DEMONS TO SOME. ANGELS TO OTHERS.
My journey with licensed comic books has always been a rough terrain. The first two comics I ever purchased were Marvel’s GI Joe #103 and Dark Horse’s adaptation of Robocop 2. They were good enough to spark my interest in comics, but I learned pretty quick that the paycheck cashers writing these tales were mostly making it up as they went. So yeah, even though I’m constantly disappointed by the byproducts, cartoons and movies are what initially brought me to the sequential art form. Why oh Why do franchised properties have to suck so hard? Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good stuff out there. But for every brilliant Dark Horse Alien vs Predator mashup or Star Trek expanded universe breakthrough there’s a there’s an awkward Tron/Spider-Man amalgam or giant green bunny man firing a blaster next to Han Solo. Greasy handshakes between desperate, struggling publishers and puppet mastering admen have snatched many a dollar outta my ever dwindling wallet and the crazy, frustrating thing is that they will continue to do so. I’m a fanboy. And fanboys are quintessential marks. If we love something we want to see it plastered everywhere. Star Wars bedsheets. Star Wars shower curtains. Star Wars sanitary napkins. Star Wars comics.
And licensed property is booming in the comic book industry right now. It’s not just your typical players; you’ve got Army of Darkness, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 28 Days Later, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, Godzilla, Farscape, Transformers, Game of Thrones, Dark Shadows, The Avengers (Steed & Mrs Peel!), etc, etc. Seriously, if a buck can be made off of Jem and Strawberry Shortcake than it will find its way onto the comic racks.
BOOM! Studios has been making a name for themselves with some rather interesting takes on well established properties like HP Lovecraft’s Fall of Cthulhu, Phillip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sleep, Planet of the Apes, and a myriad of Disney properties from the likes of Darkwing Duck to Pixar’s The Incredibles. But now, they’ve sunk their claws into at least one property that you Bastards out there might actually give a crap about—Clive Baker’s Hellraiser.
The big incentive for the first Hellraiser trade paperback is that Barker himself is cited as co-author of the series. The back of the book reads, “Clive Barker has touched HELLRAISER only twice: once to write THE HELLBOUND HEART, and once more to write and direct the original HELLRAISER film. Now Barker returns to tell the long-awaited next chapter in the HELLRAISER series!” So there you go; thankfully we can forget Bloodline, Inferno, Hellseeker, Deader, Prophecy, Hellworld, and Revelations, but I’ll kinda miss Parts II & III. Come on, Pinhead’s Trench Warefare origin was nearly interesting. Let’s see more of that.
I’m always a little weary when a creator is listed as a “co-writer” on a comic series. How much writing is actually being put forth from Clive Barker and how much is actually being handled by the other guy, Christopher Monfette. Is this another William Shatner Tek War situation where the celebrity supplies a kernel of an idea and the professional hack does all the nitty gritty work of putting words to blank paper. I guess at the end of the day all that really matters is the work itself. Does volume one of this new Hellraiser series satisfy? Does it feel cannon? How much bitching will fanboys put forth? Ha! We all know the answer to that! So Much Bitching!
Pursuit of the Flesh, the first volume, opens with the shutdown of Northgate Penitentiary. Some prisoners are being transferred, those on Death Row are being rushed to their ultimate fate. As one priest straps a man into the electric chair he calmly patronizes the condemned soul as he works on The Lament Configuration, the infamous gateway to all Pinhead conversations. The prisoner succeeds in opening the box and as he writhes in fire, our favorite S&M hound appears from the pit. He collects the prisoner’s soul, belittles the priest with a few choice words, and unleashes those tearing Andy Robinson chains upon him. “Oh. Christ. The. Pain.” The scene appears to have very little to do with the rest of the plot other than to establish ol’ Pinhead’s dwindling enthusiasm for his work. And to deliver some horrifying Leonardo Manco blood screaming art; BOOM! knowing that the gore is definitely part of the appeal.
The prelude is a definite attention grabber. But the rest of the book follows Kirsty Cotton, the heroic final girl from the first two films, as she gathers others who have been touched (or traumatically scarred) by the cenobites. They’ve formed a revenge quest mini-cult hellbent on the destruction of The Lament Configuration and when they’re not endlessly bickering amongst themselves, they’re fighting off a randomly bizarre platoon of homeless sewer dwellers. Meanwhile, running parallel to that story, we get lots and lots of appropriately philosophical pining from the oblivion trapped Pinhead Pinocchio who no longer wishes to be Hell’s servent, but apparently, a real boy. And, of course, Ms. Cotton’s psychotic therapy group is essential to his scheme. How? I have no idea. The narrative is told in such snapshots and vagaries that I found myself gritting my teeth with the unrealized plot. True, Pursuit of the Flesh only collects four issues of an ongoing series and we are not yet meant to be rewarded with the revelations of the Hellbound universe, but there’s just not enough going on with either Kristy or Pinhead’s gang to spurn on further reading.
I desperately wanted to love this Hellraiser comic book. The original film was seminal in the birth of my Horror fandom (“JESUS WEPT!” indeed), and Clive Barker continues to crank out some of the most interesting genre literature (if you want to see him wipe the Teen Fiction floor with Harry Potter’s face than you must read his utterly brilliant Abarat series, sorry JK Rowling you got nothing on Barker), but BOOM! Studios’ latest property is another disappointment of franchising. If the series pulls away from Kristy Cotton, if it reaches back into the mythology of The Lament Configuration, or if it focuses more on the oblivion realm of the Cenobites…gosh, that sounds like incessant Fanboy bitching. Oh well. I guess I shouldn’t condemn a whole series based on the introductory four issues, and I’ll mostly likely give it another trade, cuz what else am I going to waste my money on. Fanboys never learn.
IT’S BIG BOOTAY!
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