Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Hellraiser The Dark Watch Book 1 (#1-4)

"We have such sights to show you" - Female Cenobite

Regular readers (hi all several of you!) might see that I am pretty into horror.  Not just games, manga and comics, but I love horror films as well.  In the 80's my favourite was Hellraiser and its first sequel Hellraiser II: Hellbound.  The mythology around the films are complex, but revolve around magic puzzle boxes that when solved open a gateway to a dimension where pleasure and pain are both explored beyong normal human limits.  The high priests of this place are the Cenobites.  The most well know and iconic leader of the bunch is one nicknamed "Pinhead" due to the fact his make-up sees Doug Bradley's face covered in nails.  In the first film we meet Kirsty, a young American woman who moves to her uncles old house with her dad and wicked stepmother Julia.  Having solved the box, uncle Frank is in Hell but using blood and the desire the stepmother has for him, she helps bring him to life whereon he kills his brother (Kirsty's dad) and takes his skin.  But Kirsty using some fast talking after having solved the box, has the Cenobites take Uncle Frank back and as we fnd out in the sequel Kirsty ends up in an insane asylum where she befriends a mute girl called Tiffany who is being used to open another puzzle box and ends up battling the resurrected Julia and the transformed head of the asylum Doctor Channard, between them they cause the Cenobites to be briefly turned human again before being killed, Channard is defeated and Tiffany and Kirsty escape from Hell's Labyrinth and leave the asylum together.

This comics appears to be a sequel of sorts to a previous Hellraiser series I can't find much details on.  Going by what I learned reading this, Kirsty became a Cenobite too (and if you take the Direct-to-Video sequel Hellseeker as canon she certainly became Cenobite material in that one sacrificing her cheating husband's lovers to save herself) and with the humanised Pinhead aka: Elliot Spencer, sought to revolt against the Leviathan (depicted in Hellbound and this comic as a giant diamond that hovers over the Cenobite dimension).  Meanwhile Tiffany (now able to talk) is part of a group, created by a man who has disappeared, devoted to finding the puzzle boxes and keeping them out of unsuspecting hands.  Phew, that's more backstory than usual, and the comics doesn't make many concessions to readers who aren't familiar with the films, but why would you be reading the comic if you weren't?  Onward with the story then!
Solving the puzzle box.
The story begins as with most Hellraisers with a man buying one of the puzzle boxes and opening it.  A door opens to Hell (it seems the Ceneobites have been reimagined as merely executive Hell demons rather than the devotees of a cult of Pleasue and Pain they originally were).  But there is no "welcoming commitee".  The man wanders into Hell and notes "the damned are here.  But where are the demons?"

Then he is greeted by a lone Ceneobite, a female one from the first two films known affectionately by fans as "throat vagina lady".  I... I'll stick to calling her Female Cenobite I think.  She asks why he would walk into Hell with open eyes.

Female Cenobite: "You know of our order.  And of our devotions.  And yet, you came of your own free will."

She sounds surprised, but that's kind of what the theme of the first two fil... you know I'll stop nitpicking based on the films.  Call this an alternate reality and we can get on with this without me stopping every page to go, "ummmm actually."
The Female Cenobite.
The man says he is a theologian who wanted to see the truth of things before he died of terminal liver cancer. He wanted to come on his own terms.  So idly Female Cenobite starts taking him on the tour.  She shows him the pit of hell were the normal damned end up.   She says the only "pluck the juiciest of sinners for special attention in the Labyrinth."  The man rumours that he's disappointed to find out his future is in the pit, "I suppose I felt my sins were special".

Female Cenobite says she is aware of his sins and also that the Damned are restless following recent events. She tells the theologian that his fate is not in the pit, his lies elsewhere.  They pass a pile of globes and Female Cenobite explains that torture is not just of the body, but of the mind as well.  Inside one of the balls are imprisoned former Pinhead Elliot Spencer and his former nemesis cum fellow High Priest Kirsty Cotton, destined to live out repeating violent fates. Kirsty notices the theologian peering in and briefly seems to realise she is trapped in a repeating loop.  The theologian asks if they are in there, who is ruling hell?  And why is he getting a guided tour from a "Cenobite as my Virgil" not learning at the end of a hook?
Leviathan hanging over the Labyrinth.
Female Cenobite points out Leviathan, huge and mysterious, hovering over the Labyrinth. She explains that Cenobites no longer greet openers of the puzzle box as they want people to walk into Hell of their own free will. The Cenobites are also forming an army and the theologian figures out this has been a recruitment briefing.

