Review - Hellraiser #1

The name Clive Barker is about as synonymous with horror as peanut butter is with jelly. That is to say, the two work exceptionally well together. One of his more famous creations would have to be Hellraiser, the story of a mysterious puzzle box, chains from Hell and other sadistic tendencies. The original film is more than twenty years old (if you can believe it), but Barker has dusted off the property for a brand new comic with BOOM! Studios. The first issue is due in stores this week, so strap (or chain) yourself in for a review.

First, I should mention the prelude comic Hellraiser: At the Tolling of a Bell. The brief comic is really a way to get you reacquainted with Pinhead and the antique puzzle box. Briefly, the prelude depicts a criminal about to be executed and the priest taking a little too much satisfaction in it. As you can imagine Hell doesn't take sides when it comes to punishment and both are punished in different ways for their transgressions. There's not a lot of story going on in this issue and it really seems to serve the purpose of saying "this is Hellraiser, and it's going to be as bloody as you remember it."

Hellraiser #1 has a lot more, ahem, meat to it. It's written by Clive Barker and Christopher Monfette and features art by Leonardo Manco (colors by Charlie Kirchoff, lettering by Travis Lanham and editing by Ian Brill). The opening storyline is titled "Pursuit of the Flesh" and opens with the same fabled puzzle box. Pinhead seeks to regain entry into the human world and strikes a deal that would see him return to life or have his soul be forever damned.

The first issue also features Kirsty Cotton, the "heroine" from the film. She's depicted trying to make a go of a normal life in Frank's house, the recent events portrayed in the film fresh in her mind. If you haven't seen the film, Kirsty essentially rids the world of the Cenobites by "de-solving" the puzzle box and reverting it back to its original form. She's an artist now and clearly still has issues from that trauma (who wouldn't) but looks to have a promising life ahead of her. This will most likely be upheaved rather quickly though with the end of the issue, setting up future events.

Fans of Barker's Hellraiser universe won't be disappointed here. The comic is every bit as gritty and violent as the film and this book is CLEARLY for mature audiences. There are still religious tones throughout the comic that speak to the ages old struggle between Heaven and Hell. It's not often that literature can make your skin crawl, but I really think Hellraiser #1 does just that. Manco's illustrations are haunting and provide an eery compliment to the writing of Barker and Monfette.

I'm not really one for these types of horror comics and I could see others being turned off by Hellraiser #1; it's definitely rooted in a very nuanced mythology. If you don't like or care for the movies or Barker's novella then you're not going to like Hellraiser #1. This type of book is something of a departure for BOOM! Studios because it's probably the darkest and most violent of all their titles. Remember, this is the same publisher that has just about every Disney property under the sun. I'm not faulting them for it; rather, I commend them for taking the risk with such a mature comic.

Barker's return to the universe in comic form is pretty awesome, but it's not so groundbreaking that it will win tons of new readers over. At its core it's still bloody, religious and gory, so if that turns you off you should probably just move along. If you can get past all that, Hellraiser #1 will raise some interesting questions about religion, damnation and sanity. The book thrusts you harshly back into the Hellraiser universe and, if you'll allow it to, will take you on one hell of a ride.

The book is in stores today, interiors are below and the prelude is available for free download. Get to it.


  1. I loved these books. I was wondering how some of the ridiculousness of the movies would translate but I actually found that I liked the comics BETTER. Movies that go for sheer gore can leave me a little put off by the fact that they seem to just be going for shock value. The comics let you use your imagination a little more without pushing you over the top. Maybe that sounds weird when a priest with no skin is begging for mercy at one point but whatever...

    Pinhead is one of the most fascinating villains ever to me. While he certainly loves dishing out the pain, there is a sadness to him like he is searching for something that DEFINITELY has taken hold in this comic book. I really enjoyed these issues a lot.


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