From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Fusing the unsettling kitsch of EC horror comics, the storytelling sensibility of Euro-classics like Tintin, and the astute observations about young adults that made Black Hole so engrossing, Burns has turned out a haunting first chapter in what promises to be a spellbinder. The opening pages flip among the various realities of Doug, a young man recovering from a head injury of some kind with only a box of pills and some strawberry Pop-Tarts to speed his recovery. Flashbacks and dreams switch among various scenes: Doug and his hypocrite father; a wild party gone awry when Doug's crush object's crazy (but unseen) boyfriend goes on a rampage; and, most mysteriously, another world--found behind a hole in a brick wall--where dead cats live, worms weep, and a giant hive rules a grim city of deformed creatures. Burns's control of the story is masterful--the recurring imagery make it unclear just which is the reality and which is the dream. His sharply delineated art captures a grotesque yet sympathetic view of kids thrust far beyond a world that they can control or even understand. The only disappointment about X'ed Out is its brevity--the first of several installments, it will leave you begging for the rest of the story.
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The latest work from Burns, who is known for his weirdly cryptic yet strangely comedic graphic novels, may be his most enigmatic effort yet. It opens with Doug, a young student with an unspecified head injury, recalling a dream—or is it?—in which he follows his dead cat, Inky, into a bizarre, devastated environment populated by lizard-faced men and other grotesque creatures. Doug’s waking life is nearly as disturbing: his mother is mostly absent, his father is zoned out, and the object of his affections, a girl from his photography class, has a violent but mysteriously unseen boyfriend. Burns’ neurotically precise, high-contrast artwork evokes a surface normalcy that makes the underlying creepiness all the more disconcerting. This too-brief volume—the first in a series—is tantalizing but frustrating, raising questions that readers can only hope will be answered in future installments: What is the nature of the injury that’s left Doug largely bedridden and dependent on pills? Where will the ominous relationship with his classmate lead? And what’s with all the Tintin references that permeate the tale? --Gordon Flagg
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