Sexual freaks dating

Rob apologizes to her, and she kisses his neck-mouth: “It was warm and salty. He’s been hanging out at a local drug dealer’s pad, and an artist named Eliza who lives in the spare room there has her eye on him — she’s got a tail, and he’s a little turned on by that.Eventually, she has her way with him, and while she’s deflowering him, a piece of her tail breaks off in his hand.

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“Everything’s either concave or -vex,” the Danish poet Piet Hein once wrote, “so whatever you dream will be something with sex.” In Charles Burns’ decade-in-the-making graphic novel “Black Hole,” the natural concavity and -vexity of everything leaps out at you: Nearly every image is a sexual metaphor, with the distorted clarity and mutability of a nightmare.

And sex in “Black Hole” also means body horror, sickening transformations and loss.

The mood of the story moves in a slow, graceful arc from its initial plunge into repulsion to its final glints of hope; every panel suggests that Burns knew what it would look like from the moment he began the book.

“Black Hole” is set in the suburbs around Seattle, circa 1974.

Burns originally serialized “Black Hole” as a 12-issue comic book series, beginning in 1995; a New York Times Magazine article last year offhandedly compared its reputation in the comics world to that of “Ulysses.” That’s not a particularly useful analogy, not least because Burns’ narrative gifts are much more visual than verbal.

The only thing the two books really have in common is a formally audacious structure, with a chronology complicated enough that it takes a few readings to work out.

But she doesn’t realize that she’s got the bug until a week later, when she goes swimming with a bunch of her classmates, who notice the skin splitting open along her spine. I could feel it trembling, fluttering up against mine.” (Burns’ work has a lot of virtues, but subtlety is not always one of them.) Soon, she’s run away from home to live in a tent in the woods, near the bonfire where all the infected kids go, and one day Keith, getting high with his friends, sees Chris’ abandoned skin hanging on a tree.

Before long, she’s realized that she’s repeatedly shedding her skin, like a snake. Keith, it turns out, has been flirting with the bug himself.

The horrors of “Black Hole” are the horrors of high school, just made more vivid.

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