-inks art style that's pleasant enough to look at, though sometimes the material he's depicting is anything but. My only complaint is that some of the characters have similar faces and hairstyles, so at times they were difficult to tell apart early in the story, until I got used to Burns's style. If you're not comfortable with lots of nudity (including lots of male nudity), this is probably not the story for you, but with the subject matter involved, to shy away from showing us the horrors involved, it would have diluted the power of the story.
I've heard that David Fincher has been tapped to direct the upcoming film adaptation of this story, and while I think he's definitely a good choice for the kind of visual element required, I have to assume they're going to water down some of the images in order to get an R rating, which would be disappointing, because a story like this should be absolutely unflinching.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Pickleman's Uncle
Mar 3rd, 2008, 01:16 PM
It's like a version of X-Men where everyone is horribly deformed but don't get any cool powers.
Mr. everywhere
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:38 PM
o_o is she kissing that guys mouth in his NECK????
Mr. everywhere
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:39 PM
or wait it looks like a vagina......ew
Mr. everywhere
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:40 PM
protoclown can you shed some light on this?
Blah blah blah
Mar 3rd, 2008, 03:05 PM
Yep, that character has a little mouth in his neck. It sometimes talks while he is asleep, and yes, she is kissing it.
This is probably my all time favorite graphic novel, so I am very worried about it being ruined in movie form. But David Fincher (if true) is a damn good start.
Spiteful Jerk
Mar 3rd, 2008, 03:12 PM
this sounds incredibly good. I'll have to check it out.

At such a small resolution, though, that mouth looks like a neck-vagina. That makes me feel funny.
Smooth Operator
Mar 4th, 2008, 02:10 AM
Originally Posted by Magic Flyin' Lemur View Post
this sounds incredibly good. I'll have to check it out.

At such a small resolution, though, that mouth looks like a neck-vagina. That makes me feel funny.
I know I'm not the only one thinking it, so here goes;
That gives new meaning to the term,"deep throat".
From the Home of MST3K
Mar 4th, 2008, 07:59 AM
I can't help but wonder if the "OMG U R EVIL CUS U HAD SECKS" angle isn't talking about the AIDS crisis as well.

Though I'll need to read in-depth before I can decide...

You're recommending these faster than I can acquire and read 'em!
Crazed Techno-Biologist
Mar 4th, 2008, 06:52 PM
thats god awful. Im a frim believer in the ourity thing, mostly because health made me freak out over all tyhe std's plus its traditional moral. poor poor them.
drifting in the void
Mar 5th, 2008, 04:42 AM
Hmmm...if Teenage-Sex would be able to provide me with...letīs say a useful tentacle from the back of my neck...interesting...sadly Iīm too old for teenage-sex ^^
Mar 5th, 2008, 08:26 AM
Haha, sounds good man.
40 pound box of rape?
Mar 5th, 2008, 04:00 PM
You guys totally need to review Parasyte
Mar 5th, 2008, 09:11 PM
Man, this sounds like a great comic. What would I do without you, I-Mockery?
Mar 6th, 2008, 04:16 AM
i was expecting something with v.i.n.cent in it man
The Goddamned Batman
Mar 7th, 2008, 12:10 AM
Executioneer: Alas, it was not meant to be.

Creepy-critters: I'm not familiar with Parasyte. Can you give me any info?

incognit000: Oh, there's no doubt that Burns was tapping into the whole AIDS scare angle for his story. It's not so much that he's being preachy though as he is making commentary about society.

fluffkomix: Krish-0 speaks truth, it is a tiny neck-mouth, and it is creepy. The comic is full of bizarre phallic and vaginal imagery.
Vigilante All-Star
May 18th, 2008, 11:19 PM
I JUST finished the book, and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. I had seen it in the store for a while but it wasn't until I read this review that I had decided to pick it up.