Female Cenobite: "You see Hell is - what are your words? - 'Under new management'".

Then Hell's new high priest Pinhead mk.II who also has a strange oversized eye, shows up on a flayed horse.  The theologian identifies him as Harry D'Amour, "Private detective turned exorcist turned Lord of Hell.  That's quite the career path Harry."  Harry in turn recognises the theologian as "Marchetti" and immediately identifies him as an assassin and calls on his Cenobites to protect him and demands to know why Female Cenobite bought him this far.
Harry D'Amour, Hells new High Priest.
She says she thought he was just a theologian.  Harry says  Darrieux Marchetti is a "theological assassin" also known as "The Cankerist".   He takes his orders directly from The vatican.  The Cenobites attack Marchetti but he has a crucifix and a mystic knife so is "protected". But as he holds out the crufix to gloat, Harry fires a gun at it and knocks it out of his hand.

Marchetti: "A- A gun?  The entirety of Hell's power at your fingertips and you still won't part with your tiny pistol?"

Harry: "It gets the job done.  How about we get this over with so I can get back to my work?"

She flings out the iconic chains into Marchetti, causing him to drop the knife.  As Marchetti is pulled into an iron maiden for the start of his torture he desperately tells Harry to ask himself why he was made High Priest of Hell, and that the Leviathan is playing... and he gets cut off.  "Finally.  I thought he'd never shut up" snarks Harry.

Then Marchetti is regurgitated, his personality subsumed to join the ranks of the damned.  The Female Cenobite has a question though:

Female Cenobite: "The uprising that Captain Spencer caused among the damned souls has been quelled.  So then... what is this new army for?"

The action then moves back onto the mortal plain.  The hobo who supplies pleasure/pain seekers with puzzle boxes is reclaiming Marchetti's when a young woman and a three men tell him to put the box down.  The woman is Tiffany from Hellbound, now much more talkative. She offers to buy the box, but "one way or another we can't let you leave here with that".  The she brandishes a gun, the hobo says nothing but suddenly transforms into a huge skeletal demon thing. "Shit" is all she can say at this turn of events.
Tiffany is attacked by an Eremite.
There is a quick recap of who Tiffany is, the mute girl who was tricked into opening a puzzle box and saved by Kirsty as she cowers away from the demon skeleton bearing down on her. Then we get a flashback to earlier that day.   She is being called out by one of her colleagues for shooting a man who had acquired a puzzle box.  She defends herself saying he'd just have got another one and she gave him a trip to hell like he wanted.  She narrates that they are taking as many of the boxes out of circulation as they can.

The four of them work for Harry D'Amour who got them all together when all they have in common is hell.  Harry is "missing: presumed damned" as far as she knows  She and her team are working out of his office and the argument over her killing a man is interupted by a phonecall from a psychic who can tell when people are using the boxes and she steers them to where Marchetti opened his.  Which brings us back into the present and the attack by the skeleton demon.

She has no idea who to kill the thing and it shrugs off bullets, gutting one of the men in the process. She draws it away from the other two by using the box as bait.  She is cornered and quickly solves the puzzle which opens the Hell gate. She dives through and quickly solves it again shutting the gate on the neck of the demon and killing it.  Downside, she is now in hell and Harry comes to greet her.

Harry: "I knew you were a badass. But I wouldn't have laid money on you beating an Eremite".

Tiffany recognises him and he says he has to stop meeting his Facebook friends like this. He asks how she expects to get back, Kirsty and Elliot can't help her now.  She says she'll figure something out and what's an "Eremite?" 
Harry greets Tiffany in Hell.
Harry says an Eremite serves Leviathan's purpose on earth, supplying boxes to those who seek them and keeping them out of harms way. She hadn't seen them before because Eliot wanted the puzzles destroyed and ordered the Eremites to stand down. Now things are different.  He then changes the subject saying he could use Tiffany's help, not as a Cenobite but as someone with access to his information and contacts back on earth. He says he'll send her back if she agrees or not, he already sent her and her team back from hell as his first act as Hell's new "pope". 

