First published back in March of 1989, the first issue of Epic Comics’ original ‘Hellraiser’ offshoot series contained four short stories designed to expand upon Clive Barker’s Hellraiser mythos, along with forewords by D.G. Chichester and Clive Barker.  Although Barker didn’t write any of the stories contained within the original Epic Comics ‘Hellraiser’ series, he did however act as a consultant for each issue.

The Canons Of Pain – 17 Pages
Erik Saltzgaber (Writer) – John Bolton (Artwork) – Bill Oakley (Letterer)

Whilst the Count of Carillion was on a crusade to return to France the arrow that pierced the shroud of St. Rubrub, the Count’s loyal wife had patiently waited for him back in their castle.  However, upon the Count’s return, the Lady Carillion found her husband despairing and unable to give her any affection.  On the crusade he had witnessed many horrors.  Suffered many losses.  Now he believed it had all been for nothing.  All he had to show for the slaughter was a small delicately crafted box, taken from the place of their final battle.  Since his return the Count had allowed his lands and his household to fall into disrepair.  The Lady Carillion kept herself busy with the church – vowing to aid Father Robataille with his constant fight against evil in all its incarnate forms.  It was through this that she learnt of the true nature of the small box that her husband had brought back with him.  Her husband may have lost his faith, but with the treasure she now held, she believed she could restore it.  From opening the box, he will know their truly is a hell…

What an opener!  What a way to kick-start Epic’s ‘Hellraiser’ comic book series.  First of all John Bolton’s artwork is beyond superb.  Quite frankly, each and every frame, each and every image, is a piece of finely painted artwork.  We’re talking oil on canvas, immensely detailed and beautifully painted artwork here.  Furthermore Erik Saltzgaber’s story does this exquisite artwork absolute justice.  From the very first page it immerses the reader in the long history of the lament configuration.  And as the story continues, it descends further and further into the dark abyss of Barker’s ‘Hellraiser’ mythos, unleashing a not-seen-before Cenobite and his ‘pet’ beastie.  It’s one hell of a story.  One hell of an opener.  Absolutely superb.

Dead Man’s Hand – 8 Pages
Sholly Fisch (Writer) – Dan Spiegle (Artwork) – Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh (Colours) – Carrie Spiegle (Letterer)

Some say the devil himself had come, when the stranger walked through the inn doors, down in Carver’s Creek.  The man had called out Jed Lawson out straight away.  His intentions laid out on the table from the minute he walked in.  It was to be a high stake game of straight poker.  If the stranger won he’d take everything of Jed’s.  If Jed won, he’d give Jed the most valuable thing on Earth.  And with that, the stranger placed a small, exquisitely decorated box upon the table.  It was truly going to be a game where the winner takes all…

This is a short and sweet little Hellraiser story which gets straight to the heart of the plot without any added padding having been thrown in.  Set in what appears to be the Wild West, the short tale dabbles with history in a similar way to the previous story did, in order to add a depth of time to the whole Hellraiser mythos.  And to be fair to writer Sholly Fisch, although there’s not really all that much to the story, it nevertheless manages to add in its own glimpse of history to the lament configuration.  It also has a quiet subtlety that works particularly well.  Another excellent offering.

The Warm Red – 15 Pages
Jan Strand (Writer) – Bernie Wrightson (Artwork) – Bill Wray (Colours) – Michael Heisler (Letterer)

Maureen Endicott wasn’t about to pass up on a deal like this.  He promised her a 500% return on her investment.  Enough to make her a millionaire…or at least a good percentage of one.  The property in question was an old ramshackle farmhouse with a few hundred acres of stoney ground that was about to be worth its weight in gold.  She just had to convince the occupant to sell up.  Something she didn’t have a problem with.  After all, she had assets of her own.  And she’d exploit them for all their worth in order to get what she wants…

Writer Jan Strand’s offering is a classic ruthless-bitch-trying-to-screw-over-the-quiet-loner story.  From when the middle-aged gold-digger appears at the ramshackle old property it’s reasonably clear where Strand’s going with the story.  And it seems to follow that exact course, until the ‘Hellraiser’ twist comes in to play.  Yeah, we’ve got some nasty little treats on the way, along with the introduction of a new Cenobite in ‘Face’ – an Ed Gein style demon sporting a stapled on Dead Skin Mask.  It’s a cracking story, with Maureen taking on a Julia type of role to finish the story up with.  Although it has to be said – it does end a tad abruptly.

Dance Of The Fetus – 18 Pages
Ted McKeever (Writer & Artist)

Alice had run the moment she finally meets a demon through her head so many times, she thought she knew how she’d react when the actual time came.  But as she stood before the grey-skinned creature from hell, she realised she could never have truly prepared herself.  Nevertheless it was time to begin.  To fulfil her destiny.  She’d already played her part – now it was time for the demon to begin…

Ted McKeever is the sole guy behind this wonderfully dark and horrifically twisted tale.  Drenched in depressive misery from the outset, this particularly stylised offering is told almost entirely through the artwork rather than dialogue or narrative.  Its washed-out colours and silent temperament make for a chilling backdrop to this ‘suicide’ style of storyline.  It’s one that chills your blood with its coldness.  And that’s all before the tiny foetus joins the story.  Grim…cold…and truly haunting.

The comic runs for a total of 64 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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