"Hellraiser" is a classic horror movie. Directed by Clive Barker in the late '80s, and based upon his novella "The Hellbound Heart," it’s mixture of gore and mythology made for addictive video nasty viewing. The shock and awe was diluted with each subsequent sequel made by constantly inferior creative teams but now "Hellraiser" is coming back to us. It is different this time because it’s a comic (though it was one at Marvel once upon a time) and it’s actually co-written by Clive Barker. The man is still a master and this could become quite a good little treat.
Sticking true to form, this comic aims for a very uneasy horror vibe. There’s plenty of gore on display and while some of it feels gratuitous it all feels in keeping with the roots of this tale and its characters. If you want to be friends with this comic you have to be comfortable with pretty horrific violence. The velvet rope will not open for you if you can’t handle the uncomfortably gruesome truths of these Cenobites.
This series has settled on two main characters. One is the daughter from the very first movie -- a cliché horror flick trope of the girl who can’t escape the cycle and is broken inside. It doesn’t look like there will be much else on display. The other main character is the person everyone wants to see -- Pinhead. The character development set in motion this issue for Pinhead is indeed unique and should provide for an interesting tale ahead. It’s not what you expect from a horror story slasher and this curve ball will be the book’s saving grace.
Clive Barker is aiming straight for his usual grand guignol style of hyperviolence. It just wouldn’t be "Hellraiser" without it, to be honest. It is in keeping with the franchise but it doesn’t transcend it. Pinhead’s mission may elevate the narrative but this debut still offers too much standard schlock.
Manco’s art is strangely warped and fitting of the title. He doesn’t shy away from the violence or try to hide it. Such efforts would be fruitless. Manco revels in every hooked laceration and the book feels right because of this honesty. His usual photoreferenced work actually matches this title because it lends continuity with the cinematic source material.
"Hellraiser" is back, and while it might not tear your soul apart it will give it a solid needling and a nookie to grow on. It’s not a bad comic, but most of it does feel like more of the same. Considering the mountain of sequel dreck fans have forced themselves through, something a little more should have been offered. The daughter angle feels too obvious, but Pinhead’s journey may just save this comic. Only time will tell. I think Pinhead should garner at least a few more issues to prove to people what he’s up to. It’s not often a slasher gets the opportunity to experience character development and growth.