Clive Barker's Hellraiser Dark Holiday Special
December 4, 2017
This comic isn't for your eyes!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (throws arms out excitedly) IT'S CHRISTMASTIME!
(He snaps his fingers, and to a white flash, Christmas decorations appear in his room and a Santa hat appears on his head, over his fedora. His normal attire turns red and green)
Linkara: It's the most wonderful time of the year, everybody, which means we need to celebrate! And I think we'll start the festivities off (holds up index finger) with the most Christmas-y of all franchises... (throws arms out excitedly) "Hellraiser"!
Linkara (v/o): Clive Barker's Hellraiser series is more or less about the Cenobites, creatures that, as their leader Pinhead would say, are...
Pinhead (Doug Bradley): Demons to some, angels to others.
Linkara: And by that, he means, like, maybe once or twice in the sequels, they remember that they're supposed to be neutral beings. Otherwise, yeah, they're just demons who could really use some Band-Aids.
Linkara (v/o): The idea behind them is that they're beings who keep trying to explore deeper and deeper sensations of hedonistic pleasure, but they've gone so far that they're no longer able to distinguish between pain and pleasure. And of course, they're more than happy to assist people in exploring those realms of gratification, usually with hooks and chains and, well, ripping your flesh apart.
Linkara: (singing) Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, / Ring-ting-tingling, too...
Linkara (v/o): The other recurring element of the Hellraiser series is the method of summoning the Cenobites: a puzzle box called the Lament Configuration. But while Cenobites exist in every movie, the only recurring one across the franchise is Pinhead, played eight out of nine times by Doug Bradley. Like Freddy Krueger, he's a horror movie monster who talks a lot, but unlike Freddy's gleeful puns and bouncy personality, Pinhead is mostly reserved stationary. All of his words are meant to carry weight behind them, and he's not really known for laughing maniacally. Well, most of the time anyway.
(A clip of a Hellraiser movie is shown)
Pinhead: I am the way.
(A stained glass window behind him shatters as Pinhead cackles. Then cut to a montage of comics from "Hellraiser"'s publisher, Epic Comics)
Linkara (v/o): So, like with any popular franchise, there are naturally comic book tie-ins, and Hellraiser is no different, with the first coming from Marvel imprint Epic Comics. Epic, you may recall, was the line meant for creator-owned material with potentially more mature content than they could fit in the regular Marvel Universe, as well as a licensing plant for translations of some non-English works, like a few from French creator Mobius, as well as the classic "Akira". Epic originally ended, thanks to the speculator boom crashing in the mid-'90s, but of course was brought back after (sourly) the ending of "Marville", with the idea to use it to scout for new talent. And that resulted in "Trouble", both the book and for the line in general. But back in the late '80s, early '90s, Epic would have been a perfect fit for "Hellraiser".
Linkara: (sarcastically excited) Then in 1992, somebody thought, "Hey, I got an idea: 'Hellraiser' holiday special!" (sourly) And nobody stopped them.
Linkara (v/o): The Epic Comics "Hellraiser" series was an anthology book. According to the introduction of the first issue, they sat down with Clive Barker and hammered out a more complex mythology around the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration, or rather, Configurations, plural, a framework for all their stories to follow. And thus, this series was born, with a few "Hellraiser" short stories in each issue that explored various different Cenobites and people who sought the box, or similar bizarre puzzles, for any number of reasons. In preparation for this review, I read or skimmed through the twenty issues and... they're pretty damn good, actually. Most of the stories are fairly original while still exploring various themes of horror, in particular Lovecraftian fears of unknown, unknowable powers that the Lament Configuration can access, or at the very least, introducing new Cenobite variations, a few times having the same ones return for different stories... for better and for worse.
Linkara: And with that, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Clive Barker's Hellraiser Dark Holiday Special".
(The Christmas version of the AT4W title theme plays, and the title card has music from the Hellraiser series playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is all right, showing off a dark holiday image of a pair of kids reflected in a mirror, having solved the Lament Configuration and summoned Santa Cenobite, Pinhead himself, who looks like he accidentally bit his lip and is bleeding all over a fake beard. And geez, Pinhead, just because you've taken on the role of Santa, doesn't mean you had to eat all the milk and cookies! Just saying, if you really wanted to become Santa, you've certainly got the figure for it now.
