Hellraiser #1

Written by Clive Barker and Christopher Monfette
Art by Leonardo Manco
40 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

Despite having never seen any of the Hellraiser movies, I was a big fan of the comic from Marvel’s Epic imprint back in the day. A friend introduced me to the relatively new series when I was in college; when I protested that I’d not seem the films, he told me it didn’t matter, that they were some shockingly good horror comics. And when you consider that early issues included creators like Bernie Wrightson, John Bolton, Ted McKeever, Scott Hampton, Kevin O’Neill, John Van Fleet, and Dave Dorman—to name but a few—you can get an idea of the pedigree of Hellraiser. So hearing that Clive Barker had come on board for a brand-new Hellraiser comic? Well, color me interested.

Barker and his co-author Christopher Monfette (the pair of whom also worked on the Seduth one-shot at the end of 2009) start the comic with a back-to-basics moment. We get to see one of the demonic puzzle boxes that summon the demonic Cenobites, and in the blink of an eye the first victim of the series is claimed. But this scene does more than just re-introduce the Cenobites; it also sets up something greater, with the introduction of an individual using the boxes to kill his captors, someone who clearly knows just who Pinhead and company are and what they’re capable of. It’s a logical step, and one that holds some potential.

From there we move between Hell and Earth, seeing both a plan of Pinhead’s to walk on Earth once more with the help of the Nebraska farmer who is killing people via puzzle box, and a painter whose art indicates that she knows something about the Cenobites as well. Writing wise, it’s a good introduction to Hellraiser; we’re getting the players on the field, and some of the greater cosmology (like the massive Leviathan that the Cenobites worship, or the fact that there are those out there destroying the puzzle boxes) is already being presented. It’s the latter that I think is particularly important, because it shows the reader right from the start that this isn’t just a simple slasher/monster story, but a much larger and intricate setting.

For longtime readers of the book, it also feels like Barker and Monfette are revisiting the concept of the Harrowers, a plot thread that Barker created for the later issues of Epic’s Hellraiser comic. The idea of a team of people fighting the Cenobites was always better in concept than actual execution, so it would be nice to see a soft reset of them in the new Hellraiser. I think Barker and Monfette are smart enough to not require people to have read comics that are over 15 years old, so chances are this is a fresh start for the name and potential group.

Leonardo Manco, probably best known for his long run on the similarly-titled Hellblazer, is on the art and it’s just what you’d expect for a horror comic. Manco’s photo-real art works at its best with the tight close-ups on people’s faces, the worry and fear reflected back at the reader. It’s some of the more expansive images (like Pinhead standing in front of the demonic organ) which feel a little weaker because there’s so much detail crammed onto the page that it’s actually a little hard to make out some of the finer points. It’s still good overall, though, and when it comes to some of the more interesting visual moments (the slow approach to the captive woman; the look from above at Samuel’s crops) it really sings.

It’s a little funny that the two supplemental pieces attached to Hellraiser #1, though, that are my least favorite things about the new comic. First, it preview 16 pages of one of the stories due to appear in Hellraiser Masterpieces Vol. 1, which promises reprints of the Epic series by creators like Barker, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Alex Ross, Kevin O’Neill, and Mike Mignola. The story they reprint from, though, is by Larry Wachowski and Mark Pacella, from the Hellraiser Spring Slaughter special in 1994. I can understand the idea behind finding a story by Wachowski (who of course went onto projects like The Matrix), but Pacella’s art looks hideous and not in a good way. This is hardly a good enticement to pick up a collection that promises so many better potential stories.

There’s also a free online exclusive prelude to Hellraiser #1, which won’t show up in print until the collection. It’s just all right; it gives the reader a good look into what Manco’s art is like, but Barker and Monfette’s story feels much more standard and run of the mill. The writing is much stronger in Hellraiser #1, and it’s a shame this prelude isn’t quite as good so that potential buyers can get a better idea of what they’re in for. Still, at the end of the day, it’s the main comic itself which has me interested in seeing what Barker, Monfette, and Manco are up to next. Horror and Hellraiser fans, I suspect, will discover the same thing as well for themselves. It’s nice to see Hellraiser returning, and in good form. I’ve missed my little Cenobite stories, and this promises to scratch that itch.

2 comments to Hellraiser #1

  • prenups

    I actually happened to really dig Pacella’s art in the Masterpieces preview, especially in union with the colors. Oh, the colors, the colors! Really an authentic, gritty style which shows a lot of tension, something I have not seen many computer generated color/art combos achieve very well. If anything, Razing Hell enticed me to not only pick up Pursuit of The Flesh but Masterworks as well.

  • cq

    Btw, the girl painter is Kirsty Cotton, one of the protagonists/main characters from the movies. If you haven’t seen at least the first two, check them out. They’re classics.