Black Hole

Black Hole

by Charles Burns


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Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the out-set that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s not 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 to 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, 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 anymore, but Bowie was still just a little too weird.

To say nothing of sprouting horns and molting your skin…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375714726
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/08/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 137,291
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 17 - 18 Years

About the Author

Charles Burns grew up in Seattle in the 1970s. Hs 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 set for Mark Morris’s delightful restaging of The Nutcracker (renamed The Hard Nut) at BAM. He’s illustrated covers for Time, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. He was also tapped as the official cover artist for The Believer magazine at its inception in 2003. Burns lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters.

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Black Hole 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Djupstrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have just recently gotten into graphic novels, and I think this is one of my favorites. Burns writes a taught story with unexpected twists and turns. The illustrations are great.
59Square on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Merideth says: This black and white graphic novel didn't make a big impression on me when it first came out. I thought it was an obvious treament of a well worn topic. Rereading it for a project, I think that there is something here. Burns' art is very well done, and there is an understanding of the way teenagers think. However, there is a sexism that runs through this title that unnerves me, and I can't recommend it whole heartedly.
wandering_star on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Before I started Black Hole, I knew that it was about a mysterious plague that affects teenagers. I suppose I was expecting strange occurrences and a sense of growing horror as people begin to realise what is happening. But in fact, when the book starts, the plague is already there: an established fact of life. The teenagers are just being teenagers - copping off with each other, getting stoned, trying to figure out what to do with their lives - with the plague as just another of the shadows that hangs over them.I found this quite difficult to read. Both the grotesqueness of the plague symptoms, and the awfulness of being a teenager, were made much more immediate and disturbing by the fact that they were depicted in images rather than words. (The style of the drawings, monochrome and usually with heavy black backgrounds, and the often grotesque dream sequences, add to the overall grimness - it's not one of those books that you start looking at and instantly want to read).That said, since finishing it, I have kept going back to look through it, and noticed new things. It is certainly a book with a lot of impact. This all sounds like faint praise. It's not meant to be: I think this is a good book. It's just that you need to know what you are getting into.
dr_zirk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I've found Charles Burns' graphic style to be somewhat unappealing in other contexts, there's no denying that Black Hole is a triumph both in terms of its visual and narrative storytelling aspects. Burns weaves a highly dramatic (yet realistic) portrait of teenage angst, with an invocation of a specific locale that rings true - as a current Seattle resident, I find that his method of depicting local weather and topography is easily recognizable, even when delivered in necessarily small doses.I do find that the overall story is somewhat weakened by a series of murders that enter into the proceedings fairly late in the game. This additional dramatic element distracts from the otherwise strong metaphorical plot that Burns delivers, and steals away some of the powerful outcomes that derive from the core of this tale, which is the strange but all-too-familiar world of teenage doubt and alienation. What is so effective is the use of a mysterious disfiguring disease as a symbol for all of the tormented feelings of these characters - in this device alone Burns has achieved something deep, believable, and highly original.
MariaKhristina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was really great. I have seen Burns' work in comic book anthologies and really liked it so it seems as if he is consistent. The novel was a very easy read, flowed really well and the illustrations were fantastic. I really like his stark black and white style. It's also a good cautionary tale, use condoms!
JulieTurley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Burns' lurid black and white drawings unflinchingly illustrate his tale of '70s-era Seattle teens who have been inflicted by a plague that transforms their bodies in surreal and horrifing ways. A riveting metaphor, not only for AIDS, but for adolescence in general.
clstaff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some ideas/concepts/stories simply cannot be portrayed using words alone, Charles Burns' graphic novels fall into this category. Black Hole is such a weird, wacky tale it couldn't possibly be left up to the readers imagination to visualize the happenings within. Without graphics to accompany the thought/dialogue bubbles the book would be a mish-mash of sentences that are grammatically correct, yet somehow don't make any sense. You may need to be a raving madman to enjoy this book, but it is one of the greates stories I have ever read!
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, reading the Avengers book and then this after Understanding Comics definitely helped me realize how much more craft went into this one. In particular, I'm afraid that whenever I read comics from now on I'll be obsessively checking the panel transitions. Oh well.

