The Hellbound Web is proud to present one of the first reviews for the brand new Hellraiser comics from Boom! Studios, and written by Clive Barker himself, alongside Chris Monfette, with art by Leonardo Manco. This review was written 21st March 2011.
In 1994 EPIC comics published issue six of Clive Barker's Harrowers, marking the end of six years of ongoing Hellraiser related comic books. It seems fitting that the resurrection of Hellraiser as a comic brand also sees the return of the Harrower concept that originated from Clive Barker himself. In this first issue the Harrowers only get a brief mention, but this seems to indicate that the Boom Studios series will be drawing material from a wide range of sources, such as Barker, the EPIC comic range and the films themselves.
The art in this issue is stupendous, capturing the gory visceral impact of summoning the Cenobites, as well as the sublime beauty of the horrors that exist in their world. One page sees an entire tower of skinless corpses, taking the films iconic imagery to an even greater extreme. Fountains spew blood and bodies line walkways like trees, giving Hell a familiar but distinctive look. The Cenobites themselves are instantly recognisable and Pinhead retains a strong sense of dignity, drawn with a superior likeness to his screen incarnation. The likeness of the returning Kirsty Cotton is equally strong, and the art is successful in convey the emotion of her deep seated issues relating her past involvement with the Cenobites. Each supporting character is given their own distinctive look which makes them stand out on the page, and helps the reader directly identify the characters as the action progresses.
The quality artwork would be seriously undercut if the story was not equally impressive but thankfully the comic delivers, unsurprisingly considering its pedigree. It is hard to say at this point what the story will actually involve, this issue is very much about setting up for what looks to be a very epic and different take on the material. However we do learn a lot, particularly about Kirsty Cotton, even before her brief appearance at the end. It appears she has taken her fight directly to Hell itself, and is involved with (perhaps leading?) the Harrowers, although the exact extent of this is not stated. Fans of Hellseeker will be pleased by what should be taken as an possible reference to the events of that film, but overall, this seems to be about looking forwards as much as it is about nostalgia.
However, there is still plenty for old school fans as well as new readers. Leviathan makes a cameo appearance whilst Pinhead is very much contemplative, emphasising a weariness of age which is a new angle for the character albeit not a surprising one for anyone who has followed the developments of Barker's own Scarlet Gospels novel. Without wanting to spoil the plot for new readers, it is safe to say, Pinhead is going to take an interesting journey throughout this series, and one that won't have been seen before. Whether this will be a storyline that fans with latch on to and enjoy, remains to be seen, but it looks set to go in a bold direction and the potential is clear to see.
Early reports for the comics suggested they might be a direct follow-up to Hellbound, ignoring the last two decades of sequels and other media, but that appears to not be entirely accurate. Indeed, there's plenty of room for events from the other sequels to have occurred, such as the previously mentioned Hellseeker reference, and Pinhead begins the comic in Hell and active. This is a far cry from where he was left in the second movie, dead along with the other Cenobites, at the hands of Channard. The Female and Chatterer also return, with no explanation for their resurrection, not that one is really needed, although it is a shame to note that the fourth member of the original quartet, the obese Butterball, is not represented.
One potential criticism is that this is very strongly focused on the Cenobites. A part of the strength of the first two films was the human element, the focus on human desire and characters such as Larry, Julia and Frank. However, this first issue has to hook new readers, and a wider horror audience, for whom Pinhead and the Cenobites are the clear iconic leads to the franchise. Whilst some of the later sequels perhaps got the balance wrong in terms of having too little Cenobite screen time, the danger may be that the comic risks going too far in the opposite direction. However, on the strength of this opening issue, this does not look likely to be a problem as the storyline develops. Hopefully future issues will explore Kirsty and her associates more fully, and perhaps let us explore her current emotional state in as much fascinating depth as this first issue explores Pinheads.
"Pursuit of the Flesh Part I" is wonderfully written, the style is clearly a combination of both Monfette and Barker and, supported with perfectly suited artwork, this is the comic that Hellraiser fans have been waiting for. Whilst it may not be perfect, it does what an opening issues needs to do and introduces the key players, and features plenty of gory imagery. In view of this comic needing to establish so much of the story and introduce the characters and ideas, it is not a criticism to say it is not quite perfect, but one of its greatest strengths is how it draws the reader in. No doubt people will return for the second part, to learn more, see where the developments take us, and see the comic reach the heights this opening instalment suggests it will achieve.
Overall, The Hellbound Web gives the first part of Pursuit of the Flesh a score of Four Hooks out of Five.
The Hellbound Web would like to thank Boom! Studios for the oppurtunity to be a part of this exciting time for Hellraiser fans everywhere. We will continue to provide reviews for the further comics releases, both on the site and on our Youtube Channel. Also make sure to check out our review for the free Prelude Issue "At the Tolling of a Bell" which is FREE to DOWNLOAD from this very site! Clive Barker's Hellraiser #1 is available now from all good comic book stores and online.
Boom! Studios Official Website