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Black Hole

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  29,605 ratings  ·  1,462 reviews
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 no turning back.

As we inhabit the heads of several key characters
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 18th 2005 by Pantheon (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

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Well, the art was very lovely, and there were a lot of points at which I was like, "How does his brain manufacture this shit??" which is kind of the ultimate for art in one way, isn't it? But I do wish this had been around when I myself was a bad teenager, because I'm sure it would've affected me a lot more then. Burns does get at some extremely dark and real stuff about the horrific experience of adolescence, particularly that bizarre combo of fear, curiosity, and nihilism that drives so much s ...more
Hunger For Knowledge
Kinkaliciously sexual, disturbingly dark masterpiece of black and white illustration art. Crafted with brilliant vileness, often crossing the lines between smart and too-smart-for-its-own-good, still imperfectly perfect part in the history of graphic novels.

Also posted at:
In truth, Black Hole should probably only rate three stars, but it's such an impressive effort and intriguing concept I'm giving it four. Stylistically, Burns' art is extremely intricate and has a very nice noir quality to it. I have a soft spot for any really well-done horror comic book. Like Adrian Tomine, Burns has obviously taken plenty of tricks from Clowes and Crumb. The strange thing about his art style is that even though it is very slick and eye-catching at first, the more you look at i ...more
MJ Nicholls
I was caught up in that lamentable period of American cinema (has it stopped?) where implausibly attractive actors in their late twenties pretend to be nubile teenage virgins hiding from serial killers or participating in leery innuendo-laden unfunny antics with ex-sitcom stars. Oddly enough this phenomenon was helped along by Wes Craven’s Scream, a film that satirised all the clichés of a genre it single-handedly repopularised—the layers of irony gradually falling away until the reliably bankab ...more
I find myself wondering about the people who read this collection when the issues were first individually released. Did people truly devour each and every story? Were they so enthralled by the end that this collection needed to be compiled? Weren't people concerned about the lack of plot and resolution? Or were people simply lost in the art and their own fucked up memories enough to dismiss the book's faults?

Maybe the story passed over my head. I am willing to admit the chance but I still feel a
ME: Everyone raves about this book. It’s one of like ten graphic novels everyone is supposed to read and love.

Me: It looks creepy.

ME: It’s creepy, but it’s also artsy and intellectual and a big metaphor about something important.

Me: What’s the metaphor?

ME: There’s a scary sexually transmitted disease, so… AIDS?

Me: I’m not buying it.

ME: Well, read it anyway. Trust me. It’ll be worth it.

Me: Okay, but it’s more than just an extended metaphor, right? There’s a real story with a real point?

ME: Just r
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

It's definitely true, that although I personally am a big fan of so-called "comic books for grown-ups," I rarely review such projects here at CCLaP, for a variety of deliberate reasons: because of the medium's sketchy reputation with the public at large, for example, because of CCLaP's emphasis on bei
Creepy, nostalgic and depressing. It read like a bad acid hit. I couldn't put it down even if I didn't want anymore. I was suck in the hole and I really didn't want to be there.
The art work is amazing. The details, hidden bits and suggested images had me staring for long periods like a Hidden Picture puzzle. It was also creepy, creepy faces, shadows, that filled me will a dark sick feeling. The little bits of the 70's shown in the background the music, the drugs the attitude, nailed it. I was a
Ah, the seventies...
What other decade could give us both platform shoes AND Earth shoes? Mood rings, bell bottoms and hideous polyester clothing? Art rock, progressive rock, glam rock, punk rock AND disco?

I was a teenager from 1974 - 1981. I wore ugly clothes and listened to some great music. And yes, I still have my mood ring.
It was not a bad time to be a teenager.

But then again...I was not sexually active.

AIDS had not yet reared its ugly head. The worst sexually transmitted disease you could g
Feb 04, 2008 Cathy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Adventurous readers; not for the squeamish
Recommended to Cathy by: Thompson
Shelves: horror
I don't usually read graphic novels -- especially not gruesome graphic novels about teenagers with bizarre sexually transmitted deformities. But I loved this! Well, "loved" might be the wrong term, but I thought it was incredibly compelling.

With some graphic novels, I've found that the text distracts from the art, or vice versa, but Black Hole is seamless. The art and words equally carry the story. And that art is stunning -- the book looks like one long, detailed woodcut.

For a sometimes graphi
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
What. In. The. Hell. Did. I. Just. Read?

This was weirdly fascinating and morbid. The illustrations were very good, but the story line came through a little slow in my book. Interesting, none the less.
Black Hole is set in 1970's Seattle, WA. The cast is a group of high school teens - most of whom just want to have sex, do drugs and other standard teen-time-wasters. However a mysterious and un-classified STD causes mutations among its victims (i.e. one character grows an extra mouth in his neck, another character grows a tail, etc). These victims quickly become estranged from their families and friends, resort to running away or living alone in the woods, and all feel lost and alone.

May 16, 2008 J rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: comics
When I read a short review of Charles Burns’ new graphic novel, Black Hole, the description of the work it proffered (quoting from the book’s jacket: “the mid-1970’s…a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact.”) made me wonder if the man ever wrote about anything else. When I later read that he’d spend the better part of the last ten years writing and publishing this work in a serial format, I realized that I’d probably read portions of it over that p ...more
Quentin Wallace
I am a huge comic fan, but I normally stick to mainstream superhero and comic titles. This book had a lot of buzz, however, and it was also a bit of a horror story, so I decided to try it out, and I was really glad I did.

There's a lot of social commentary in this graphic novel but it doesn't get in the way of the story. This was one of the most engrossing books I have read, graphic novel or otherwise. I was so deep into the story that when it was over I had to look around and take a second to br
Graphic Novel. It's called the bug. It's a plague, transmitted by bodily fluids, and seemingly ignored by the world at large. In fact, the world of Black Hole is a world almost entirely populated by teenagers, who are the only ones affected by the disease. As in Peanuts, parents are distant figures, rarely seen, and speaking another language when they do appear. Kids get sick, start to mutate, and run away from home. Many of them end up in the woods where a small camp of mutants has formed. No o ...more
Apr 22, 2009 Leah rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who grew up in the 1970s, suburban malcontents, abstinence-only education programs
I found myself deeply unaffected by this book and profounding bored with its metaphorical suburban misery. I don't know. It's some how less unrealistic to me that there is a mysterious sexually transmitted diseases that makes you grow a vaginal-metaphor in your throat or a tail or turn into a dog-face boy than that dozens of teenages from nice suburban homes could develop horrible mutations and disapear en-masse into the woods with absolutely no part of the adult world even noticing.
I didn't
Nate D
Jan 18, 2010 Nate D rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mutated teen runaways seeking escape
Recommended to Nate D by: The back corner of a bookstore in Vermont a decade ago.
In the blackly nostalgic 1970s Seattle of Charles Burns' teen years, a plague is creeping through the high-school population. The Bug is sexually-transmitted and causes unpredictable deforming mutations (without ever granting any powers, in a warping of standard comic storytelling). This eerie premise proves to be not only excellent source material for Burn's stark, disconcerting, woodcut-like inking (perhaps the best in the business) but also a powerful and versatile allegory of all of the anxi ...more
I am one of those awesome people who read this in the single-issue original run, and LET ME TELL YOU it is totally insane reading a series that only comes out once a year. But I did, and I felt creepier with every new issue that came out. I mean, if you've never read any Charles Burns, you will still recognize his style immediately when you sit down with this book. It will totally weird you out, make you feel dirty and like you're on drugs and like holy shit, despite all your nostalgic feelings ...more
When I finished reading all 368 pages of Charles Burns’ graphic novel Black Hole the first thing I thought was, well that three hours would have been better spent listening to Black Hole Sun on repeat.

One again one of the High Holies of the graphic novel realm has left me disappointed. The High Holies, at least in my mind, are the canon of the graphic novel world. The books everyone points to as the best, most influential of the medium. This is a list that I mostly keep in my head and includes t
Nov 06, 2014 Taylor rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who want to try a graphic novel, Seattlites
The is the first and (so far) only graphic novel I've ever read. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, and found it a lot more affecting than I would've anticipated.

Black Hole follows a group of kids in the Pacific Northwest who become infected with "it" - an STD transmitted in any number of ways, all of which you can see outright (i.e. a woman with a tail, a girl who sheds her skin). The way these characters cope and the way they're treated is really remarkable, and certainly a case-in-
Dec 04, 2013 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: comix freaks, Charles Burns fans, surrealist-type mieces
Shelves: comix-novel
Charles Burns' masterpiece reads like a Larry Clark 1970's white trash nightmare where sexually promiscuous stoner teens spread a quasi-AIDS virus that turns them into scary monsters and super creeps.
After an eternity of drawing crazy monsters and chain-smoking Mexican wrestler detectives Burns is at the top of his field as an illustrator and raconteur. Excellent and highly recommended. A+
This reminds me so much, in so many superficial ways, of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, except with a slightly less amorphous (more morphous!) plot. I read it in a night, which was nice, and it made me feel like I was on acid a bunch of times, but overall I don't feel a hundred percent fulfilled with it as a story.
If you want to read a weird comic with horrifying pictures, a plot that doesn't really go anywhere and a completely unsatisfying ending, then have I got a book for you.
Edward Rathke
Just okay.

Awesome concept with some very cool visuals scattered throughout, but it all feels really week. It's like a bad version of Uzumaki by Junji Ito. So we have a strong concept that kind of just becomes nothing. We have a few characters who mostly drift, some side characters who are very interesting but never really reach in and make a noticeable impact on the story.

I don't know. The first, like, 50 pages are so great but it just kind of becomes nothing in the end, which isn't so bad. That
I had to force myself to finish this. In fact, were I not reading it for a book club, I probably would've given up about halfway through.

The virus/plague/whatever thing is pretty silly. It's transmitted mainly through sex, and thus serves mainly to show whether someone has been having sex with one of the infected, thus becoming a social outcast themself. Beyond this isolation issue the plague is not explored, which is stupid. There are many works that explore the theme of teenage isolation, but
Aug 31, 2009 rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to rachel by: daniel
The reason I love horror movies is because the smart ones are cathartic expressions of our cultural insecurities. Particularly our insecurities about sex and our insecurities about the "other," wherein the other is a matter of city vs. rural, black vs. white, straight vs. gay, female vs. male -- opposing conditions that lead to alienation and conflict.

Well. This book is like the graphic novel form of a smart teen horror. It combines its exploration of our public obsession with sexual chastity w
While I am usually a sucker for underground graphic novels and indie comics, this one, for many reasons, is not one of my favorites.

For starters, Burns gets a lot of the power for this book from his grotesque, clinical illustrations of the disease that affects the young population in this town. His graphic depictions of ripping skin, boil-covered faces, and disfigured teenagers are meant to underscore the horror of the disease, but they really only served as distractions from his point.

And that
Charles Burns offers up a somewhat startling concept in this graphic novel. It was pretty gruesome, but, quite honestly, the 'yuck factor' fails to explain why I felt it was so difficult to enjoy reading this book. I utterly engaged with the storyline, in actual fact I felt quite fascinated by his plot and as such I swept through this book in super-quick time; the main reasons I cannot bear to rate this book above two stars is firstly because in this book Charles Burns illustrated and constructe ...more
Jilly Gagnon
Really interesting book that digs its way inside your head.

I feel like this book created a mildly-tense, noir mood early on and never let you go. The heavy pen and ink drawings are part of that; you can't escape them, they're too weighty. The darkness is pervasive--in the story, on the page, even on the heavy sheets of paper my copy came on. The book is dragging you down with every page turn, which creates exactly the mood I think Burns was aiming for: that uniquely teenaged sense of being trap
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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, in 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 restaging of The Nutcracker (renamed The Hard Nut) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He ...more
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“Eliza sitting naked on a pink towel. So beautiful I could die.

Concentrating, all focused in on her sketchbook, but aw, god ...her tail.

Her cute little tail moving slowly back and forth, making a fan shape in the dirt.

She's the one. She really is. I know that now.”
“That was all I needed when she smiled at me, all the other stupid, ugly stuff just drifted away.” 4 likes
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