By Charles Burns
Olman and I were visiting his sister and brother-in-law this past weekend, and this unusual graphic novel was brought out from a shelf. Right away I was intrigued by the black & white art and the premise of suburban teens in the 1970’s plagued by a horrifying STD that inspires grotesque deformations. I read the entire thing in a single evening.
Here’s a short online review that describes “Black Hole” better than I can at the moment: Black Hole Review
I included this as a 50-booker because “Black Hole” was such a rich and surreal reading experience. It really felt like I had entered Burns’ twisted and hallucinatory world where diseased, outcast teens run rampant in the woods and growing up is like a living Cronenberg-esque nightmare.
Critics liken the strange plague as a metaphor for AIDS, but for me, it’s more like a narrative device to explore the teenage psyche and societal behaviour toward aberrations, which the comic does frighteningly well. Also, the disease doesn’t behave like AIDS and is referred to very vaguely. Once it sets in, the disease doesn’t progressively worsen, or kill its victim. Rather it seems to either transform, or deform, the victim into a mutant-like, almost chimerical, creature.