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Sugar Skull

(Last Look Trilogy #3)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,060 ratings  ·  137 reviews
The long, strange trip that began in X'ed Out and continued in The Hive reaches its mind-bending, heartbreaking end, but not before Doug is forced to deal with the lie he's been telling himself since the beginning. In this concluding volume, nightmarish dreams evolve into an even more dreadful reality...

(With full-color illustrations throughout.)
...more
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by Pantheon (first published September 4th 2014)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,060 ratings  ·  137 reviews


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Jan Philipzig
Gorgeous, Obsessive, Nightmarish

Charles Burns’ X'ed Out-The Hive-Sugar Skull Trilogy feels to me like an amalgam of all my personal obsessions, which in itself is a little scary: thick, clean, stripped-down lines – check; lots of soothing black ink – check; a fragmented narrative that subverts this soothing effect by messing with my mind – check; neurotic and obsessive compulsive behavior – check; doomed romance and psychological horror – check; punk rock and visual culture – check; some postmod
...more
ΕιζΝιnΕ
Are Junkies the Anti-Tintin? Yeah... sort of. The boy-reporter is the essence of a youthful independence and powerful curiosity, driven by a fearlessness, optimism and altruism that should be fucking obnoxious, rooted as it is in Georges 'Herge' Remi's own adolescent association in the Belgian chapter of the 'Boy Scouts'... back when the Boy Scouts were bad-ass motherfuckers, instead of profoundly lame do-gooders in painfully gay outfits. For all those proud Scouts: I'm kidding. No Boy Scout in ...more
Sam Quixote
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Dear me. By the end of The Hive, Charles Burns cranked this beauty up to top speed - then in Sugar Skull he ran it smack into a brick wall.

Sugar Skull was an immensely disappointing let-down to what has otherwise been a fascinating series. Charles Burns explains everything in this final volume of his X’ed Out Trilogy, which is something you’ll either appreciate, because you hate any ambiguity at the end of a story, or dislike because that’s not consistent with the way this has been written thus
...more
Dave Schaafsma
I think this is a fine conclusion to this three volume work, beginning with X'Ed out, continuing with The Hive, and ending here with The Skull. It's a terrific and carefully done story, the specifics of which I won't reveal as they would give away too much. I initially gave the first volume, X'ed Out, three stars, as I found it seemingly deliberately confusing and disturbing, but I came to see how it all worked to tell a pretty coherent, if bizarre, tale of a pretty ordinary loser named Doug. Th ...more
Anthony Vacca
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fitting end to Charles Burns's trippy, melancholic trilogy of comics, starting with X'ed Out, followed by The Hive, and now hitting its final somber notes in Sugar Skull. Expect no grand epiphanies or show-stopping reveals between these two cardboard covers: the narrative winds itself down to an inevitable but tonally consistent denouement. In all honesty, and with my hindsight goggles firmly in place, I'm not sure these three comics stand well as separate, self-contained pieces of a whole. Wi ...more
Greg
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this series. It was hard to make a judgment call the past few years with only the first and second volumes of the story to go on. But it was an interesting way to release it, almost as if the fragmented way readers had to intake the story mirrored the fragmented nature of Doug's drug-saturated and ambiguous tale (whoa trippy, man). First off, the book is beautiful. Burns' art has never looked more vibrant. I'm not used to seeing his work in color, so that's a treat. The whole 'dow ...more
Barry
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review originally appeared in Shock Totem 9 as well as on the Shock Totem blog: http://www.shocktotem.com/01/07/2015/...

The concluding volume in a haunting graphic novel trilogy, Sugar Skull concludes the hallucinatory, heartbreaking, hilarious, and mysterious odyssey begun in X’ed Out and continued in The Hive.

Like all of Charles Burns’s works, including the acclaimed graphic novel Black Hole, the Xe’d Out trilogy features the same starkly-penned, startlingly-detailed drawings, but with on
...more
Ill D
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I've been a definite fan of Charles Burns ever since I picked up and read Black Hole in a single sitting. Never was I so utterly impressed with such rich artwork implemented with such a starkly simple palette of black and white. This truly warped bildungsroman with equally fantastic art definitely deserved the Eisner it picked up.

As impressed I was with Black Hole, I've struggled to locate as much as enjoy his other works in the canon. His idiosyncratic themes of the overlaps and divides between
...more
Karel-Willem Delrue
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love Charles Burns.
I love trilogies.
I love Tintin.
I love fragmented storylines.
I love immersive imagery.
I love the eerie and the uncanny.
Then what's not to love about the X'ed Out trilogy?

The beautiful soothing order of the accurate, thought-out lines and the lively colours grasp the chaos of the world around us, making it somehow tolerable or acceptable. Burns created a maelstrom of images, a mosaic of story elements, a nightmare of the unseizable and the grotesque. The shards of his story sh
...more
Texasshole
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had to go back and up my ratings of the first two books after reading this. Not that they weren't always great on their own, but there was always that lingering fear that perhaps the finish wouldn't be sufficient to the build up. Not that I don't have faith in Burns, but hey, it's always a possibility.

