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Sugar Skull Hardcover – 16 Sep 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (16 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307907902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307907905
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 1.5 x 30.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Herod on 26 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover
In 2010, Charles Burns gave us 'X'ed Out', the first part of a proposed trilogy. This was a complex and nightmarish tale that introduced 'Doug' and followed him through a surreal landscape of underground caverns, punk clubs, Mos Espa-esque cities and suburban kitchens. It posed many baffling questions and gave few answers. 'X'ed Out' was followed in 2012 by 'The Hive' - more creepiness, more nightmares, more unanswered questions. Now, finally, we have the concluding volume of the trilogy, 'Sugar Skull' and Charles Burns fans the world over will be wanting explanations - what's with all the giant eggs? Why is Doug's head often bandaged? Is there any significance to all the fetuses? Above all, will any of these questions be answered or will Doug's disintergrating reality simply drift off into abstraction?

In 'X'ed Out' and 'The Hive', there was always the feeling that a bigger and more dreadful picture existed somewhere amidst the hallucinatory and seemingly random events. Part of the complexity and depth of these first two volumes came from all the vaguely familiar images, faces and snatches of text and dialogue that repeatedly sprang up across the different realities, and the way the reader was forced to go scurrying backwards through the book to see when, where and how they first occurred. 'Sugar Skull' skilfully ties all these details together so that, by the end, you realise that there was nothing random about any of it. Every weird image and every surreal piece of text turns out to be either a metaphor for something else or a half-remembered detail from one reality filtered through another.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 50 REVIEWER on 16 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Dear me. By the end of The Hive, Charles Burns cranked this beauty up to top speed - then in Sugar Skull he ran it smack into a brick wall.

Sugar Skull was an immensely disappointing let-down to what has otherwise been a fascinating series. Charles Burns explains everything in this final volume of his X’ed Out Trilogy, which is something you’ll either appreciate, because you hate any ambiguity at the end of a story, or dislike because that’s not consistent with the way this has been written thus far.

But worse - far worse - is the disproportionate balance between the apocalyptic, messed-up, heightened tragedy of Doug and Sarah’s story, that has been built up now over two volumes, and the bafflingly banal and truly uninspired reveal of the secret at the heart of this series.

I was expecting Burns to show us something shocking and horrific that explains why Doug’s life has been shattered and why he’s created this elaborate fantasy world to cope. And the reveal, without going into spoilers? It’s so ordinary and unbelievably disappointing, not least because there’s no mystery, while the ending was terrible - it was an art school cliche!

I re-read the first two books in preparation for this final volume so I wouldn’t miss anything and so I could fully appreciate what I was sure was going to be a modern masterpiece - and all I got from doing this was the renewed admiration of the journey, and gorgeous art, that Burns provided. He completely fumbles the ending like you wouldn’t believe.

And those are the reasons to read this series: the journey and the art. Maybe it’s just me and you’ll love the ending too - it’s all there, no further mystery leftover - in which case you’re really going to enjoy the series. But if you spent any time in thinking up elaborate explanations for what it all means, prepare for major disappointment going in.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Reshapewhiledamp on 15 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bought as Christmas gift for my odd brother in law. He seems to like it. Quick delivery.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By HENRIQUE JESUS on 3 Oct. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those fans complaining of a lack of darkness in this latest instalment (rather difficult to implement with such a luminous style) I strongly recommend "King of the Flies" - translated from the French, consciously and proudly influenced by Burns, moving in a world of nightmarish suburban mediocrity and ennui; also a trilogy, the last volume still available only in French
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 16 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Sad and haunting conclusion to the trilogy 18 Sept. 2014
By Matthew Snope - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A tragic and sad conclusion to the trilogy that began w/ X'ed Out and continued into The Hive. Burns is such a good artist, writer, and storyteller. This third book clearly shows what was going on in the first two books, and the result is rather haunting. Personally, I like Black Hole better, but I'm glad overall I read this trilogy, and I liked its mix of Burroughsian vaguely Arabic wasteland, punk culture, and compassionate contemporary tragedy. The main character is kind of an annoying emo wimp, but he's also complex and relatable. Wonderfully colored and the books are bound nicely. Highly recommended.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great ending to a wild ride 17 Sept. 2014
By Steven Platt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had been looking forward to this for a while and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Anyone who has been following the series should know by now just what they are in for.
Burns does a great job at continuing the mood that he had set in the previous books, yet gives us an extra helping of the grotesque. I also felt this book had much more emotional pull to it, obviously due to the story winding down to its tragic ending. While the last two books swept us up in a whirlwind of ideas and images and nightmares all seemingly discombobulated, here Burns has masterfully brought all those concepts together. As we link the new images with the previous ones, timelines become present and the big picture becomes clear.
The inevitable demise of our anti-hero has more of a psychological weight to it than a physical one. I was happily surprised by the climax, it was a better ending than I anticipated and brought up some issues of morality now that we could see the true character of the protagonist.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great wrap-up to trilogy! 23 Sept. 2014
By R. Jacobi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
More greatness from Charles Burns. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll hurl. Buy it.