Linkara: (holding up comic) Aaand I hope you enjoyed that single appearance of Pinhead! On the cover! Because he ain't in this book!
Linkara (v/o): Like with the series itself, this comic is an anthology, just one with a framing device centered on three particular Cenobites from the series, whom I'll explain in a bit.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open on a card that reads "Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men" that apparently has a real smoking problem, given what's coming out of it.
Man: --Man, the holidays always blow chow! Like this-- stuck in an effin' soup kitchen Christmas Eve! I remember one time, right? My two brothers, Keith and Peter, they get their asses outta bed oh-five-thirty, oh six hundred hours! Greedy sons of bitches. They sneak downstairs scopin' what Santa brought 'em that year!
Linkara: (as this man) Turns out Santa was already ready for them and had set up land mines.
Man: But the fat man's haul wasn't enough for them, oh no! They went right into every other present under the tree, rippin' and tearin' open boxes from whoever to whoever!
Linkara: (as this man) They got really confused by the underwear and my mom's present for Dad.
Man: And who catches the most crap? Me, that's who! Some B.S. about my bein' the oldest and shoulda been settin' an example!
Linkara: (as this man, pointing to himself) I shoulda been the one rippin' apart the presents! (points to camera) At 4AM!
Man: I was settin' an example. I was still in bed havin' wet dreams a' Babs Degrogotti!
Linkara: (as this man) My brothers shoulda been havin' massive erections for obscure Marvel characters!
(Cut to a shot of the cover of a comic called "Powerline: A Shadowline Saga")
Linkara (v/o): And "obscure" is right. Holy crap, I had never heard of this person before, so I did a Google search, figuring it'd be some random celebrity I'd never heard of, and the only result I really get is that Babs Degrogotti appeared in "Powerline #4".
(Cut back to the "Hellraiser" comic)
Linkara (v/o): I still have no idea who the hell this person is and why this guy'd be fantasizing about her. But who is Captain Complainy-Pants here? Well, allow me to introduce you to the three Cenobites now occupying a soup kitchen full of chains and dead bodies. So eventually, despite being an anthology, there was, for a time, an ongoing story in the "Hellraiser" comics: an eighteen-part saga spread out over a bunch of issues.
(Cut to a clip of Hellbound: Hellraiser II)
Linkara (v/o): One of the revisions made about the Cenobites is that they exist to spread order via their god, a giant diamond named Leviathan featured in the second movie.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): A prediction is made that the forces of chaos may overpower order on Earth, something that could somehow result in the destruction of Hell itself. Leviathan charges a group of Cenobites, called The Devil's Brigade, to deal with a few specific circumstances when society could be on the verge of order versus chaos. The thing is that this has nothing to do with good or evil, just that order has to win out. So for instance, they put equivalent wage to a country undergoing ethnic cleansing, as long as it was orderly, as much as a guy creating a series of homeless shelters because the homeless running amuck without a place to go is chaotic.
Linkara: Which seems to indicate that you can piss off the forces of Hell by just (makes a knocking motion) knocking over a cup full of pencils.
Linkara (v/o): These three were members of the Devil's Brigade. The first is Face, whose deal is, "What if Lon Chaney, Sr., was a Cenboite?" No, I'm not kidding. His backstory is basically that he's Lon Chaney with a different name, who cut off people's faces to create new create new characters for himself, so he's all about acting and performances and stuff. He's probably the most reoccuring Cenobite in the anthology and the most developed as a result. The one who looks like Maz Kanata from The Force Awakens if she grew a beehive haircut is Balberith, essentially Hell's librarian. She's the least developed among the three here and doesn't really have anything that interesting to note about her. Buuut then there's our last Cenobite, who you may notice looks a bit... um... Doom Marine. This is Atkins, a Vietnam War soldier who crawled into a series of tunnels in Vietnam that turned out to be a puzzle that he inadvertently solved, being recruited into the Cenobites for whatever reason. He was the one giving that monologue before, and as you can see, he is a gun-toting, bare-chested, headband-wearin', teeth-grittin', angry '90s antihero Cenobite!
