The Hellbound Web is proud to present a review for Boom! Studios new Hellraiser comic series, written by Clive Barker himself, alongside Chris Monfette, with art by Stephen Thompson. This review was written August 2011.
We made two observations in our last review; that the other Harrowers were not explored in that much detail, and that the stage had now been set for the narrative to kick into gear. The former comment is the reason the latter isn't quite true as the third issue has one last piece of the puzzle to fit into place before the narrative can truly progress. Perhaps taking its cue from the classic EPIC comics, “Pursuit of the Flesh Part Three” is an anthology of sorts, focused on exploring the back-story of the three main Harrowers and how they came to be fighting Hell alongside Kirsty.
This issue sees the art duties being taken up by Stephen Thompson whose style, whilst perhaps not as intense and dark, has a stronger clarity and provides some truly stunning images, especially of the Cenobites. The likenesses also feel somewhat stronger in places, and whether this is a permanent change or not, it is clear that the comic is in the hands of some truly skilled artists.
The first short narrative focuses on Marcus Aimes, a priest who is confronted by the first of two brand new Cenobites, designed by Clive Barker, who début in this issue. The idea of Hell as an unending cold is fascinating, and the art conveys a genuine sense of bitter winter. If there is to be any criticism of this story, it would be the crushing of the Cenobite seems to somehow lesson the threat of them, rendering them perhaps a little too mortal, or at worse, impotent. However, the insight into Marcus' sudden crisis of faith is interesting, as is his assertion that one God would not be enough.
The second story, that of Bethany Howard, is perhaps the most disturbing and horrific of all. A hand crafted music box, another Lemarchand piece, is the puzzle in this tale and it's design and concept is a wonderful addition. More wonderful is the clockwork Cenobite it summons, a stunningly realised mixture of flesh, leather and gleaming steampunk cogs. The ability to reach inside a victim and crush an isolated organ amongst gears is a fascinating and visually disturbing idea. Its potential is realised moments later in a deeply unpleasant Cenobite-style abortion that may leave some readers needing to take a short breather. Bethany's desire for vengeance, and her anger at Hell is the most understandable and makes her the most sympathetic of the Harrowers.
The final story is that of Alexander Price which begins when, as a child, he witnesses his brother David, dragged off to Hell by the Female Cenobite. Scarred, Alexander becomes a distributor of Hell's puzzles, tying in to the comics other narratives, as well as the wider mythology. It's an interesting take on the 'puzzle guardian' idea that has been given various other explanations across different mediums, and it renders Alexander somewhat less sympathetic, though we understand the reasons for his actions.
These three narratives are framed by a speech by Kirsty's partner, Edgar, as he discusses his work on mythologies. This successfully ties everything together and leads to a dramatic climax that suggests the high stakes Kirsty will be playing for when she once again confronts Pinhead. Overall, the narratives are strong, and fascinating and make use of Hellraiser's tradition of anthology based storytelling. We now have a strong appreciation of the characters involved, and it remains to be seen what fate will await them all.
Perhaps one criticism, from our perspective, aside form the potential weakness of the rotting Cenobite, is the aggression of them. There is a lot of talk of death and suffering, but what made Pinhead so iconic originally, was also the element of promise. “We have such sights to show you”, he told Kirsty, and there was almost a sense of envy in his voice. The Cenobites here, seem more inclined to emphasise suffering and loss, without any hints of the promise of demonic pleasures in the mix.
That said, the imagery and ideas are as strong as ever. The individual puzzles, creatures and Hellish imagery keep things fresh and do more to expand the mythology and the landscape of Hell than many of the cinematic sequels. Once again, The Hellbound Web gives this series a strong 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. 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 #3 is available now.
Boom! Studios Official Website