The universe of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is a rich and dark one and it is ripe to have writers come in and explore in a multitude of gruesome ways. That is the goal of BOOM!’s new Hellraiser: Bestiary mini-series. This first issue of the six-part anthology is a bit of a mixed bag, as is the case with many anthologies.
The first story, “Symphony in Red”, written by Ben Meares and Mark Miller and art by Conor Nolan is a flawed, but a fun and twisted ride. Set in Hell and told from the point-of-few of the Female Cenobite, the story focuses on her watching, as Pinhead is acting more bloodthirsty than ever. His bloodlust is so insatiable that he is neglecting his other duties as Hell’s high priest. The strengths of this story lie in the grisly visuals as Pinhead tortures and tears apart hopeless sinners, even to the point where he is able to drown some in the blood of those he’s already vanquished. What may strike some as odd is the characterization of the Female Cenobite. At one point she says to Pinhead “I year for the days when our only desires were to taste each other’s pleasures and feast on each other’s pain”. While the “pain” bit at the end saves it a little, the line doesn’t ring true to what the Cenobite’s have always been seem doing, which is inflicting pain on others and typically nothing more. Though maybe little moments like that may seem odd, one can look at the content of what she is saying and see this as the writers attempting to humanize the Cenobite, but with a very morbid sense of humor.
The second tale is “Desert Fathers” by Victor LaValle and art by Colin Lorimer. It is the story of a hotel-like family shelter in Queens, New York where the story’s narrator tells the reader the history of a group ancient monks called the Desert Fathers. While he is downstairs with his co-workers, two crooked teens murder an old man and find the infamous Lemarchand’s box. They inadvertently open it and Hell breaks loose in the building. The art is impressive; probably the best of the three stories, and the action on the page makes sense. There is a bit of a twist that the reader may see coming, but “Desert Fathers” is arguably the best of the three.
The last and shortest of the bunch is “The Hunted, Part One” by Ben Meares and Mark Miller and art by Michael Garland. The idea here is simple, but interesting and it makes sense why this story is being split into multiple parts. The setup is a group of criminals somehow manage to setup Pinhead and capture him in order to steal his pins for a wealthy buyer. There isn’t much to say for the “The Hunted” just yet because it is so brief and only part of a full story, but the idea is certainly something unseen in the Hellraiser franchise at this point. Although interesting, it is a little unusual to see Pinhead captured so easy, given his high level of intelligence and power, but it is safe to assume that his captors will have met a horrible fate by the time this story is finished.
Hellraiser: Bestiary #1 has some strong moments and some weaker ones, but it’s a fun and quick read. It features some of the standout graphic violence the series is known for and Pinhead often sounds like the Pinhead we know and love as he is portrayed by Doug Bradley in the films. If you are a fan of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, then Bestiary is probably worth your time.