cover image X'ed Out

X'ed Out

Charles Burns, Pantheon, $19.95 (56p) ISBN 978-0-307-37913-9

Fusing the unsettling kitsch of EC horror comics, the storytelling sensibility of Euro-classics like Tintin, and the astute observations about young adults that made Black Hole so engrossing, Burns has turned out a haunting first chapter in what promises to be a spellbinder. The opening pages flip among the various realities of Doug, a young man recovering from a head injury of some kind with only a box of pills and some strawberry Pop-Tarts to speed his recovery. Flashbacks and dreams switch among various scenes: Doug and his hypocrite father; a wild party gone awry when Doug's crush object's crazy (but unseen) boyfriend goes on a rampage; and, most mysteriously, another world—found behind a hole in a brick wall—where dead cats live, worms weep, and a giant hive rules a grim city of deformed creatures. Burns's control of the story is masterful—the recurring imagery make it unclear just which is the reality and which is the dream. His sharply delineated art captures a grotesque yet sympathetic view of kids thrust far beyond a world that they can control or even understand. The only disappointment about X'ed Out is its brevity—the first of several installments, it will leave you begging for the rest of the story. (Oct.)