Bringing on the darkness in Black Hole

BLACK Hots“? Charles Burns l,:"'.l'zi' ....

Charles Burns‘ magnum opus Black Hole does for the teen romance what David Lynch‘s Twin Peaks did for the television soap: it reinvents the genre as a surreal nightmare. In a small, unnamed west-coast America town circa the 1970s an unexplained phenomena known as the ‘teen plague‘ (or ‘the bug‘) is turning the local high school kids into mutant monsters (no relation to the superhero antics of the X-Men mind). One girl starts shedding her skin, another grows a tail, others have distorted faces and skin disfigurements. Outcast by the community, they drop out of school, abandon their parents’ homes and set up camp in the wooded hills above town.

Keith Pearson, a pretty boy who spends his leisure time getting high with his pals, fears there's some momentous change on the way when he experiences a terrible premonition. He can't figure out exactly what that event is going to be, but he experiences change first-hand when he starts banging Eliza, the housemate of his dealer (and the girl with the tail), and sprouts tentacles from beneath his armpits. The “teen plague', see, is spread via sexual intercourse.

On the basis of that, this might be an allegory for AIDS, but Burns is dealing with the older and arguably more widespread problem of alienated youth. Adults play virtually no role in Black Hole: the focus is almost entirely on the stoners, mutants and assorted dropouts. And it can‘t be a coincidence that the story's time frame is the beginning of the end of the hippie era.

The comic's aesthetic, however, is drawn from the two decades previous. The bold black and white artwork recalls film noir, while the by turns gross and beautiful teen mutations hark back to 50$ monster movies. Meanwhile, the occasionally self-consciously cheesy dialogue (‘lt‘s just you and me. . . that's all that matters,’ says looker Chris to hunky Rob) is pure pulp romance fictmi That said. the psycholog'cal overtones and graphic sex in Black Hole are :1 far cry from the innocence r l those old pulp romances.

It‘s a strange, intriguing tale that is both complex and vague enough to defy a single reading (although the final two of twelve issues are yet to be published). Meanwhile, if you want to know what Burns is getting at you car‘. quiz the man himself at COMICA, the festival of international (adult) comic art and literature this month in London. (Miles Fielder)

104 THE LIST ' A .'


LONDON ELEKTRICITY Billion Dollar Gravy " ‘- O...

w‘H‘Ianmo HEAT Do Rabbits Wonder? 02.: to

g‘vu (‘ I , )4 I 'I I ‘7 I r (‘l I 0 (1 .1. I:

SKEME, BIG P AND EXTREMISTS The Introduction a x' coo

SI BEGG Director’s Cut 7: fed-IO...

9 2‘.‘ ..z' z ' ~ ‘I xi) ‘I, 2 I

.4. ; 2:1. I I 1 ' ‘f‘ ('36. ,K r<{,.

SCOTTISH ENSEMBLE Raveland Shostakovnch ooooo

RAYEL .snosr " cu

CHARLA BLEY Looking For America

.m‘l'T .0.