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on 5 October 2012
Re-reading series books in an actual series rather than as they come out over the years is worth it - at least for the good ones, which happily includes this title. I never noticed before but the cover shows Doug older and fatter, looking like he's got some kind of office job, in contrast to the Doug that we left in the last book where he was wandering about as a younger man in his dad's dressing gown in a haze with a bandaged head.

Well, shall we? Deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole we go...

Doug is still deeply troubled that the love of his life Sarah is no longer with him, though we still don't know what happened to her. Time has moved on and his life has changed but he's been unable to move on. He talks to a new woman - a therapist, a friend? - about Sarah and his dying father, and it looks like he's become dependent upon booze and pills to cope. Elsewhere in the fantasy world, he's still the young Tintin lookalike Nitnit but he's now working in the Hive alongside the lizardmen to supply the breeders with romance comics.

Images, scenes, phrases noticeably begin repeating immediately. The Japanese romance comic that opens the book re-tells the story of how Doug met Sarah in the first book, and then later we discover Sarah loved to read old romance comics that Doug bought her at a flea market. In each version of the stories Doug is telling, romance comics play a part, and, mirroring this series and his own life, there are issues missing in between the comics Sarah is reading so she's not getting the whole story. The comics seem to be the key to Doug's story AND comics are how we'll find out Doug's full story. Layer upon layer of meta detail!

The pig foetus reappears though this time it's coming out of Sarah's stomach in a self-inflicted C-section, and the Tintin-esque eggs make another appearance. Small clues like the disembodied voice of Sarah's psychotic ex threatening to murder them both and the buzzer through which he's speaking gushing blood hints that perhaps Sarah was killed by him. Or maybe he killed Doug and all of this is purgatory where Doug's soul is trying to come to peace with his strange life before moving on - is that what this fantasy world is? Charles Burns refuses to give us solid answers and keeps us guessing.

For the most part this book is a bit more straightforward than the first though an uneasy sense of despair continues to hang over proceedings. We see the highs of Doug and Sarah's relationship and his performance art as his stage persona Nitnit is becoming well-received. Burns spends more time with Doug and his dying father, exploring his father's past and how he became such a beaten man. It's odd how we haven't seen Doug's mother yet and that Burns seems to be moulding Doug into his father's image ever so slowly.

The Hive itself has biological-looking walls, fleshy sides that produce eggs, so maybe this is Doug's subconscious hinting still further at the mystery at the centre of this all: Sarah and a baby they were going to have? There's a scene earlier when Sarah took some photos of Doug that he hated because he wasn't wearing his Nitnit mask (his protection or real self?) - will we finally understand what's happening to Doug when he discards the Nitnit persona that "he created" in order to hide from reality?

This really is a very rewarding comic to revisit now that it's complete. With the way so much of the story repeats on itself throughout The Hive, it feels like it's building up momentum and the truth is about to come out. It's an entrancing mystery told expertly by Burns and drawn in an utterly beautiful way - a masterclass in experimental fiction, challenging comics, and imaginative storytelling. Will Doug find the missing issues he needs to make sense of it all - and what part does the Sugar Skull play? Enough questions - onto the final book and (hopefully) the answers!
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on 28 September 2012
For anyone who hasn't read Charles Burns, Black Hole is a good place to start. Thats not to take anything away from The Hive, the problem is that The Hive is a second installment and is so intreguing you just want to read the next one which will probably be a year or so away.
The Hive itself is a great read, it takes comics to a whole new level for me, it treats me like an intellegent being and urges me to fill in the blanks. Although the review says it's more confusing than Xed Out I don't agree, both books make you wonder about what on earth (or elsewhere) is going on but The Hive helps you hone down your theories and wets your appetite for the reveal.
What I love in these books is the way they skip from world to world, time to time but Burns makes the journey accessible in his art by joining those times and worlds together with similar imagery and at the same time changing his artistic style so you know exactly what world/time you are in. He even plays with the reader at one point where the story tells about a set of romantic magazines (yet another iconic artistic style)where one of the issues is missing and how irritating it is when there are holes in your knowledge of a story (you're then thinking tell me about it and tell me more!)
Can't wait for the next book, shame it's bit away but appreciate that the amount of thought and artistic skill gone into this story demands that time frame. Would recommend to anyone who wants to see what a combination of genius and comic book looks like.
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on 6 November 2016
This is a disorientating and sinister world awash with creepy and confusing characters that burrow into your head. The art work is really nice and reminded me of the work of Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine. The colouring is vibrant and effective and really feeds into the idea of mystery and intrigue. This is a surreal and interesting piece of work, though still so many questions lie unanswered. I was unaware that this was only the second part of an ongoing series, when I picked it up, but I suppose I look forward to reading what happened before and what happens next in the follow up and see where this is all leading.
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on 17 November 2015
There's a strange trend at the moment of what you might call comic written by and for people who are aware that comics are considered 'hip', but who are too snobbish to get themselves down to Forbidden Planet and check out the latest doings of Judge Dredd or the Goon. In other words, comics that try to be respectable, even intellectual, and, as with all such forced endeavours, fail to be either. Or even particularly interesting. As the main intent of the author is to seem clever rather than be interesting, they always seem to end up as Edward Gorey lite - imagine Gorey without the darkness, the savage humour, the genuinely inspired dadaism, and with absolutely terrible art. And arch. Terribly, terribly arch.

As a breed they are reasonable easy to spot. They're amazingly expensive for their slender content. They are narrated in basic English. The art is (as mentioned above) foul. It's not obvious what the pictures add. And, of course, they get write-ups in classy papers, where literary critics hail them as proving that comics aren't rubbish really. And they win literary awards, not Eisners. They are written by people like Posy Simmonds. They have titles like 'The Beard That Was Evil'. They are 'adaptations' of major literary works not noted for their visual qualities ('Howl' the comic). And 'The Hive' is one of them.

If you want genuinely intelligent comics, check out 'Mind the Gap' or 'The Superannuated Man' instead.
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on 19 March 2013
I'm a huge fan of Charles Burns work. This series of books is really out there on it's own. It's (so far) a total enigma as to what exactly is going on-think, if David Lynch wrote graphic novels then you're half way there. There will be three in total (this is 2nd). Artwork is stunning and a very trippy homage to Tintin and I cannot wait for more.
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on 31 October 2012
Excellent second part for X'ed out , I though that improving the previous one will be really hard but Burns has done it.
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on 16 May 2013
Bought as a Xmas present for one of my sons, he requested it and seems very happy with it so I'm giving it 5 stars.
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on 21 November 2012
Style over substence? not quite, but needed a bit more oomph in the story telling, a bit like Playboy without the sports car reviews, all Jugglies and data.
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