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Turning the Seeming Horrors of Adolescence Into Actual Horror in Black Hole

Welcome to 31 Days of Horror Comics, where I will spotlight some of the best horror comics around, as chosen by a bunch of my favorite horror comic writers and artists around!

Today's creator is Phil Hester, who has been delivering outstanding horror in comics for over two decades, from his classic run on Swamp Thing with Mark Millar...

to his brand-new series, Family Tree, with Jeff Lemire, due out next month...

Being a Swamp Thing alum, Phil naturally recommended some classic Swamp Thing, but he also recommended Charles Burns' Black Hole. As Phil explained, "The startling imagery is so rich and pleasing to the eye that once you realize it's luring you into the witch's oven, it's too late. You'll probably never find such perfect realization of mundane verisimilitude subverted by waves of discordant absurdity outside of your own nightmares." Beautifully explained, Phil!

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The set-up of Charles Burns' Black Hole is so wonderfully simple. A sexual trasmitted disease being spread among teens in the Seattle area in the mid 1970s is literally turning afflicted teens into monsters...well, at least mutated versions of themselves (as some of the mutations are fairly easy to conceal, as we shall see in a moment).

There are a few main characters in the book, but Chris is probably the most prominent of the cast. Here, we see her hook up with a popular kid and Burns absolutely nails the sort of horny awkwardness of these sort of fumbling teenage sexual encounters, but during it, things take a turn when Chris notices something unusual...

Yep, he has "The Bug" and Chris contracts it, as well, which manifests itself when she's out with a bunch of other teens...

That sets up the main theme of the work, about how these mutations lead to the teens being ostracised and how this takes the implicit horrors of growing into an adult and turns them into literal horrors.

Burns' expressive work absolutely nails the inner torments of these characters, especially with the use of dream sequences where he gets to be really trippy with his artwork.

It's a true modern masterpiece.

Thanks for the suggestion, Phil!

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