Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards
The setting: 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 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 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 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…
"Looking at the art in this book nearly makes me cringe. One can’t help but think about the time and dedication put into each panel. Every brush stroke seems carefully calculated to put the reader in a position of discomfort. But I still can’t look away.
The artwork in Black Hole is vital to creating the mood necessary for the story. The book is set some time in the mid 1970’s, and follows several high school students through their uncomfortable adolescence. Burns certainly isn’t the first to cover this sort of territory, but he’s one of the few who manages not to belittle his characters in the process.
Burns raises the stakes beyond that of the typical awkward coming-of-age story by introducing a sexually transmitted disease, which slowly transforms kids into grotesque monsters. Such a metaphor might sound ham-fisted, but Burns sells the premise so well that I accepted it completely. Black Hole is a beautiful, intricate story of friendship and compassion through adversity."