The Hive

Charles Burns. Pantheon, $21.95 (56p) ISBN 978-0-307-90788-2
Burns’s oeuvre is frequently cited as “strange,” but that’s perhaps oversimplifying a world more thought-provokingly described as recognizably like our own, except for when it’s not—and it’s the difference between the two where Burns’s power to shine a light on the darker side of human nature lies. This is the second volume of a trilogy begun in X’ed Out, and as such has an unfinished feeling. We return to Doug, the protagonist, whose recounting of his relationship with a young woman shifts back and forth between the less surreal of the book’s two environments and another where his apparent alter ego works in a dreary factory/hospital providing books to its monster patients. Both scenarios occur in an eerie alternate reality whose visuals exude a sense of uncomfortable, riveting silence that fixes the reader’s attention to the tale’s odd events. Burns’s stark work operates on its own nightmare logic and as a result, flesh-crawling events spew forth in the most mundane of settings. Romance comics, misshapen mutants, reptile men, a nightmare of disembowelment that yields a fetal pig, photographic obsessions and more stake out their territory—the result will stick with readers long after being absorbed. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
Release date: 10/09/2012
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