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THE HIVE by Charles Burns


by Charles Burns

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-90788-2
Publisher: Pantheon

The second volume of a trilogy in which the acclaimed graphic novelist returns to comic-book format while exploring the darkest recesses of the subconscious.

As if the introduction to this series (X’ed Out, 2010) wasn’t hallucinatory enough, this second installment will leave initiates feeling significantly disoriented. And perhaps that’s part of the point, as Burns blurs the distinctions within this anti-narrative among comic books, reality, drugs, masks, nightmare and identity. We’re back in the mind (or life or memory or dream) of protagonist Doug, who pays a visit to the convalescing Lily, hidden in a secret room, where they discuss events or dreams that the other doesn’t remember, and Doug promises to bring Lily romantic comics (with cover typeface in a foreign language) in the Throbbing Heart series. Yet, she (like the reader?) lacks some crucial information, leaving her confused. “It’s so frustrating,” she tells the masked, bandaged Doug. “I’m missing the last two issues and now I can’t figure out why Danny had to leave town!...It drives me crazy ’cause there’s all this new, exciting stuff going on that I can’t figure out.” The craziness extends beyond missing comics issues, as the reader must also contend with gaps, leaps and somersaults in narrative continuity, in a way that subverts the pleasure of reading comics while reveling in the imaginative possibilities. Only nonlinear masochists would want to start with the series here, and only the seriously deluded would anticipate that everything will make sense when the trilogy concludes with its final volume.

A very creative artist lets his imagination loose in the middle of somewhere, where only the most adventurous lovers of graphic narrative might dare to tread.