Charles Burns is an American cartoonist known for his high-contrast, creepy style.
Black Hole was originally serialized in 12 chapters from 1993 to 2004. It focuses on the lives of high school students in 1970's suburban Seattle. A plague has descended upon them that is spread by sexual contact, causing bumps, peeling skin, disfigurement and worse. The affected students, alienated from their peers and families, retreat to the woods to live together. When they start dying off, killed by an unknown, their fragile harmony is broken.
What really drew me into this book was the earnest, endearing faces of these kids. You see their internal pain manifested by the skin that won't stay on, the grotesque ugliness, the second mouth saying what their real mouth can't. There's so much said about how bad teenagers are but it kills me to see Burns' youth bereft of knowledge of self yet bombarded by family problems, sick with the desire to find friends, love or just physical pleasure.
On the other hand, some are just plain sick. Burns doesn't let the reader off easy - you may think that the teenagers are products of social trauma yet you're left to wonder whether evil is as evil does.
Starkly drawn and sometimes disturbing, Black Hole still offers the best of the characters as well as their worst. Never easy, in turn sweet and horrific, this is a collection that will work you over and turn you onto comics in a whole new way.
Black Hole/ Charles Burns / Pantheon Books/ HC, 2005