And initially, I kind of felt that way in the smallest, most tiniest amount. Given a thorough re-read, accompanied with reading the series all the way through, really drives the spike home. And t
...more
Peter Landau
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When I was in elementary school there was a girl in my class who, to my juvenile eyes, was the most perfect and beautiful creature I’d ever seen. Therefore, I concluded, she must be a robot. No human being, inherently flawed and full of fluids that often leaked out of porous skin bags, could attend such perfection without there being a catch. The catch, of course, was in my own perceptions. I see Charles Burns as an artist who has attained unattainable standards. His hand is steady as a machine, ...more
Dan
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
The X'ed Out trilogy packs a lot of punch in very small packages. This morning I reread the first two books before reading Sugar Skull and they really are brilliant. They layer story on story in a way that is genius and cinematic. Most people run into something weird and they think of David Lynch, but these books are much more William S. Burroughs, and by extension David Cronenberg. Strange, tragic, disturbing and smart. As you read them it seems almost impossible that they can be so detailed, s ...more
Lee Foust
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dreams into which we escape, dreams even more sordid and distasteful than the maudlin realities we live, our fear, our constant retreat. This is the anti-love comic.
Jon Nakapalau
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a great trip...would love to get feedback from Ram Dass, Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary on what it all was about.
Ryan Werner
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a reader who doesn't necessarily figure out what it is I want until after I've already got it or not, this was a good ending for me even if I leave it feeling somewhat unsatisfied. (Thinking critically about trades of comics is a weird process.)

I believe there needed to be a strong, concrete event/series of events that held this story together. That decision on Burns's part I'll stand by. It's just unfortunate that it means we've been handed something borderline mundane as that pivot point, d
...more
D.M.
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sometimes there are books that I just never want to end, though I feel sure I would be disappointed if they kept going. This latest trilogy from dark-comics master Charles Burns (preceding this volume were X'ed Out and The Hive) is a classic example of this. Though none of the worlds he's created herein are particularly pleasant ones, he has crafted them so perfectly and filled them with such involving (if usually repellent) characters that it was painful to see the end coming. Fortunately, the ...more
Jaymee
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
I gave the first two in the trilogy a 4-star rating and this a 5, and I don't think that's quite fair, because the three books really have to be read altogether and shouldn't be rated individually. Anyway this got a 5 simply because it's the conclusion to a satisfying story. The artwork is stellar, the story beautiful, and Charles Burns makes an impression once more (I read his Black Hole). Being a fan of surreal art and story, I naturally gravitated towards this, and it's usually a hit or miss ...more
Julie Rylie
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphics
It ends really suddenly... It really gives you the feeling it will not end like this but there is no chapter after this one -_-*

I liked when you start understanding what this parallel universe is about. It is actually his life story but in an alternative universe or in a metaphorical way. I still freaking love his graphics, are one of the best ever.
Adam
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
freaky and beautiful. really freaky and really beautiful. narrative not that awesome characters are bizarre but not all that interesting. something wonderful to look at, but story is weak. four star review is testament to how beautiful I found it.
Emilia P
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comic-books
Feh. Burns set up a really great other-world and real world story, and then this comes along and kind of throws away the dream world and wraps up the real world story in the most obvious way possible. Suspense fizzled. Lame.
Koen Claeys
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A surprisingly touching ending of this mind-blowing story. Brilliant!!!!
Mckenzie Ragan
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read X’ed Out and The Hive years ago and was blown away by the artwork, as I always am with Charles Burns, but didn’t have the sense of closure I needed to fully decide how I felt about the story, although I was mesmerized by it to that point. A while back I found used copies of both, plus Sugar Skull and finally got around to rereading the first two and reading Sugar Skull for the first time last night. I think all three are collected in one volume now. So now that I’ve read the full arc I fe ...more
Robert
May 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
ANY indication - ANYWHERE on the book itself - that this was the third in a series would have prevented me from wasting time on a volume that on its surface seemed interesting before quickly drowning unsuspecting readers in easily avoidable confusion.
Abigail Monhollen
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now that I have finished, it makes a lot of sense. The writing is superb. I don't know if i'd recommend the quick series to someone, since it drove me crazy there for a second. But I can say now that it was good. ...more
Donald Armfield
A sad ending, but yet it looks like the beginning of something else.
Charles Burns has a very interesting style.
I dig!
Craig
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels
Beautiful to look at, but too much of a "dude" cliche reveal. Yawn! ...more
Mateen Mahboubi
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
The art is great throughout the trilogy but the great reveal and ending really are disappointing. Burns had really set up something with the parallel worlds but ultimately I felt let down with where we end up at the end.
Matt Graupman
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it
"Sugar Skull" closes out the surreal trilogy Charles Burns began with "X'ed Out" and continued in "The Hive." Reviewing the series is a very difficult task, however, like trying to rate someone else's dreams. As a whole, it's a provocatively psychedelic work but, in its serialized form, it ultimately felt kind of hollow.

Burns is a master of unsettling, horror-tinged art and that's what sticks with me most from this story: the alien landscapes, the weird fetal pigs, and the strange characters. As
...more
Peyton Van amburgh
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(this is a review for the whole trilogy of which this is the final book)

Holly Hell. Throw on your 3 favorite psych records and sit down on the couch for an unforgettable experience. Essentially 2 stories in 1, the first a boy-meets-girl story, the second a psychedelic nightmare into an alternate reality. Like Black Hole, Charles Burns has an innate skill at creating nightmare-fuel based on genuine heartbreaking emotion. It all feels based in real experience. Here's hoping once David Fincher, fel
...more
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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

Last Look Trilogy (3 books)
  • X'ed Out
  • The Hive

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