He gives her a special puzzle she can contact with him and says she can trust him then sends her back.  Back on Earth, Tiffany contemplates the puzzle and berates herself for giving in.  But she needs to find Kirsty somehow and this is all she can think to do, "..why do I feel like Eve with the apple?  Oh Kirsty, where are you?"  And this chapter finishes with Kirsty being woken up by Elliot bringing her breakfast in bed, they kiss and profess their love for each other.
Kirsty and Elliot being mind screwed.
The next chapter chronicles Kirsty and Elliot's experience in the globe in a somewhat fractured narrative. There are some strange sequences to begin with showing Elliot's recruitment and Kirsty's imprisonment and that they are being watched over by a mysterious, unspeaking man dressed in white.   Elliot says the man is Leviathan as he and Kirsty are left naked in their jail.  Then Kirsty sees Marchetti looking in on them.  This time Marchetti is fully inside the globe and bewildered Kirsty cries out:

Kirsty: "...this isn't how it happened!  This- this isn't real!  We've done this before..!"

The Marchetti disappears.   Elliot realises they are trapped in a mind prison.  He tells Kirsty hell isn't all hooks chains, "sometimes hell's most eloquent tortures require that the victim not realise he is in hell".

He wonders why, that although they are in a mind prison, they aren't being tortured.  Kirsty says it must be the mysterious white-clad man who she says is Leviathan.  Elliot says it can't be, why would the Lord of the Labyrinth be "dressed as a milkman".  Leviathan then says "Next".  And we return to the scene of Elliot and Kirsty celebrating their anniversary.  Then Kirsty rejects Elliot's kisses yelling that their surroundings have changed and this isn't real, and Leviathan says "Next" again.
Leviathan exerts it's power over their mental landscape.
We then cut to Elliot as Pinhead saying to Leviathan he wishes to return to the flesh, to "earn the salvation of heaven".   And then we flash through various scenario's as he is told  "this is all Leviathan's illusion".  Elliot then channels Kirsty perverted uncle Frank who got her involved in all this in the first place.   Kirsty in return transforms into a robed figure and says "come on Spencer.  Let's end this".

He taunts her and she says he's cost her everyone she ever cared about in her life and attacks him.   He tosses her to one side saying even with all the power of hell she has, he has more from his "benefactor".   He then inflicts a gut wound on her and she runs from him.  She bumps into the Leviathan/Milkman and asks him to reset things "this is one scenario I'm not going to miss".  Leviathan just smiles.

She realises that Leviathan wants Elliot to kill her and as Eliot stalks her she tries to reason with him.  She says Leviathan wants something which is why he is making them act out scenarios and relive their memories. Why would that be?

Elliot: "Because he's a perverted god who likes to fuck with mortals?"

He is still intent on killing her, but she tells him to think about why the Leviathan let him become human again and seek salvation, it had reasons of it's own for allowing it. Apparently Eliot/Pinhead went and sought power from something else after that and that "benefactor" also had reasons of its own. Elliot has been used.

Elliot finally stops trying to kill her and asks what they should do.  Kirsty says she's a Cenobite and Elliot is whatever he is now and between them they wield massive amounts of power if they work together they could get out.   Elliot muses that by fighting they are giving Leviathan exactly what it wants.  Then he punches Kirsty saying "it is awfully fun".

Finally though he agrees to work with her to escape.  They hold hands and calls a truce, for now. They exert their combined power but nothing happens, then Leviathan appears and says "Next" and they are back in the anniversay scenario.  Outside the globe, Harry watches them pensively.
Harry wonders why they have been imprisoned like this.
We then get some insight into how Harry regards his current incarnation as a Priest of Hell.  He thinks hell is "overrated" and now he understands why Elliot would risk everyting to escape it.  He has no stomach for torture and he's bored of drilling the Cenobite army.  It was something of a relief when someone tried to assasinate him.  He runs through the attack by Marchetti who he knew of in the mortal world.  He now has Marchetti's "talisman" but lost track of the Cenobite killing knife in the confusion of the attack.  It'll turn up he thinks.

He's still bothered by what Marchetti said before he was Cenobited, why would the Leviathan choose Harry?  He's just a puppet.  This statement "cuts me like a razor" thinks Harry. As he mulls over this he registers the Female Cenobite also has a question, just what is this Cenobite army for she asks.  Then Tiffany puts in her appearance, he restates what we learned about their relationship from her perspective and then he sends her back.

Her question about what happened to Kirsty, his predecessor as a Priest of Hell also bothers him, he knows she and Eliot are locked in the memory sphere but doesn't know why. Did she fail?  Does Eliot need a jailer?  With Leviathan you are always seeing only one part of a larger plan.
Harry tries to break Marchetts' conditioning.
Then he goes to the Cenobite that was Marchetti and starts to try and force him to remember who he was. But the Female Cenobite pulls him away.  Harry doesn't know much about her, just that she helped him when he was still human and she was in love with Elliot.  She says that Kirsty cursed her and Elliot with the regaining of their humanity.  "Spencer never forgave her that tresspass".  He wonders why his own memories were left intact upon his transformation, must be another Leviathan plan of course.

