A 250 word (or less) review of the Black Hole graphic novel
By Charles Burns, Pantheon Books
There is something fascinating about the cusp of adulthood. It's this period of intense physical, emotional, and social change all happening at once when people don't necessarily have the emotional maturity to deal with it or the life experience to put things in perspective. It's momentous and frequently awful. Black Hole explores the most horrifying aspects of this life period in a really great and fascinating way. The comic, set in the 1970s, follows a bunch of young people during an outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease that causes grotesque mutations. The mutations are incurable and some are obvious and horrifying, while others are mild and can be hidden. Black Hole features characters already carrying the disease, characters who are in danger of catching it, and the consequences for all of them. Boiled down, Black Hole portrays puberty as a disease and non-conformity as anathema. It is one creepy, arresting, and sexually explicit read that perfectly captures the fear and alienation of youth.One of my favourite aspects of the book is just how transgressive it feels: the way it uses creepy, sexually explicit imagery to create a sense of guilt, uncertainty, perversion, arousal, and violation of privacy just created such a furtive, exciting, on-edge feeling in me. It was evocative of the fist time I stumbled across sex on cable TV, fascinating and exciting but somehow shameful; it sent me right back to my own puberty. Black Hole is a brilliant comic. Just don't read it in a public space.