First published back in 1990, the fourth issue of Epic Comics’ original ‘Hellraiser’ offshoot series contained another three short stories designed to expand upon Clive Barker’s Hellraiser mythos.  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.

Cenobite! – 15 Pages
Nicholas Vince (Writer) – John Van Fleet (Artwork) – James Novak (Letterer)

Edward Leverett had an obsession for order.  There was no place in his life for Chaos.  He craved the ridged rule of order.  The control of it.  The strict discipline which it dictated.  He’d struggled in the Falklands.  The war created such disorder.  It was his need for discipline that had been his eventual downfall.  That led to his dishonourable discharge.  He’d moved on since then.  He had a new life.  A wife.  A potential career in selling his artwork.  Selling his visions.  But he still longed for something else.  Something truer to himself.  Something that he could finally submit to…

Nicholas Vince knows a thing or two about Cenobites.  After all, he played the Chatterer Cenobite in both ‘Hellraiser’ (1987) and ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’ (1988).  So quite unsurprisingly what Vince offers up for the first story in this fourth issue of the ‘Hellraiser’ graphic novels, is one mother fucker of a dark and unsettling tale.  From the beginning we’re shown glimpses of the Hell we witnessed within ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’ (1988); the imposing monolithic Leviathan towering over the endless labyrinth of Hell.  The imagery here (and indeed throughout the story) is absolutely second to none.  It’s incredible artwork - savage and stylised yet intricately put together with the eye of an artist.  The story that follows from these first pages is textbook ‘Hellraiser’.  One man’s constant search for something more.  Something he feels compelled to obtain.  It’s a story of dark fate and an even darker, more encompassing obsession.  And it’s a damn good one.

Like Flies To Wanton Boys – 19 Pages
Bunny Hampton-Mack (Writer) - Scott Hampton (Artwork) – Tracy Hampton-Munsey (Letterer)

It had been seven years since Ian Woolrich and his devoted wife Cathy had last been out in public.  Over those seven years they hadn’t once left the confines of their house on account of Ian’s uncontrollable fear of opening closed doors.  It had left him a hermit.  The strange phobia had begun after an evening spent entertaining guests in which he solved puzzle boxes.  Shortly after the last box was solved, Woolrich had gone into an upstairs bedroom and disappeared.  He’d then gone missing, only to reappear locked within the kitchen pantry a few days later.  No one knowing where he’d been the whole time.  Ever since then the fear of closed doors had dominated his life.  Surely it was madness and nothing else…

This is an intriguing one.  To be honest there’s not a huge amount of ‘Hellraiser’ in it – but just enough to give it an eeriness that saturates the entire story.  A good quarter or so of the story is given over to the period whilst our principal character - Ian Woolrich – is missing.  The days during which he is lost in an empty void of perpetual blackness, with nothing in front of him but an endless void of darkness and the constant promise of a golden door to go through.  It’s a taunting yet textbook nightmare sequence.  One which would no doubt instil a life-gripping phobia, should you suffer such an ordeal over days on end.  Writer Bunny Hampton-Mack does a hell of a job in projecting this torment.  The trauma endured is almost palpable.  And that’s exactly where the story’s strength lies.  Outside of this terror, outside of the nightmarish sequences of torment, there’s actually little else in the tale.  But within those pages, where Woolrich is clambering through an endless black void, there is absolute unrestrained horror.

To Prepare A Face – 21 Pages
Jan Strand (Writer) – Mark Chiarello (Artwork) – Gaspar Saladino (Letterer)

No matter how much make-up he applied, he just couldn’t get Fagan’s face right.  And that was the key to his character.  The difference between a lukewarm performance and a breath-taking one.  They were to start filming his scene tomorrow morning.  He had to get his face sorted before then.  So he went out into the streets.  Stalking the alleyways.  Hiding in the shadows.  Waiting.  Watching.  Looking at the faces of those that passed him by.  And then he saw it.  Fagan’s face.  He had to have it.  To use it for his own purposes.  For the film.  So he took it. No one would know how he achieved such a perfect face for the role.  No one would know the truth behind his mask.  His dead skin mask…

Ed Gein, I’d like to introduce you to the Cenobites.  I think you’ll get on damn well!  After all, that’s exactly what Jan Strand’s done.  If you’ve been following the ‘Hellraiser’ graphic novels to this point, you’ll no doubt have come across Jan Strand’s Cenobite creation – the somewhat appropriately named ‘Face’.  So far he’s appeared in two stories – ‘The Warm Red’ from issue one, and then ‘The Crystal Precipice’ from issue three.  Here Strand’s returned once again, this time offering up the backstory for her dead skin masked Cenobite.  It’s a wonderfully evocative story, borne of an actor’s obsession with having the perfect face to give the very best of performances for the silver screen.  Indeed, all those familiar base elements are there again – obsession, devotion, pain.  It all makes for a classic ‘Hellraiser’ story.  And that’s exactly what Strand delivers.  Although, a tad light on the ‘Hellraiser’ influence for the majority of the tale, it nevertheless offers up a superb window into the formation of her Cenobite and the pact that is made with Hell.  Love it.  And I love where Strand’s going with fleshing out this intriguing Cenobite.

The comic runs for a total of 64 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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