writers: Clive Barker
and Christopher Monfette
artist: Leonardo Manco
Clive Barker opens his return to Hellraiser with the following quote to give us all perspective:
"Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have done which we did not do."
If that citation from Gian Carlo Menotti visits Barker at night, he should have no worries. What hasn't the guy done?
At this point, all that's left is to prove he can do it again. So he returns to comics and the concept that launched his reputation in the mainstream, Hellraiser. And guess what? You can go home again.
Teamed with Christopher Monfette on the script, Barker picks up sometime after the events of the first film. (We could be hazy and accept, perhaps, that Hellraiser II also happened, but as I have a dim memory of diminishing returns with the series, that's as far as I'll go.) The Cenobites still serve Leviathan, and now one misguided Kansas farmer serves them.
His worship is disturbing, perhaps moreso because it has begun to bore the Cenobite he calls Priest. Of course, we know him more popularly as Pinhead, but when tied to Barker's prose and the melancholy of Leonardo Manco's art, that seems too reductive. Priest it is, then.
No longer finding satisfaction in their strange exploration of the limits of flesh in Hell, the Priest wants something more. In his exchanges with the Priestess, the two come across as unexpectedly human, their calling no longer enough to sum up who they are.
And so we get a new layer of grotesque drudgery under Leviathan, with Barker's wonderfully strange but keen eye for worldbuilding as the Priest tries to change his fate. It may not come as a surprise as to who he must reach out to, but this is just Chapter One. The hows and the whys have yet to be revealed.
Manco has the right touch for the book, drawing grotesqueries with great detail and making it feel just real enough without, pardon the pun, getting too far under the skin. He provides emotion for the Cenobytes, giving the Priest the profile and sad eyes of Ralph Fiennes. In a weird way, it makes sense.
Boom also has plans to reprint the previous Hellraiser stories initially published by Marvel, giving it the title Hellraiser Masterpieces. 16 pages get included in this new series, and you can see that comics have treated the franchise with a lot more consistent dignity than films have. (And if you haven't already, download the PDF of the 8 page Prelude, which is completely separate from this issue and won't be reprinted until the trade paperback.)
Welcome back to Barker, then, and thank you for not wasting your charmingly disturbing gifts.