There are times when you read something, whether its literature or comics, that you actually feel like you’re getting something special. The opportunity happens rarely, which is why when something breaks through, you have to celebrate it. Never looking back, “Clive Barker’s Next Testment” (BOOM! Studios) defined horror comics and went all out to create something extraordinary in 2014.
Before we discuss the narrative, let’s talk about the announcement. When I read on the Bloody-Disgusting site, Barker was working on an original comic, first entitled “New Genesis,” and it was going to be a 12-part miniseries; I was hesitant at first. Because I read a lot of superhero comics, I thought 12 issues were reserved for crossover events, like Batman’s “Knightfall” and most recently “Year Zero.”
What’s the guy who wrote and directed “Hellraiser” going to do in an original title? Well, he’s going to blow away expectations, that’s what. From 2013 to 2014, each issue delivered was carefully mapped out as Barker and co-writer Mark Miller teamed up to deliver something unique with religious horror.
The story begins in the desert wasteland, where eccentric billionaire Julian Demond is searching for something hidden underneath the layers of sand. Waiting to be set free, “The Father” from the Old Testament, wakes up finally from his prison. Julian thinks he has found God but he has actually unearthed a sadistic power-hungry supreme being, nicknaming himself Wick. Julian’s son, Tristan, and his fiancée, Elspeth, are going to witness the coming of the apocalypse.
Metaphors upon metaphors, humanity’s search for God echoes the son’s search for his father’s love. Tristan doesn’t believe in a higher power because his own father abandoned him as a boy. He follows blindly in his love for Elspeth, which is really the same about having faith in something.
What’s truly remarkable about the text is how Miller put a lot of effort into the witty dialogue.Tristan and Elspeth are an ordinary and likable couple who rely on each other in this extraordinary event. The two are given an emotional arc that allows their characters to develop. A mixture of Lori Winston and Kirsty Cotton, Elspeth starts out as the quirky girlfriend and ends up being the badass type.
Artist Haemi Jang had to capture the design of an antagonist who had the eloquence of Pinhead and the bloodlust of a Jason Voorhees. Jang captures both sides of Wick in the dinner scene that goes horribly wrong. From start to finish, there is a thrilling plane crash in the first volume that is unbelievably pulse-pounding, like the one in “Lost.”
Remember in this fourth season of “Game of Thrones,” particularly the episode “The Watchers on the Wall.” It was 10 minutes of dialogue and 50 minutes of nonstop action. That’s the penultimate issue, where Jang depicts the all-or-nothing battle between Wick and the Devil. It’s 5 pages of dialogue and rest of the 22 pages are hard-hitting punches, buildings being knocked around, and a fight in space.
To this critic, the “Next Testament” series ranks up there with the best of Clive Barker’s works, such as “Cabal” and my personal favorite, “Lord of Illusions.” As years pass by, a generation of new readers will say, “This is how you make a horror comic.” Not only is “Next Testament” thought-provoking as it pushed boundaries, it’s one helluva fun read.
Editorial by Jorge Solis