Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Seventies Were Heady Times

The first book I tackled in the Remi Treuer Reading Project was Charles Burns's Black Hole. The book centers around a suburban Seattle community where the local teenagers are contracting an STD called "the Bug" that turns them into monsters. Literally. One character has a second mouth on his neck that talks, some of them sprout horns, another character has a tail.

Black Hole engages several intensely compelling issues: sexual ownership, contagion, and guilt, alienation based on class and looks (the mutated kids eventually subvert this by squatting in a suburban tract house, the ultimate in manicured middle class-ness), and liminality. Of particular interest to me is the story of Chris, the popular girl who gets the Bug and goes a little crazy. The story is really fun, too. There's a murder mystery, a love story, and it's scary as hell.

I made a mistake, though, when I read the book. Remi told me to take it slow, and I read it in one sitting. I lost a lot of the nuance of the art when I did that, which is a problem I have with most comics, but Black Hole has such rich art that it deserves a deliberate reading. The art is really the star of the show, which is a good thing, as it is a comic. Every frame is nearly pitch black, with the sparse flickers of light making every face look like a deformity and every deformity look even more deformed. I unfortunately didn't take the time to really enjoy this and absorb what it means, so I'm giving the book a second read when I get through a couple more in my stack.

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