REVIEW: Charles Burns seeks out dark edge in ‘X’ed Out’

Nov. 19, 2010 | 3:51 p.m.

Charles Burns is back with his first major work since the venereal teen horror of the 2004’s “Black Hole”  and Ben Schwartz, editor of The Best American Comics Criticism,” has reviewed it for the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt from the review…xed out REVIEW: Charles Burns seeks out dark edge in Xed Out

“I try to control it … try to focus in on the good things … waking up with Sarah on a clear, beautiful day … walking with her through Chinatown, the sky impossibly bright and blue. Everything bright and clean and new … but my eyes always drift … I always look down.” That’s how the dream always goes for Doug, the main character of Charles Burns’ new graphic novel, “X’ed Out.” In a Burns comic, you just know things aren’t going to go well from there.

charles burns xedout 1 REVIEW: Charles Burns seeks out dark edge in Xed OutFans of Burns, who haven’t seen a major work out of him since 2004’s “Black Hole,” will be happy to know he’s in fine form. In “X’ed Out,” the first volume of a trilogy, Burns continues his personal mission of finding the limits of creepiness possible on a comics page. It’s a specific kind of creepiness too — that of the messy, grotesque imperfection of being trapped in these flabby, sweaty, bloody, runny, wrinkled, ultimately failing bodies of ours.

Today, Burns may be best known as the monthly cover artist of the Believer. Born in 1955, Burns grew up in the Seattle area and was published early on by Matt Groening, then a student newspaper editor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. (Groening, Lynda Barry and Steve Willis were the school’s other cartoonists). Soon, Burns found fans out East in Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, who published him in their comics anthology “Raw” and later put out his first books, “Big Baby and Hard-Boiled Defective Stories”

“X’ed Out” centers on Doug, a twentysomething performance artist who’s recuperating in his mother’s house from what looks like a brain operation and a break-up. Doug can’t stop thinking/dreaming about Sarah, an art photographer, or the night they met when he did a spoken-word piece as his character Nitnit. Doug is so taken with Sarah, her work and his need to “save” her from a violent boyfriend that his own girlfriend of two years drops him. It’s Doug’s memories, and then seeing them converted into dreams, that dominate “X’ed Out…”


— Ben Schwartz


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