Wednesday Comics Review: Neonomicon 4 and Hellraiser Prelude And 1

The final issue of Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows. What to show, what to talk about, what to say without spoilers.

What I can say is that the Bleeding Cool crowdsourcing of analytic readers managed to get pretty much everything they guessed on the nose. What Carcosa actually said, what it meant, where Cthulhu is and why the Deep One seemed to spare Agent Brears.

But what no one managed to get was the really big twist about what the HP Lovecraft mythos, is, what it referred to, and what it means for our world. Even if there’s a big bright clue in the title.

This is a book of two levels. You can read it straight and get a great horror police procedural series, something that may be a bit more extreme than the likes of Fringe, but does fit in with that kind of world. And then you can analyse each and every panel and see a new level of reality, one that is outside both space and time, that used the comics medium as a wire frame to dance around, in and out. Which reflects some of the realities exposed in the plot. There has been much analysis of this and there is likely to be more to come, but those who saw some of the twists coming should feel justified, while those who didn’t are given a chance to reread and reread.

This issue has a different feel to the previous ones. There’s previous little nudity or sex, what violence occurs mostly happens off screen (mostly), it’s a bit of a come down in terms of such blatant visuals compared to the second and third issues. Instead, the book uses words, names, language to build up its gut punch. As a series, the book exists as a series of waves, or rhythms and the narrative here follws that structure, creating a very different level of horror and the very matter of fact attitude of Brears about her state, and the state of the universe around her is chilling. Happy reading and happy rereading.

Also out this week is Hellraiser #1 from Boom! written by Clive Barker and Christopher Monfette and drawn by Leonardo Manco. Also out is this free Hellraiser Prelude, available digitally, from the same team. Hellraiser all but made the Marvel Epic line back in the day, with contributors including Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. Do Boom hope it can have the same effect here?

But Hellraiser, based on the original novel Hellbound and made with author Clive Barker has rolled out seven films so far with an eight on the way and a remake of the first to follow that as well as the previous comic and spinoffs. What else is there to be said, even by Clive Barker?

And straight away there’s a problem. While Neonomicon uses a conversation to increase levels of dread and horror, in the Hellraiser Prelude, a conversation between Pinhead and the priest in charge  is, well, exposition. This is then replaced by bloody gut wrenching images, but this seems by-the-numbers rather than anything truly disturbing. There’s only eight pages to do its job, but as 2000AD always shows, you shouldn’t even need that.

The full issue itself seems more thoroughly thought through, both in terms of writing and art. This does give the impression the Prelude was rushed off, in comparison. Here, panels drip, bleed and smudge, have film strip superimposed upon them, creating frames within frames to draw the eye. And here the the Pinhead Cenobite’s verbosity is used to great effect, affecting a hellweariness, that reflects the continual Hellraiser movies, one after another after another. What may be a perceived weakness in the existence of this comic suddely becomes itsalmost self-aware strength. And a conversation as the Pinhead tries to change the very nature of his own situation, as trapped as any other, is delivered with great visual style and panache denied the Prelude.

But as Pinhead seeks to escape his own situation, so his past returns, with the Channard institute and Kirtsy Cotton with a new man no doubt doomed to a horrible fate (called Edgar… Allen Poe by any chance?) as ell as mention of the Harrowers from the Marvel comic.

So it walks the tightrope between a comic for newcomers and one steeped in the previous comic and movie mythology. It falters a little into the latter territory but Manco’s art should be sufficently entertaining to carry new readers through. And what it teases about the past, new readers may well find intriguing plot points to be explained at a later date.

It is very early days, and there are sparks of artistic invention and wit, the journey through the tin can, the discussion with a hellish organ and the painting style of Kirsty Cotton, but these are the exceptions so far. It doesn’t have the precision in both art and writing of something like Neonomicon, but then it probably doesn’t want to. Messy horror, full of intrigue sure, but not too clever with it. Maybe this is closer to Fringe after all.

Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London. See their podcast interview with Dave Elliott about his new Image stuff, and what is actually going on with Miracle/Marvelman… 

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