Doug wakes up to find his long-dead cat, Inky, beckoning to a hole that has appeared in the wall of his room. He follows him through the opening and finds himself in a strange world populated by lizard businessmen, cyclopean street vendors and windows that provide views into his most painful memories.
X’ed Out begins with disorienting fantasy but quickly brings readers back to the real world — a place that is no less frightening or mysterious than the landscape just beyond the broken wall. Through the use of clever illustrations that changes from realistic to cartoonish (depending on whether Doug is in the actual or alternate world) and masterful narrative pacing that reveals just enough information to push the reader forward, Charles Burns has crafted an exceptional introduction to a series with definite promise.
The comic combines an intriguing plot with fantastic artwork. The alternate world’s design is reminiscent of William S. Borrough’s Moroccan settings but with visuals that borrow from the clean and bubbly aesthetic of Hergé’s Les Adventures de Tintin. Real world illustrations are more in line with Burns previous work and are composed of stylish, detailed characters and locales. X’ed Out’s illustrations suggest that real life can be grittier and more threatening than a dream while alternate world scenes recall Tintin’s thrilling adventures in a swab of pastiche that instantly lends a touchstone of nostalgia to an otherwise alien settings.
Charles Burns makes a strong first impression with the premier volume of X’ed Out. In less than 60 pages the reader is given a tantalizing, preliminary insight into both a compelling new world and a deeply human tale of heartbreak. The amount of information we learn of Doug’s dream world is meted out carefully by Burns and provides enough enticement to ensure that anyone that encounters X’ed Out: Volume One will be intrigued enough to stick around for the full story.