‘A sleazy, slow-burning, page-turning exploration of a midlife crisis…. He’s not a million miles off [a Noble Prize].’
Thomas W. Hodgkinson, a Spectator Book of the Year
Charles Burns’ graphic trilogy has been hailed as one of the masterpieces of the form. Now readers can find the long strange trip of Doug in all its mind-bending, heartbreaking totality. The fragments of the past collide with the reality of the present, nightmarish dreams evolve into an even more dreadful reality, and when you finally find out where all of this has been going, and what it means ... it will make you go right back to the first page and read it all again with new eyes. Just like Doug.
The long strange trip of Doug reaches its mind-bending, heartbreaking end, but not before he is forced to deal with the lie he's been telling himself since the beginning. The fragments of the past collide with the reality of the present, nightmarish dreams evolve into an even more dreadful reality, and when you finally find out where all of this has been going, and what it means . . . well. I won't spoil it here, but it will make you go right back to page one of X'ed Out and read it all again with new eyes.
Just like Doug.
Doug is still in the netherworld. He's working a cleaning job in the Hive's stinking hallways, trying to ignore the screams, and reading romance comics to the breeders. But as the stories unravel on the page, frame by frame, mirrored memories plunge him back into his waking life. And that's where the real nightmare is.
In Burns's trademark hard-edged style, The Hive is horrifying and completely absorbing: an incredible new installment from one of the most exciting artists in the comics world.
Meet Doug, aspiring young artist. He's having a strange night. A weird buzzing noise on the other side of the wall has woken him up, and there across the room, next to a huge hole torn out of the bricks, sits his beloved cat Inky. Who died years ago. But that's no longer the case, as he slinks through the hole, beckoning Doug to follow. So he does. Now there's no turning back. What the heck is going on? To say much more would spoil the creepy, Burnsian fun, especially since - unlike Black Hole - X'ed Out has not been previously serialised anywhere and will have readers guessing at every unnervingly meticulous panel.
Drawing inspiration from such diverse influences as Herge and William Burroughs, X'ed Out is an engrossing new comic book fever-dream, from a true master of the form at the height of his powers
And you thought your adolescence was scary.
Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area's teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested any number of ways - from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) - but once you've got it, that's it. There's no turning back.
As we inhabit the heads of several key characters - some kids who have it, some who don't, some who are about to get it - what unfolds isn't the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness of it, or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high-school alienation itself - the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape.
And then the murders start.
As hypnotically beautiful as it is horrifying (and, believe it or not, autobiographical), Black Hole transcends its genre by deftly exploring a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it - back when it wasn't exactly cool to be a hippie any more, but Bowie was still just a little too weird.
To say nothing of sprouting horns and moulting your skin . . .
Charles Burns grew up in Seattle in the 1970s. His work rose to prominence in Art Spiegelman's Raw magazine in the mid-1980s and took off from there, for an extraordinary range of comics and projects, from Iggy Pop album covers to the latest ad campaign for Altoids. In 1992 he designed the sets for Mark Morris's delightful restaging of The Nutcracker. He's illustrated covers for Time, the New Yorker and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. He is the official cover artist for The Believer magazine. Black Hole received Eisner, Harvey and Ignatz awards in 2005. Burns lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters.