Non-Nostalgia Reviews

Non-Nostalgia Reviews: Hellraiser the Comic

Before we dive in, here’s an apology.  Real life, mostly in the form of my “day job,” has been intervening lately, and that will continue to be a factor until the day I can make a living out of this kind of thing.  However, for the near future at least I should be able to get us back on a “two posts a week” schedule.

I do plan on wrapping up the Spiritual Warfare series soon, for my own sanity if nothing else, and tackling the rest of Russell T. Davies’ “Death of the Tenth Doctor” saga.  Also I have plans for a new series, The Forsaken, which strangely enough closely matches my original plans for this blog.  Finally, at some point this fall I may start doing video posts while continuing the blog.  I have no hopes of joining the pantheon of trash culture video reviewers at That Guy With The Glasses (well, maybe a couple, down in the back), but I really do want to experiment with different media, this being the Digital/Information/Post-Postmodern Age and all.  I have no timeline or deadlines, but hopefully the launch date will be sometime this fall.

Anyway, just to show that there’s more to this than snark and indulging in postmodern (post-postmodern?) irony, I want to give a positive shout-out to something I’ve been enjoying and which I suspect many people aren’t even aware exists.  I’m talking about…

Now this isn’t the first time the Hellraiser franchise chained its way into the comics medium.  Marvel’s Epic imprint, which was more or less Vertigo Comics before there was a Vertigo Comics (and, who knows, we might be talking about Epic if only Epic had a Sandman),did a series of Hellraiser comics from 1989 to 1993.  I would comment on them some more, but I never even read them, which…well, given how much obscure crap I’ve read, might be saying something.

The selling point of Boom Studios’ Hellraiser comic is that this one is actually written by Clive Barker, in conjunction with Boom Studios regular Christopher Monfette (except for the annual, which was co-written with Mark Miller, not to be confused with Mark Millar).  However, even though Clive Barker stopped being exclusively a horror writer many years ago, he manages to pick up precisely where he left off with the fans, while expanding Hellraiser from gory horror to epic dark fantasy.  (A little confusingly, the comic series is a direct sequel to the first two Hellraiser films, not to the original novella The Hellbound Heart, which Clive Barker might still finish a sequel to, The Scarlet Gospels.  Anyway and unsurprisingly, it’s pretty safe to assume that Hellraiser III and IV and all the myriad straight-to-video sequels are going to be ignored completely by the comic).

With the comic series, we find Kirsty Cotton living a relatively normal life…except that she and other people who survived encounters with the Cenobites seek out puzzles created to summon the Cenobites and destroy them.  Meanwhile “Pinhead,” dissatisfied with his “work” since his humanity was revived at the end of Hellraiser II, is on an existential quest of his own, one that has the potential to overturn Hell itself and make Kirsty’s simple mission so much more complicated.  I wish I could go into more detail, especially since later issues of the comic offer up one of the most genuinely surprising “twists” I’ve seen in a long time.  I’ll just say that Barker does a fantastic job of toying with and exploring his own premise and concept of Hell, but all the while leaving just enough room for mystery and interpretation.

Art duties have been shared between different artists over the course of the series.  Regardless, the “tone” has remained consistent, with a constant focus on sketchy yet vibrant visuals and an emphasis on dark colors contrasted against bright depictions of (of course) blood and the human anatomy.  The art has remained stylistic but also very descriptive, and captures the spirit of the Hellraiser universe, if not the very spirit of Clive Barker’s work from that era, in a way a more traditional photorealistic approach could not match.

The only caveat is that I’m not sure how accessible it would be to people not familiar with at least the original Hellraiser film.  To be fair only one of the stories in the annual makes direct references to plot points and characters from the movie, but you’re never really given a primer on what the Cenobites are or how Kirsty Cotton got wrapped up with them.  Given who the target audience for this comic would be, though, that’s probably understandable.  Still, it’s worth looking into for comics readers who may not be into the film franchise but are looking for a good horror/dark fantasy series as well as followers of the franchise who may not be big into comics.  Most of the series as of this writing has already been collected in trade paperbacks, which you can get from Boom Studios directly or, better yet, your local comic book store.

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2 thoughts on “Non-Nostalgia Reviews: Hellraiser the Comic

  1. Daniel says:

    And Ladies and Gentleman, his prospectus is 56 pages long. Hows that for “impressive”.
    Good review Culture Boy

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