(Cut to 90s Dude wearing an elf cap over his regular cap)
90s Dude: Duuude! This is what the Hellraiser series needed, man! We needed a character who can actually (makes devil-horn signs with his hands) RAISE SOME HELL!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Like, would you ever look at this guy and think he was a Cenobite? A zombie soldier, maybe, what with the pale skin, but seriously, someone thought that this was a good idea? Oh, wait, he's got a kneecap with a skull on it. That fixes everything!
(Cut to a clip of Mitchell and Webb, showing a Nazi official with a skull on his cap)
Nazi: Are we the baddies?
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): And if Clive Barker really was involved in a lot of this, he must have approved of this!
Linkara: I have seen the future of horror, and it includes a guy waving around a huge, nonsensical gun!
Linkara (v/o): And no, he was not really any better in the actual series, either. He's completely incongruous with the rest of the Hellraiser aesthetic. Not even the worst of the direct-to-DVD movies had something this out of place.
(Cut to a clip of one of those direct-to-DVD movies)
Linkara (v/o): And one of those involves a dumb Hellraiser Flash game!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): In any event, let's move on with the framing story here.
Face: How tragic, Atkins, that you can only find self-pity in a time of year so rich with dramatic tradition! Listen to the rattle of the chains! Hear in them the voice of Marley calling out to Ebenezer Scrooge!
Linkara: (holding up a chain) Eh, sorry, Face, but I think the connection's a bit weak. Man, my next chains need to have a really good 4G plan.
Linkara (v/o): Balberith says that Leviathan has charged them with investigating this "unsanctioned attack on mankind".
Atkins: Balberith's got it! We don't work out this puzzle fast, that bastard Black Diamond's gonna pin the whole mess on us so as to wrap things up nice and orderly like!
Linkara: (as Atkins) Which is why he sent me, an unstable hothead whose only other job I've done for Leviathan I not only screwed up, but actually made worse! (grabs a machine gun) WE HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU!! (fires gun into the air)
Linkara (v/o): Atkins finds a Lament Configuration among the presents under a Christmas tree, but clearly, this one is different, as indicated by the colored corners and less intricate geometric designs on it. Atkins thinks the box alone explains everything: somebody got obsessed with solving it and accidentally summoned Hell upon everyone.
Balberith: Unfortunately, my research indicates it's not quite that simple!
Atkins: Rain on my parade, librarian, and I'll bleed you dry down the nearest gutter!
Linkara: (as Atkins, pointing at camera) Let me tell you something, old lady, we'll tear your soul apart! (holds up machine gun again) WITH BULLETS!!! (fires gun into the air)
Linkara (v/o): As I said, in the series, the Lament Configuration was just one of many possible puzzle devices, but according to Balberith's guidebook to these objects, the one they have isn't listed.
Face: It would seem the Devil's Mark has been sacrificed in favor of one reading "Made In Taiwan"!
Linkara: And of course, the Devil's Mark should be (makes an "air quote") "Made By E.A.".
Linkara (v/o): Examining it further, Face says that the box is an imitation, yet he can sense the story behind it, leading us into the first proper story of the anthology, "Child's Play".
Linkara: Okay, I had never really thought of Chucky vs. Pinhead as a possibility, but I'm willing to see where this goes.
Linkara (v/o): A guy [Steve] runs up to an elevator, cursing in his head before the elevator opens... and he finds himself suspended in the air, naked, by several hooks in his back. For the sake of the holidays, and my lack of desire to see this video get flagged, I will not show that part. But I will show you the Cenobites responsible for this, including Conehead and Renegucation here, who are trying to decide what note he's hitting as he screams.
Conehead Cenobite: Hmmnn. F-sharp, do you suppose?
Renegucation Cenobite: Indeed, high C will he reach with one more notch, I believe.