You should read/revisit the first two books before reading this one. And when you're done with this one, you may just want to read all three again, because it's not clear exactly what's going on in much of the story, until you get to the end. Then, it makes sense. You'll realize who "the real Doug" is.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Unbelievably disappointing ending. 24 Sept. 2014
By X. Paloverde - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Spoiler Alert--Don't read if you don't want to know more about the ending!

Like the rest of the trilogy, it's great .... until the last two pages. The ending was stunningly weak. I"m just blown away by how ordinary and banal it was, and deeply disappointed. The completely ordinary revelation (of 'what really happened') was way too mild and unimportant to counterbalance the darkness and twisted imagery of the rest of the tale. It was totally unbelievable that our protagonist would have been so disturbed and filled with apparently life-changing guilt over what turns out to be an almost completely innocuous failure. I was so stunned by the banal ending I kept searching the back page, certain that it was a 'false' ending and that Burns had decided to continue the story in a fourth book. Apparently not. He really did, for whatever inexplicable reason, put an amazingly banal ending onto this incredibly dark trilogy. I'm so upset I feel like writing Charles Burns to complain. I don't think it's just me as three others I discussed this with felt exactly the same way. Still, it's worth buying, because it's wonderful--up to the end.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Sugar Skull 5 Jan. 2015
By TorridlyBoredShopper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Charles Burns has always been two things to me. First, he has always been interesting, keeping me on the hook with writing that entertains and sometimes challenges, accenting sometimes-complicated storylines with amazingly stylized artwork and complex characterizations. Take Black Hole, arguably his best (and at least his most well-known) work, for example. In it, Burns takes a look at STDs and the awkwardness of being young, transforming what could be likened to a public safety announcement in many ways and making it into something tragically amazing. Second, Burns has always been less-than-prompt and always keeps you waiting - and waiting - and waiting. I recall when Black Hole was coming out in comic form and how some issues would be delayed for almost a year. This trilogy has been something like that, with dates being delayed and keeping readers on the hook for a long time.

So, was it worth it?
I resoundingly thought so.

With Sugar Skull and this story as a whole, I was not sure how things would turn out and ultimately did not know what I wanted to happen. I tried to avoid anyone talking about it because the other books left me actually looking forward to this, and I was glad I did because spoiler reviews seem to shortchange the experience. Throughout this series, Burns does a nice job making me feel sorry for someone I normally would not, transforming what was ultimately a Hipster's lifestyle into something interesting. He does it with little things like the photographs and his musical additions, through the more outlandish "dream" sequences, through snippets of a relationship, and by adding specific moods. I always liked that about Burns; he can take something minimal and make you examine it until you feel. I also liked that he took the main character and made things about him questionable - for the longest time I wanted to see him as a victim but life is much more complex than that. That is vague, too, I know, I just do not want to ruin anything.

If you have not read the first two books, do NOT read these out-of-order. They are smaller books you will complete quickly enough, books I was honestly surprised to see in hardback form, and ones I have returned to more than a few times. Even if you have them, reread the series before Sugar Skulls.

I am glad I read this. 5/5
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