Saturday, October 8, 2011

Black Hole

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Horror (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Black Hole #1-12
Year: 1995-2004
Publisher: Kitchen Sink/Fantagraphics Books, Collected Edition: Pantheon Books
Writer: Charles Burns
Artist: Charles Burns

Hello, readers...

Sorry it's been a few days.  I probably could have finished Black Hole sooner, but I wanted to wait until I had a good opportunity to finish it, have it still fresh in my mind, and be able to sit down and tell you all about it.  It's listed in the "Horror" section of the book and I know the spooky stuff always goes down good for me in the month of October, so let's get right to it, shall we?

Let's start by taking a look at that label that's been slapped on this one. Horror...  I really don't know if I'd call this one horror.  It's got a bunch freaky looking kids running around and some parts of it are pretty eerie...  It's even been said that creator Charles Burns wanted to evoke 1970s horror films with the whole feel of the book...  But for me, it's still maybe a bit of a stretch to call this one out-and-out horror.

The setting is Seattle, the 1970s and I guess it kind of does open like a horror film.  We've got a couple of kids in a biology class, some freaky images of a girl shedding her skin, some other kids smoking dope in the woods.

The premise of the story, I guess, is to examine the lives of high schoolers.  They have their parties, go to their classes, gain and lose loves on a weekly basis, but there's one rub.  There's some sort of sexually transmitted disease going around.  It doesn't seem to be very debilitating and the kids aren't dying from it, they're just getting pretty disturbing-looking mutations and disfigurements.

The strange alterations of appearance are different for every kid.  One has a tiny second mouth on his throat, you can see the girl above with the tail, they can be as mild as some bumps on the skin of the chest or as severe as total facial disfigurement.

As I said, I think I'd file this one under more of a general fiction label.  There aren't any rampant killings, no monsters chasing people around, just a focus on three or four of the high schoolers as they try to get through their late formative years, but now they've got the issue of worrying about getting this disease that might turn them into a freak every time they choose a lover.

Burns examines and makes us care for his characters.  He doesn't kill them off one-by-one like expendable archetypes.

This was another one of those books that I was dying to read.  I'd seen it in bookstores for the last five or so years, heard acclaim heaped by the shovel-fulls, and really, it just looked intriguing.  I thought this would be nothing short of an absolutely stellar five-star read.

Though Burns' art is absolutely stunning, after reading about these kids for a while, it becomes just a bit redundant.

They lament the woes of their teenage lives, party, screw, lament, get high, run away from home, screw, lament, and so on and so forth.  Some moments were really unforgettable, memory-provoking (especially if you weren't the most popular kid at high school), and beautiful.  Maybe the further you get from high school, the harder it is to relate but while liking this book, it wasn't one that I was itching to get back to time-and-again as I made my way through the 300+ pages.

Bottom line, I guess: This book is visually stunning and unforgettable, but one (this reader at least) can only take so much high school drama, awkward sex, and drug trips before it becomes unexciting.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
18 down, 482 to go

Join me next time as I get back to yet another Vertigo comic in David Lapham's Silverfish. We'll then move on to our next Top 10 pick in Gene Kannenberg Jr.'s 500 Essential Graphic Novels with The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

I'm then going to to another set of five books in the same format I have been, with four Best of the Rest picks from Mr. Kannenberg's book building up to a Top 10 pick.  After that, I'm kicking around the idea of doing five or six horror books in a row to celebrate Halloween.  I love reading spooky stuff all during the month of October and I figured that'd be a good way to share some more of my own tastes and habits with you guys.

So anyway...  Come on back if you like what's on the horizon there and take good care of yourselves in the meantime.

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