He wanders through the The Pit thinking things over, when one of them attempts to kill him, although they are cowed by the failure of their rebellion, some of them still have a hate for the "Cenobite oppressors!" Almost idly, Harry restrains the man with barbed wire chains and keeps on walking until he finds a castle he didn't know existed.

The guard on the gate says it is forbidden to go inside, especially for Harry.  Harry tries to go past and the guard attacks, but Harry uses Marchetti's crucifix to kill the guard and enters the forbidding structure.   Inside is a monster made of many bodies melded together and with three upper torso's wielding weaponry.   "That's new" says a surprised Harry.
Mutant hellbeast gaurding something.
The being starts to attack and shrugs off the crufix's protection to grab ahold of Harry.  Things look bad, then Marchetti's knife suddenly embeds itself in the being and it drops Harry.  It was thrown by the Female Cenobite.  The knife doesn't kill the being so both Harry and the Female use their chain summoning powers to rip the being in half.  Unfortunately it's still not enough and the thing backs them into a corner.

With only one desperate gamble left, Harry asks the being if they remember who they were when they were human.  In great distress the beings various heads recall their previous lives and in horror at what they are now they tear themselves apart. They walk through the castle and arrive at the Labyrinth with Leviathan hovering over it and see something we aren't shown yet..

Harry says this has left him a lot to think about.  He wonders about the Female Cenobite's allegiance to him. He ruminates that Elliot's insurrection started with him tearing a hole between hell and earth. And now he is standing in front of the hole, this is what the monster was guarding.

Harry: "It's all clear now.  The new army - it's an invasion force.  Hell is going to invade earth!  It's the final battle.  The end of days.  Hell's army comes to earth... and I'm supposed to lead it."
The hole to Earth is still intact, bad luck Earth.
He looks fair gutted by this revelation, and that brings volume one to an end. I have to admit that, with a long list of caveats, I actually enjoyed this first volume.  Expect to see more in future months.  The writing is enjoyable and quite funny in places with Harry making a very laid back and laconic High Priest of Hell, Clive Barker is credited as one of the writers, but I have no idea how involved he is there is a co-writer, Brandon Seifert also credited.  The art by Tom Garcia is so-so (can you imagine what someone like Ben Templesmith could have done with this material?), it's painfully obvious the image rights to Doug Bradley (Pinhead/Eliot Spencer) Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) and Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) has either not be sought or not granted if they were.  I think they made the right choice in basically only treating the first two films as their canon and diverging from an alternate version of the ending of Hellbound in which Pinhead stays as a Pope of Hell but with his internal humanity restored (rather than being killed by Doctor Channard).  You might be surprised to learn that in fact there have been nine Hellraiser films in total and the sticky sexual side of the series was dropped pretty much after the first film, giving us a more traditional Hell and it's demons, so I can nitpick but not really blame the comics for going that route as well.  I'm curious as to the events described as taking place before this series, although enough information is given as to how and why it occured.  I did hunt around for the previous miniseries but it's out of print and one volume is nearly £50!  It's The Punisher MAX all over again.  The Cenobite army and politics of this version of Hell is interesting and indeed there is form for Cenobites invading the mortal world en masse in Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth which appears to be broad strokes canon. I'm intrigued as to where this is all leading, what the inscrutable Leviathan's plan is, why it is tormenting Elliot and Kirsty the way it is, and what Harry's true allegiances are.  Call this a guilty pleasure from a fan of the film series it is based on.


  1. I thougt you might be able to tell me what it meant :

    I guess that fits with the description of them being solitary when the Cenobites are social.

  2. Lucy beat me to it.

    This sounds... interesting. I was always a wee bit disappoint that that the movies never followed up the Leviathan stuff from numero zwei.

  3. It is... interesting, I'll give it that. The script is definitely doing all the work for me, although I'd love to have the miniseries that comes between this and the first two films. Anyway, got another volume on its way to me, so expect more next month.

  4. the art isn't very good, also there have been nine Hellraiser films?!! I only thought they made three, you suere learn something neew everyday I guess :)

  5. Yes, nine. Actually eight of them including the DTV ones aren't completely unwatcable and I actually rate a couple quite highly. Not above the first three, but pretty good horror films. The ninth is an ambonation though. If you ever decide to catch up, steer clear of Hellraiser: Revelations. You'll thank me for it.