This is a freaky story about a sexually-transmitted disease in 1970's Seattle that is turning kids into shambling monstrosities who live out in the woods, and how they feel about that. It hits all the angles you want it to hit - changing bodies, self-loathing, taking control of your own life - and would come across as a kind of combination Anastasia novel/Young Werther/That '70s Show if it weren't for the total weirdness of what's happening. The disease manages to be disturbing without being horrific, and it made me wish Burns had treated it a bit (a bit) more realistically - like, I get that this is a psychological story about teens, and the disease is just an externalization of their confusions and fears and the oh-so-jaded, used-up feeling that only a 17-year-old who's done some drugs in an unwise manner and been involved in ill-considered sexual practices and had to get up to a filthy house and wished they could go home to mother knows. (God, it's nice to be a grownup. You go from "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" to "Everybody knows, so let's speak of pleasant things.")

Anyway, I got into this, and that's why I wished Burns had given us some more background, made the disease and the world more realistic - not, like CDC men, but a bit of explanation. But I understand wh that might have compromised the mental realityof the images and the weirdness, and that's a more interesting reality anyway, and so I am content. Also, I really like how the first thing any teen does in these stories when they get happy or sad or, like, gassy or whatever is to go straight to the beach or the forest. We here on the west coast have a powerful ally in keeping ourselves spiritually fed - that being nature, of course - and I suspect that our consumption of pharmaceutical mood stabilizers lags correspondingly. Cascadia!

