Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: Bestiary #3 Review

Posted October 17, 2014 by Ben Ecker in Comic Books

Written by: Ben Meares, Ed Brisson, & Mark Miller

Art by: Akiel Guzman, Alexis Ziritt, & Carlos Magno

Publisher: Boom! Studios

There’s a tendency with horror franchises, in any medium, to shift focus from the survivors/victims to the “slasher” themselves as time goes on. (This is how we end up with a run of Nightmare on Elm Street films in which Freddy Krueger becomes a standup comedian.) It always seems like a good idea at first, but the slasher always wears out their welcome before long. This absolutely happened within the Hellraiser film franchise, but not to the same degree. Instead, over the years it’s been the Hellraiser comics that have turned Pinhead into the protagonist. The problem with this is that it’s made the Cenobites and their world mundane. Hellraiser: Bestiary seems to be taking a big step back from that trend in a way that hasn’t been done since the early days of the Hellraiser comics, and, so far, it stands to be a good change of pace for the property. By taking Hellraiser back to an anthology format, the book allows for individual stories that feel in the vein of Clive Barker’s original novella while still allowing for some ongoing continuity in each issue.

The first of the three segments this month is “Puzzled.” Similarly to Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, “Puzzled” sees one of the Lemarchand boxes ending up in the hands of a child that happens to have an aptitude for such things. In this instance, it’s simply because his father wants him to be kept occupied and quiet. As I’m sure you can imagine, things do not go well for father or son. Ben Meares adds some intriguing subtlety to this segment. Readers are likely to sympathize with the father at first, before eventually realizing that there’s some darkness to his motivation, but, whereas Hellraiser tales usually function in elevated dramatics, that darkness is very human. The line work, by Akiel Guzman, is good, but the color suffers from the same odd, splotchy nature I recently noticed in the newest Nightbreed issue. With the proliferation of digital color there seems to be a bit of a disregard by some colorists for how shadows work in favor of randomly applying filters when dealing with lines that are not especially detailed.

“Conduit,” by Ed Brisson, is interesting in that it feels similar to some of the later Hellraiser film sequels, where a Cenobite or six would be thrown into a story that seemed otherwise unrelated to the mythology. Phil, our main character, is taunted into crafting his own personal hell on Earth. He doesn’t, however, solve the requisite puzzle box to bring this about. Given the nature of the book as an anthology, it’s inevitable that some of the stories will veer off in different directions, but the mounting dread that Brisson builds here has it’s edge potentially dulled slightly if readers are looking for a connection to the mythology through the entire story.

The final segment this month is the third part of the book’s ongoing continuity segment, “The Hunted.” In this story, Pinhead finds himself being summoned by individuals who have done so with the express purpose of turning the tables on him for profit. Ben Meares and Mark Miller have come up with a compelling twist to the usual Hellraiser sequence of events here. The idea that there is a black market for pieces of the Cenobites is fascinating, and seeing Pinhead on the run makes things even more so. It may simply be because of the shorter nature of the segments, but Meares and Miller also seem to have a firm grasp for keeping that mundane nature out of their narrative, even though Pinhead is, for all intents and purposes, the protagonists. The art in this segment is also strong. The colors, by Matt Batagalia, which I found problematic in “Puzzled,” work much better here with the more detailed line work by Carlos Magno, giving the visuals a warm and grimy quality. On adapted properties like this, the interior art tends to be a weak link. Magno’s art is far from the norm in this sense though. He has a great sense of continuity and form, and he brings a visceral nature to the book that often seems to be missing when horror moves to the page.

As with any anthology piece, Hellraiser: Bestiary has been a bit of a mixed bag. Ben Meares and Mark Miller’s segments have proven to be the high points again this month. Overall, Bestiary provides readers that are interested in the franchise a read that feels more at home than we’ve seen in a long time.

About the Author

Ben Ecker

Recent grad, in Sacramento, California. Into comics, music, films (especially of the horror variety), books, and long walks on the beach.