Charles Burns’ X’ed Out is a rich teaser for what promises to be a compelling graphic vision. Much of the volume is dedicated to table setting, as our title character alternates between art-school striving and an Hergé-inspired exploration of an alien world.
A sewer drain, handfuls of red pills and an unexplained injury ease the passage between the two settings. Burns’ art style signals the changes as well. He adopts a ligne claire technique for his strange new land and a more lifelike, shadowy style for flashbacks here on earth.
Both places hold our interest. Burns parcels out the strangeness of the sewer world, employing a native guide to temper its weirdness. The feral scenesters on earth are also evoked in all their youth—cruel, striving, a little pretentious and maybe a little precocious as well.
Burns ably captures the feel of an artist’s community. He doesn’t deny how seriously the characters take their work, but he folds in the possibility that it may just be an excuse to get drunk and be weird for a while.
The ending draws you to the next volume, as developments on the new world—and the origin of the title character’s injury—are ominously foreshadowed. I look forward to reading the full work—even if it may take a while to be completed.