beccaboben on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
All around great read, great insight into the turbulence of adolescence, even if the teens are suffering from some horrible disease. I like how it's the story of several people, and how they are affected by, and handle the ailments they get.The illustrations were great, love the use of black and white.
spacecat77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Engaging and engrossing
sophroniaborgia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A strange disease called the bug is affecting malcontent teenagers. It's sexually transmitted, and it leads them to develop bizarre mutations that render them outcasts from the rest of the world. There's not much to the story, but the illustrations are incredibly detailed and well-executed. And yes, they are creepy. Some of them will definitely haunt my nightmares for a while.
KarenAJeff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't really enjoy this book.
stephmo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1970s Seattle, "The Bug" is a sexually transmitted disease infecting teenagers in varying ways - minor skin growths, new appendages, tiny mouths, and disfiguring transformations. The story's narration neatly flips points of view between Chris and Rick, two teens distanced and seemingly connected by the bug. The story is both surreal and familiar.Burns cleverly pours every experience of high school and adolescence into the story of Black Hole. Where one will remember the desperation of every crush, the importance of your entire life and the seemingly desperate need to keep tightly defined social circles - Black Hole brings all of this back in vivid detail. if there is a constant in this world, it is that of the teenager needing to hold tight to these archetypes.If there's something else that Burns captures well, it is that year where the teenager slowly allows the growing away from those things they once clung to with absolute desperation. So there are the losses of crushes, learning to recognize caring, shedding of popularity, finding that some won't cope, learning when to leave and dealing with loss...some of it metaphorically and some of it very real.
wsquared on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charles Burns is known for his striking and disturbing comics, which include Black Hole, originally published as a 12-issue series from 1995 to 2005 and now collected as one graphic novel.The story is set in Seattle in the 1970s, where a mysterious ¿bug¿ is infecting the town¿s teenagers and leaving them with often horrific mutations including lizard-like tails, shedding skin and deformed facial features. At a time when most high schoolers are concerned with the weekend¿s kegger, the infected students have to deal with daily ridicule and face a life of seclusion. Even worse, the outcasts who live in the woods have been discovering disturbing sculptures and body parts scattered amongst the trees.Most of the plot features Keith and Chris, biology lab partners, who soon contract the bug and have to deal with the realities of living with its effects. Their stories diverge and intersect until a final shocking event that drives them apart forever. Though the ¿bug¿ serves as a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases, the story is more broadly about alienation and the high school experience of experimentation and young love.
jasonli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Black Hole" is a graphic novel with a dark twist. The story is set around a teenage plague and how various characters deal with its appearance in their lives. It is a part mystery, part sci-fi and part coming-of-age story. Burns drawing style, dark and foreboding, suits this plot perfectly.The supernatural setting is intriguing but the strength of the book is in its portrayal of teenagers: broody, lustful and lost. The presence of sex and drugs also serves well to bolster the story without overpowering it completely. Despite the powerful graphic storytelling however, the characters came off a bit flat and there was no clear climax or ending to the book.Read if: A dark, moody (teenage) and supernatural tale sounds appealing.Avoid if: You're looking for a happy comic book.
rrriles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A coming-of-age graphic novel set in 1970s Seattle, wherein high school life revolves around a strange new STD that leads to horrible mutant-like deformations, written over the course of a decade and yet illustrated with amazingly consistent chiaroscuric inking? Yes please.
devandecicco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting exploration of the brokenness of teenage sexuality and the struggle with identity.
Antholo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's been awhile since I read this, but it hit me. I found the story devastating, the artwork glorious, and overall experience of reading this moving. It's quite shocking, it'll definitely make you uncomfortable. I recommend to those who enjoy such experiences.
rrees on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A disturbing view of teenage sexuality with images that are simultaneously beautiful and repulsive.
jbrubacher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A sexually-transmitted plague goes through the teenagers of a community, who each deal with it in their own way. Sometimes it's obvious they've got it, and sometimes no one knows. Some of them try to deal with it, some try to disappear, some because lunatics.This is a fascinating book with a lot of impressive and often disturbing artwork. I found myself interested in many of the characters, even though a lot of their inner monologue was kind of predictable teenaged emo. The end of the story let it down, because despite the characters and the premise there didn't seem to be a point to it all. It became slightly more gratuitous and there was a sort of mystery, but the mystery didn't really matter in the end.
arsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
what an awesome surprise! i picked this up because of the cover and the inside flap and it totally blew me away. a very satisfying read. psychological horror. i dare say this has been the best book i have read all year. sometimes a graphic novel (i.e. a picture) really can depict an idea so much more clearly than anything else.
grunin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've known Burns's work for decades, and frankly found it too disturbing for me; he has an attraction to themes of body-horror much like filmmaker David Cronenberg, whose films make me queasy. But I bought this anyway because I read that Neil Gaiman was adapting it for the movies, which I took as a very high recommendation. Still, it sat on my shelf for a week before I got up the courage to open it.The graphics are brilliant, of course, and creepy as all hell; but the deep subject of the book is social groups and subgroups, with special attention to stigmas and pariahs. I don't want to talk about the plot, but I will say that the narrative point of view alternates gracefully between two main characters, Keith (male) and Chris (female).The sex scenes seem to bother some people, but considering the subject of the book is the social consequences of an STD I don't see how they could have been omitted. The narrative is open-ended, but as an allegory for AIDS (an unavoidable reading) it makes sense.If you like Cronenberg, you won't have any problem with this.
BrianO on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic. The art is stunning and at times disturbing. The story is a beautiful rendering of the angst and pain of teenage years.
hpfan28 More than 1 year ago
Going into this book, I had my reservations about it. This is one of the first true graphic novels I have read and I was not let down. Charles Burns leaves a lot for the reader to try and decipher the true meaning of his writing.The book likes to jump around when it comes to the timeline, and the reader really has to pay attention to that when they read. Also two of the main characters Rob and Keith look similar. The idea of the virus and having it transmitted through STDs like conditions, reminded me a lot of the AIDS epidemic. There also seems to be a reoccurring theme of water and those who have been mutated finding comfort in it. Overall this story was a fast read and diffidently worked in the horror genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago