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Black Hole

(Black Hole #1-12)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  43,746 ratings  ·  2,425 reviews
And you thought your adolescence was scary.

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 i
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 12th 2005 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  43,746 ratings  ·  2,425 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
Dave Schaafsma
Adolescence as Disease

Charles Burns’s Black Hole is a strange and somewhat disturbing graphic novel depicting some teens engaging in drinking, smoking pot, and sexual acts. Ho hum, eh? It is also one of the best graphic novels and novels of any kind of the new century. If a “black hole” is the effect of gravity pulling so hard on a site in space that light cannot get out, the black hole of this particular summer of sex and drugs looks at times like it is a vortex you could not recover from. I wa
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
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This graphic novel is so weird and twisted . . . yet, at the same time, makes so much sense. The first image below is just a taste of what you are getting into if you give this a try.

Standard adult graphic novel warning: the images in this book may be too disturbing for some. There are depictions of violence, sex, nudity, disfigurement, etc. Just putting that out there so if you see my 4-star rating and think that you usually agree with my ratings so you decide to try it, you don't come back to
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

We watched Riverdale recently, The CW's newish series based on the Archie comics, and I found it a frustrating experience. It had all the elements that I normally love – namely, small-town America, murder, secrets and sexual tension among high-schoolers – and yet it didn't go nearly dark enough or deep enough to really hit the spot. I was fretting vaguely about these themes for some time afterwards, and when I saw a copy of Charles Burns's Black Hole in a bookshop, I realised that it was exactly
Elyse  Walters
Flat on my back laying on the carpet - swinging my feet in our TRX stirrups... ( its comfy - don’t knock it)... my mind is swimming.
Feet swinging - mind swimming. I’ve never read a graphic book like this!!!!

WORDS OF WISDOM: ... haha... not from ‘me’....
READ David & Glen’s reviews ....or others ....
They rated this book 4 and 5 stars.... wrote cohesive intelligent descriptive excellent reviews.

Me? Yikes ... I have no idea what to rate this book let alone what to write about it....
other than for
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"You guys sound ****ed up . . . What're you on, anyway?" -- 'Jill's older sister,' a minor character coincidentally echoing what I'd like to ask the author after finishing this book

I was hoping to have a good time reading Black Hole - thinking it would be something like if Stephen King wrote his version of the screenplay for Dazed and Confused - but instead it left me creeped out (and not in that squicky fun way that occasionally works for the gross-out modern horror stories), bored and disappoi
Dan Schwent
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, 2019-comics
A sexually transmitted disease is infecting teenagers, a disease that mutates anyone that catches it. But what happens to the people who catch the teenage plague?

I'm a recent convert to Charles Burns so I was eager to try this, his multiple award winner. The awards were totally justified because Black Hole is awesome.

Set in the Seattle suburbs of the 1970s, Black Hole is the story of teenagers caught in a black hole of sex, booze, drugs, and a plague that inflicts mutations on anyone who catches
Greta G
Black Hole is not about depression, but it nearly gave me one!

Alienated teenagers. Teenage angst. Coming of age. A plethora of drug abuse and sex.
Not my favourite topics to read about, but the story was strangely intriguing.
And nightmarish. I hope I can sleep well tonight...

I don’t dare to recommend this disturbing book to anyone.
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comix, horror
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
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
Glenn Sumi
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-books
I finished Charles Burns’s graphic novel in the middle of the night, and wow… I gotta say, it lingers like the tail end of a surreal, disturbing dream. That’s fitting, because a lot of the book’s characters feel like they’re caught up in a nightmare too.

Black Hole is like the offspring of director David Cronenberg and YA novelist John Green. It’s simultaneously a look at the cliques and factions in high school, a frank examination of suburban anomie and a horrific response to body anxiety before
Tina Haigler
The fuck did I just read? It was like Dazed and Confused had a baby with The Twilight Zone...

This book was interesting but it was like reading about someone on an acid trip that slowly went bad. It's set in the 70's and there's a sexually transmitted disease that causes physical mutations (a tail, a mouth where it shouldn't be, etc.). All of the main characters are teenagers, and it mostly follows two narratives, one girl, one boy. Things start off not too bad for the teens, but things change, a
MJ Nicholls
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jack Tripper
Charles Burns' Black Hole is not just one of the best graphic novels I've read in the past few years, it's one of the best novels period. Taking place in suburban Seattle in the 70's, and featuring rotating POV's of various high-school students, Burns' top-notch writing, characterization, and artwork perfectly capture what it's like to be a teenager, complete with all the fears, insecurities, triumphs, and tragedies that seem so important at the time.

But there's a surrealistic, nightmarish eleme
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novel, horror
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I guess I just expected more..? This was very strange and very boring and the plot never really went anywhere. Some of the images were very creepy and terrifying which is what I wanted from this but the story was not compelling at all, and I found myself skimming most of the story. The ending wasn’t satisfying at all either (if that’s even considered an ending really...?)

This has some really creepy imagery but other than that the story itself is very uninteresting.

Book 2 of the Spookathon is co
Matthew Quann
I like to think I've read a lot of comic classics, but I always found myself putting off Charles Burns' work. Black Hole and X'ed Out became books I'd flip through when walking through bookstore or comic shop isles. I'd note some impressive line work, tripy-looking art, and move on to whatever else caught my eye. Luckily, all the stars aligned when I found Black Hole in a late-night comic store encounter for an irresistible $12.

I'm glad I finally got the chance to see what all the hype was abou
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. ...more
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
There's something both claustrophobic and cinematic about the black-and-white art in Black Hole. It demands concentration: in many panels, multiple characters, with their epicene seventies haircuts, appear identical unless you look carefully. It evokes quiet but expansive sounds, like the wind stirring a field of tall grass at night. It's intense, something to be measured out in small doses, and I can see how it would have been perfect as a serialised comic; in a single volume it's perhaps a lit ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a weird one. At times, it’s almost TOO all over the place, at least in terms of a focal point, but really, that might be the idea. It’s a world where sex causes hideous body mutations, and the stigmas and fear these new changes bring. This is a coming-of-age story to be sure, but tone and atmosphere are the driving forces here, as we explore each character’s budding alienation. Often disturbing metaphorical imagery is made all-the-more palpable by thick, shadowy illustrations. There is c ...more
Oct 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sexy beasts
Can't believe I've never remembered to put this on my shelves. I love this graphic novel, which turns teen sexuality (and terror of same) into a metaphor that's, like, Hawthornian in its perfection and simplicity. ...more
Apr 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2019 reread:

God, this book is rough.
Original review:

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 an
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.
Quentin Wallace
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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

Other books in the series

Black Hole (10 books)
  • Black Hole #3
  • Black Hole #4
  • Black Hole #5
  • Black Hole #6
  • Black Hole #7
  • Black Hole #8
  • Black Hole #9
  • Black Hole #10
  • Black Hole #11
  • Black Hole #12

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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.”
“It was finally all out of me... I was as pure and empty as the flames moving in front of me.” 9 likes
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