Horror & Hormones | Book Review of Charles Burns’ “Black Hole”

It seems impossible to write a book review of Charles Burns’ Black Hole, a graphic novel compendium of a comics series from 1995-2005. While I was reading the novel, I fluctuated between  so many emotions—wonder, boredom, disgust, fascination, repulsion, transcendence. This is partially because Burns’ novel, now considered a landmark classic in the history of modern-day graphic novels and comics, truly defies categorization. It is almost a Rorschach ink blot where it means different things to everyone. Yet it is absolutely a must-read litmus test for your opinions on sexuality, medicine, infectious disease, love, and the suburban teen experience. Let me back up and try to give you a passable summary. Essentially, Black Hole is about a group of teens in the Seattle suburbs during the mid-1970s. The teens notice an outbreak of strange medical phenomena. For example, they pass out and hallucinate that they are falling into a black hole. Or they meet someone with a tail and don’t really see it as that unusual. People develop tiny mouths on their neck, feet, and back. Other teens have their facial features transformed into furry creature faces. At the same time, the comics focus on a small and select group of these...

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