Linkara: Man, somewhere Fezzik and Inigo Montoya are hearing the screams this guy is making and are like, "Dude, let's just go the other way."
Linkara (v/o): The guy pleads to be let out, but of course the Cenobites explain that he opened the box and nobody escapes them. He counters that he could totally be a Cenobite.
Conehead Cenobite: Not good enough for Heaven nor bad enough to become a Cenobite!
Steve: But I've--cheated! I've stolen!
Linkara: (sarcastically) Whoa! Look out, Pinhead, we got a badass over here! I mean, I saw a Cenobite who was (a shot of a Cenobite appears in the corner which Linkara describes...) with no eyes and his mouth stretched open while his teeth endlessly chattered! But you?! (points to camera) You stole something!
Steve: I've committed adultery!
Linkara: You know, at least Atkins, of all Cenobites, killed people! And screw you, dude, you just made me defend Atkins over you!
Linkara (v/o): Conehead asks if he's ever dragged an innocent soul down to Hell, and that sparks an idea in the guy. He says that if they let him go, he can get them thousands of innocent souls.
Steve: You don't even know what you're doing! You've got this half-assed distribution system... All you need is some MAARRRHHKETING! I can get your boxes to children all over the country! Think of all those unspoiled souls!
Linkara: The truth behind loot boxes.
Linkara (v/o): The two think it's a neat idea, but it's also an idea that would create too much chaos and disorder, so he proposes somethinge else. How about focus groups? Smaller groups of kids testing out toys so the effects of a bunch of missing children would be minimized. They agree to give it a shot and send him back to Earth. As such, he's soon meeting with his boss to discuss his new idea for a product...
Steve: The LeMarchand Box-- sort of a puzzle cube. They've been around for centuries, but nobody's ever tried to market them before so we can get them dirt cheap.
Linkara: And then it turns out Disney owns them already.
Steve: Now, I know what you're going to say--"The Rubik's Cube fad ended years ago."
Linkara: (as Steve, holding up a Lament Configuration) I say let's combine them!
Steve: But this thing'll outsell Rubik's Cube because it's got an extra hook to it...
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Futurama)
Prof. Farnsworth: (holding up a small black sphere) It's a suppository!
(Cut back to the comic)
Steve: ...each one's got a surprise inside...
Linkara: Unfortunately, his idea was to have a Kinder Egg inside of it.
Linkara (v/o): His boss thinks there's merit in the idea. He at first wants to give him a month to make a complete product presentation and marketing strategy for it, but he insists on going in with it at the next focus group testing the following week. Interestingly, the last panel of the page is him grimly closing his eyes. It's not really explained why he's doing this, but I see two possible interpretations: that he's thinking about how if this doesn't work, he's royally screwed, but also, it could be a twinge of guilt over the fact that he's planning on sacrificing a bunch of children to save his own neck.
Linkara: Then again, either option probably means he's fired, so maybe it's that.
Linkara (v/o): And indeed, a week was all he needed, as the boss congratulates him on the work he's done already.
Boss: Audience demographics, marketing ideas, even a springboard for a Saturday morning cartoon!
Linkara: (holds up hand defensively) Before anyone wonders how the hell you make a cartoon out of the Lament Configuration, here's a quick reminder of the existence of (a shot of the poster for the following is superimposed...) Rubik the Amazing Cube.
Linkara (v/o): However, he's soon distraught when he spots the goofy-looking box we saw in the soup kitchen sitting on the table in the focus group room. His boss explains that the legal department says that they can't trademark the box if it's been around for so long, so instead, they made these cheap, plastic knockoffs of the puzzle box with a different design. As such, Steve has to run up to his office, grab the real puzzle box, and slam it down into the focus group area before the kids get in, much to his boss' utter confusion. And indeed, the kids find the box... and immediately toss it aside because puzzle boxes are corny. Instead, the kids decide to play with action figures based on the two Cenobites. And given the articulation level, I can see from even just the drawing, yeah, that's definitely better. Hell, I bet you can make them Crash Test Dummies, too. That'd be awesome. The two Cenobites reappear to him, his boss not seeing their arrival. Steve claims they cheated him.
