In a single year, Clive Barker has managed to accomplish what may have been impossible for others. He, along with co-writer Mark Miller, has salvaged a formerly dying franchise and resuscitated it completely, taking it even beyond its former glory. Barker has taken us on an excursion, from the four corners of the earth to the hottest pits of Hell, where an intense battle between the two worlds presses on, with only a select few able to regain the balance.
This issue of Hellraiser opens with a familiar character, traipsing through a bloody valley in Hell. As the fires beat down on his already festered, weary skin, he begs for the light. A second chance, salvation, anything. Because God “has” to hear, right? Well, as it turns out, it’s not quite God that hears him, but not quite man, either. Captain Elliot Spencer stands there, looking down at him. He offers this pivotal character a deal: help him to fight Kirsty, the new Head Cenobite, in Hell.
Meanwhile, his human team, Tiffany and Theo, are still struggling to destroy all of the puzzle boxes and their worshippers. Spencer informs them that even if the boxes are destroyed, there’s still a way that the Cenobites’ demons can come back, and through this method, Hell can never be truly defeated.
This issue is broken up into two episodes: “Closer to God,” and “My Enemy’s Enemy.” “Closer” focuses on Hell, full of grotesque, decaying bodies and a blood-stained landscape. Jesus Hervas really mastered the human form in this installment; the different body types used in the Hell scenes are varied and real. “My Enemy’s Enemy,” illustrated by Michael Montenat and written by Brandon Seifert (of “Witch Doctor”), is definitely darker, with more black to contrast the neutral colors. However, an element that’s remained consistent throughout not only this issue, but the entire series, is that startling shade of red that never fails to give me chills.
I know that this probably goes without saying, but “Hellraiser: Annual” marks a fantastic year for this series. Clive Barker and Mark Miller have consistently delivered an intricate and engaging story that propels us between worlds with the characters. We have not just followed Kirsty’s and Pinhead’s transformations; we, as fans, have evolved with them. We’ve been placed into these new depths of Hell and Earth alongside them, experiencing their fears, and feeling their pain. After the years of lost mythology and skewed plots, the sinking ship that was once the Hellraiser franchise is now navigating calmer waters, smooth sailing.