THE HIVE by Charles Burns (Pantheon), 56 pages, $25.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Returning to the weird world he created in 2010's X'ed Out, American graphic novelist Charles Burns displays his gift for suspense, filling us with dread in just 56 pages.
The story once again shuttles from dream to reality and then to places we can't quite decipher, employing an artistic approach that's both surprising and beautiful.
Doug, whom we last saw entering a strange netherworld after suffering a head injury, is trapped in a freaky cave full of green worms transporting their precious cargo of eggs. He spends his days there delivering comic books to young women known as "breeders." At this point, it's unclear if this is a dream or hallucination. We're kept on the edge, hungry to learn more.
Doug's personal history involves a poignant story about his relationship with his girlfriend and her dangerous ex, who supposedly caused Doug's injury in X'ed Out. Several frames of Doug and his girlfriend talking or strolling through the city are exquisitely drawn, often speaking paragraphs even without a single dialogue bubble.
The second in a three-part series, The Hive ends abruptly, but it's not disorienting. Instead, its sense of creepiness leaves us looking forward to the next instalment, when we can find out more about Doug's dreams (or something else?).
We don't know what is happening exactly. Maybe that's frustrating for some readers, but others will find something refreshingly unique about The Hive.
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