HELLRAISER: THE DARK WATCH #7 / Written by CLIVE BARKER, BRANDON SEIFERT / Art by TOM GARCIA / Published by BOOM! Studios
Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, released in 1987 is still hailed as one of the most iconic films of its genre. Many may not remember its plot but its nightmarish imagery, chief of which is its antagonist Pinhead, earned the film’s place in the horror movie cannon. Sadly, a string of lukewarm sequels not helmed by Barker caused the film to fade from the spotlight.
In 2011, BOOM! Studios released the twenty issue “Clive Barker’s Hellraiser” serial, a continuation of Barker’s original saga with art drawn by Leonardo Manco. Hellraiser: The Dark Watch follows this first series, and deals with the aftermath of its events.
The most glaring flaw of this series (as well as its predecessor) is a strong sense of continuity lockout. These comics are designed for a very specific audience; one that knows the Hellraiser franchise, enjoys the Hellraiser franchise, and has read the 26 comics prior to picking up this one.
If you do not meet these three criteria, this comic is not for you. While beautifully drawn with a unique gothic atmosphere, Hellraiser: The Dark Watch (and the series as a whole) is ruthless and dementedly violent. Like the older brother of films such as Saw or Hostel it seems more mature and sophisticated but is just as sick and nasty as its unruly kin. As for the storyline, it will make no sense, even if you’ve seen the movies, without having the read the previous twenty comics. While it would be fantastic if this book could help introduce new fans to this iconic franchise, it is far too complicated and catered to specific tastes to standalone.
For those who are fans of Hellraiser and somehow succeeded in following the story thus far-The Dark Watch is interesting, but mediocre, never taking that next progressive step. The new Pinhead? A unique take- “What if Joe Everyman was suddenly the ruler of Hell?” but the series never delves into who he or anyone else is and continually treats its characters as pawns in an increasingly complicated game.
The comic reveals that there are multiple Hells and they are at war. A unique idea if it wasn’t lost between all the clutter of the rest of the storyline. At some moments Tom Garcia’s artwork proves horrifyingly beautiful while at others falls into being murky and boring. In a nutshell, a feeling of mediocrity, the “you can do better” kind, pervades.
To conclude, Hellraiser: The Dark Watch #7 asks a for lot. It asks you to be fan of a movie from the 80s, then to read over twenty issues of backstory. Following that, it asks you to stomach a large amount of sadomasochism, gore, darkness, and mind-screws. Yet in exchange all it gives you is beautiful but inconsistent art and a lackluster plot that could be so much more. Ultimately, this book and its previous series is only for the most die-hard fans.