This issue of “Hellraiser” manages to work more toward setting up the characters, and their motivations, than it does toward laying on the slasher gore. All right, to be fair, there are some pretty graphic scenes, but they’re in service of character work. That’s more than I can say about most horror tales in any medium. It’s a good horror comic, but while some aspects hint at greatness, most of it is serviceably done and pushes the title along without making the issue a standout.
We might be in the middle of an arc, but this month we get a little history lesson in how our characters get tied up in the world of the puzzle box and what it means to be an agent of such mayhem. Like all good devils and demons, everything comes at a cost, and the world is one large gamble. It’s pretty much a fact we already know in this world, but it’s delivered in this issue with a verve that was missing from hours’ worth of the cinematic sequels.
Vignettes of the harrowing of certain characters are well paced and inventive in their ability to shock and disgust. A rotting Cenobite visits a priest and Stephen Thompson draws it like a sketch of a nightmare. Within pages, he’s showing us he’s better at this game than regular artist Leonardo Manco is. Thompson doesn’t try for cinematic style and instead seems to revel in the 80s schlock of what this comic was, and what still comes from the mind of Clive Barker. The clockwork Cenobite is a warped image of beauty and yet the things it does are some of the most reprehensible pages of comics to be created in some time. But isn’t a horror comic supposed to be a little offensive? If you’re weak of heart you might want to skip this particular harrowing of an escort that shows this comic isn’t out to play nice. In fact, it’s refreshing to see how nasty this comic will go. There appears to be no editorial or creative team fear – that makes for truly horrific horror.
The final sequence, and bombastic splash page, is a little over the top and seems to weaken what comes before it. The comic is a decent horror yarn and then it becomes this ridiculous farce of physics and hyperbole. It’s hard to keep a cast of Cenobites grounded, but this sort of extravagance isn’t necessary when the simpler takes on new Cenobites makes far more of an impression.
The sketchy horror style of Thompson works well for this book, when it is employed. The panels aren’t always consistent and some feel clean and lightly lined while others feels like a mad man etched them onto parchment with sharpened nails coated in the tar from dead smokers’ lungs. Overall, I prefer Thompson’s style to Manco’s, but he needs to work on making every page, every panel, feel consistent in tone and style. The great panels are wonderful, even if they are harder work.
“Hellraiser” is a horror comic based on a cheap series of movies that went for the gushing blood over storyline and character development nearly every time. It’s nice to see them look toward storyline now. This issue drops plenty of scattered knowledge, and some frightening nasty moments, and it’s a fun bit of business. It can only be hoped that the cast introduced here will come into play later on to effect because they’ve had a decent origin set up for further play. If you like your horror served black cold then this title is for you. For everyone else it’ll be a tough and gamey pill to swallow. Read with caution. (What better advertisement for a comic of this taste?)