REVIEW: Hellraiser #1 + FREE Hellraiser PDF Download!

Hellraiser #1Download this FREE Prelude to Hellraiser #1 PDF from BOOM! Studios (Right Click, Save As)

Hellraiser #1

Written by: Clive Barker and Christopher Monfette
Art by: Leonardo Manco
Cover by: Tim Bradstreet

$3.99 / 40 pages

BOOM! Studios

Even hellspawn get the blues. Or so it seems in the first issue of BOOM! Studios’ relaunch of Hellraiser, Clive Barker’s seminal multimedia horror franchise.

In this first issue, written by Barker (to some extent; it’s not clear what co-writer Monfette’s role is), the most readily identifiable Hellraiser character—Pinhead, the pale, S&M-styled figure who is covered with a grid of nails driven into his head—is facing an existential crisis. He leads the Cenobites, a group of seekers who push the boundaries ever farther, whose lust for sensation erodes the line between pleasure and pain, both for themselves and for the people who summon them.

After 80-plus years of delivering that exquisite combination of pleasure and pain, Pinhead is bored. Worse than bored, he seems numb.

“Is there no trick of the skin, no obfuscation of the flesh left to uncover?” he asks in this issue, just before he tears an unsuspecting woman to pieces. “Our eloquence wasted. Our gifts of sensation offered to the numb and naïve.”

It’s an interesting place to situate Pinhead, who hasn’t appeared in comics since the 1992 conclusion of Marvel/Epic’s Hellraiser series (being released in archive TPBs by Boom! starting this month). In the nearly 20 years since then, the world has changed in ways that are bound to disturb the Cenobites.

The subcultures from which the inspiration for the characters sprung, and in which they thrive in the stories, are less sub every day thanks to the light shined by the Internet into every shadowy corner. We’re inundated with sensation now. Our jaded modern pose of acting as if we’ve already experienced everything has rendered even the weird and the new quotidian.

So it makes sense that Pinhead would be bored, frustrated. How this gets expressed, though, is a bit confusing. Pinhead wants to become human once again, to try to earn forgiveness and access to Heaven. While ostensibly motivated by a priest’s dying plea for forgiveness (featured in the Hellraiser Prelude PDF – download here), such a tremendous change of heart being triggered by a single panel stretches credibility a bit. The effect just doesn’t seem commensurate with the cause.

This isn’t the only area that Hellraiser #1 runs into problems of coherence.

While Leonardo Manco’s art is awe-inspiring in scale and grotesque in detail in the way Hellraiser should look, the storytelling isn’t always clear. For instance, on page 12, what’s happening in panel 2? And on page 15, what is Pinhead doing to the female Cenobite’s neck? He can’t be putting the key in it since he needs that to open a door.

Other items that aren’t yet clear should be revealed in future issues: who is Samuel, the man who captures people and tapes them as they open the puzzle box that calls the Cenobites to kill them; who is Kirsty Cotton (the main character of the first two Hellraiser movies, but if you haven’t seen the movie, there’s no explanation); the story seems to be joined after the events that ended the 1992 series, but how many readers remember that?

Given these questions and concerns, I’m not sure I’d recommend Hellraiser #1 to readers who haven’t encountered this mythology already. If you’re one of those readers, waiting for the trade will serve you better. But if you know Hellraiser, you’ll be glad to have it back. Give it a few issues; I suspect Barker has new and wonderful sights to show us.

Story: 4 / Art: 3.5 / Overall: 4
(Out of 5)


Sam Costello is the creator and writer of Split Lip, a horror webcomics anthology that io9 has called “the webcomics answer … to the Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.” It offers nearly 500 pages of free comics.

Split Lip vol. 3 is now available from pre-order directly from Sam. You get all kinds of nice things when you pre-order. Sam thinks you should.


  1. After reading that PDF, I am glad I did not preorder this one.

  2. I think this book has a lot of potential. I just happened to stream the first 2 films on Netflix recently, so that helped with the flow for me knowing what was going on with things that weren’t spelled out, but that would be a stumbling block for new readers like you said. This book is supposed to be official Hellraiser storyline, taking off after the first film since that was the only one Barker was associated with (and the original novella). The art was great, the story was interesting, and I think this will without much trouble be the best thing to happen to that particular mythology since the first film. Does anyone know when the Marvel Archive editions are coming out? I’ve checked Amazon every week for the past few months, I even typed in the ISBN number given on the back of this comic that advertises the first volume and nothing shows up.