Saturday, May 14, 2005


The Black Hole of Adolescence

The fine folks at The Stranger -- who incidentally deserve immense credit for pummeling local titan Microsoft over and over and over again until the company renewed its support for gay rights -- have a glowing review for Charles Burns's Black Hole, No. 12 in their latest issue:

The story is simple: Teens are starting to catch a new disease, known as "the bug," from having sex. No one seems to die from it, but its effects are sometimes so horrible that they drive the afflicted out of society. There are whole groups of freak kids camping out in Ravenna Park, with faces turned feline, or skeletal with tufts of hair. Others, with less visible symptoms, live closer to the margins of society or even try to pass as healthy, only to be revealed as carriers.... This all may sound like a kind of Northwest version of the Uncanny X-Men, but there are no mutant superpowers here, just sad teens getting stoned, scavenging burgers from the Herfy's dumpster, and flipping through old yearbooks to remember how they used to look.

In this final issue (the series will appear as a graphic novel in the fall) there's an offhand mention that the bug finally clears up and disappears, as mysteriously as it arrived (making it more like acne than AIDS). But not everybody makes it out of those teen years unscathed, and the end of the story feels as menacing and melancholy as its beginning.

I see that Pantheon -- building upon their previous triumph with David B.'s Epileptic -- is slated to publish the complete series in October. Until then, check out the individual issues over at the always-awesome Fantagraphics.

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