The world and mythology of Hellraiser is back. Although we have seen recent Hellraiser comics and graphic novels, this is the first publication to come direct from Clive Barker’s own company, Seraphim. The reason they’ve gone the in-house publishing route is censorship. Barker and his team’s experience with other publishers was a frustrating one. The original vision for stories was diluted and toned down, or certain panels were removed. This anthology promises a new beginning for a more extreme and visceral Hellraiser, as god (?) intended.
The anthology contains eleven stories, one of which is text with a few Clive Barker illustrations, written by Mark Alan Miller. Other authors include Ben Mears, Matt Murray, and Blumhouse’s David and Rebekah McKendry. We’re taken to Hell, sex clubs, suburbia, and even the Old West with these tales. The book ends with a vibrant gallery of Hellraiser inspired art in different forms. The presentation of the hardcover book is impeccable from cover to cover.
As this is an anthology, there is a variety of art styles and stories. One of the biggest stand outs for its sheer originality is a twisted take on Pinocchio. It’s written by Clive Barker and drawn in the style of a Little Golden Book. It’s complete with wooden boys and Catholic clergy, and is joyfully offensive. There is no shortage of visceral images throughout, and one image in particular that will make any man wince.
I feel that what makes this really successful is not only the originality of the stories, but also the shift in focus back to the every-man – the person seeking the box – and their motivations and relationships. There has been too much focus on Pinhead in recent publications, and not the human drama and desire that summons him. This was what made the original stories and films so appealing. Rather than expanding the universe with new lore, this is a return to the claustrophobic dark roots.
It is for sale exclusively through realclivebarker.com. I’m not going to lie – it’s not cheap. However, it is a price worth paying for such liberated and original content. I flew through the book and it left me hungry for more. The future of Hellraiser is looking stronger and more exciting than ever. Roll on the next volume.
Reviewed by Andrew Tadman @thebooksofblood.