I tend to read comics that either fall into the categories of super-heroes or cartoony, but today, on the recommendation of a friend who doesn’t read a lot of comics, I’m looking at Charles Burns’s Black Hole.

Black Hole is a high school drama. Only it totally isn’t. Well, actual it’s about not fitting in, sex, feeling like a stranger in your own body and how easy love can or doesn’t drift through your life. So yea, it’s a high school drama.

As I mentioned earlier, I read this on a recommendation. I had picked up and put this book down in stores on numerous occasions. Burns’s art never grabbed me. (I know, I know. Blasphemy.) But I finally DID buy it and I’m glad I did, so it all balances out right?

It’s a good read. The first handful of pages, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. It jumped around a lot, and I couldn’t latch on, but pretty soon without my even realizing it, I was hooked. I was tearing through the pages, went right past the halfway point and I was done. I was even mad at myself for reading too fast, certain I missed details. Obviously, any notions of not liking this book or the art are now understood to be stupidity on my part.

This book is hard to explain. It’s not a different world. It’s like suburbia depicted in countless other works. Teenagers getting high, getting together and being sick of their parents. Unfortunately, these teenagers aren’t worried about such STDs as AIDS, but rather something they call “the bug.” A sexually transmitted disease that creates…abnormalities. Strange bumps all over your body, a tail, maybe just hideous deformation. Watching these characters do what you know they shouldn’t is accompanied by a perverse desire to see what strange form the bug will create from a previously normal person. It’s kinda messed up.

This is a strange story. But it’s more familiar than not. Just because the characters are worried they’ll grow horns doesn’t mean they’re not scared of disappointing their parents, getting pregnant or being alone. Charles Burns somehow manages to take a comic that could easily just be about the bizarre and makes it a perfect example of how to humanize a story and make it look easy. He does such a good job of making this seem like a slice of life tale, that next time you’re at a bar, you’ll probably find yourself wondering whether or not he or she is hiding something other than herpes.