Conehead Cenobite: Oh, please, Steven. Free enterprise, remember?
Linkara: Steve, you fool, you've taught demons the value of capitalism!
Linkara (v/o): In any event, he's dragged back into the Hell torture room, now with hooks on both sides of his body.
Conehead Cenobite: After all, you forgot the cardinal rule of business-- "Always watch out for the competition."
Linkara: Wait, does that mean that the two were employed by that same toy company? Now I just have this image in my head of a Cenobite having to wear a business suit and sit in a cubicle while someone complains about having a case of the Mondays.
Linkara (v/o): Back to the framing story, they need to deal with this knockoff puzzle box.
Atkins: Alright, Facey-- pull!
Linkara (v/o): And Face tosses it in the air for Atkins to shoot at with his massive gun.
Atkins: Bastard trouble-making plastic-assed made-in-some-Third-World-pisshole bogus box!
Linkara: (as Atkins) The box: you opened it, (fires machine gun into the air) AND I SHOT AT IIIIT!!
Linkara (v/o): I guess the counterfeit puzzle box wasn't responsible for this, since the three are still speculating on what caused the massacre. They find a small Golem statue.
Balberith: But no record of this Golem statue ever being approved for service in Leviathan's war on the flesh!
Linkara: That's odd, I can't find any records of my (holds up a Transformers action figure) Titans Returns Soundwave being approved for this operation either!
Linkara (v/o): Balberith says there's a hellish essence in the Golem statue... and Atkins licks some blood off a knife. Ew! Atkins, you don't know whose blood that is! Unless it's your own, in which case, why? Anyway, Balberith tells the tale of the Golem statue, called "Shedim", which, from what brief research I did, is basically the Hebrew word for a demon or a supernatural creature. The story takes place in Albany in 1938, where a father is coming home with his son from morning prayers at temple. The son has been trying to make a Golem out of pieces of trash.
Linkara: Man, Golden Age Neutro had a very different origin than the Silver Age version.
Linkara (v/o): The son, Jacob, asks his father if Golems were real, but his father just shrugs.
Father: Have I seen one? No. But then agian, I never needed one.
Linkara: (as Jacob's father) Mind you, I was one of the lucky kids who had a vampire for a friend.
Linkara (v/o): He reveals to his son that they have a secret in their family, a duty to God that they have to fulfill, and brings out a Lament Configuration. For 400 years, they've kept it secret. Before anyone raises their hand about the continuity flub with that, since the box was supposed to have been made only 200 years before, remember that this came out before Hellraiser: Bloodline, and even then, it's possible there were other boxes made before LeMarchands, since the design specifications were given to him. Anyway, the box, according to him, contains Sheddim, and that Jacob must never touch it. There's a story that a member of their family long ago opened it... and his screams were heard in the night for six years.
Linkara: (shrugs) On the plus side, his family learned to sleep despite all the noise. That's an admirable skill.
Linkara (v/o): Jacob wonders if they could use it to kill Nazis and the Bund in America.
Linkara: Well, actually, he asks if they can use it against the Bundt, making me think he's referring to some kind of evil Nazi baked goods, but I don't know. Maybe that spelling works for "Bund", too.
Linkara (v/o): However, as his father explains, it's not their power, and that in the past, all the enemies who have tried to kill Jews are just dust now, and thus he makes Jacob promise to guard it and not touch it, like he has several times during this conversation. Whoops. Anyway, later that day at a bar, some jackasses in a Bund are, well, talking crap about Jewish people and spot Jacob and his father coming by in a wagon. A kid busboy who works for the bar is handed a rock and, as the bar inhabitants yell at the two, is encouraged to throw it against his better judgment. He tosses the rock at Jacob's father, striking him right in the head and killing him. The cops are unable to do anything, since the patrons somehow all have alibis, and anyone else there refuses to step forward to be a witness. As such, Jacob decides, "Screw waiting for time and God to deal with the damned Nazis, time to go for the demons!" As such, he manages to partially activate the box, make it spark, and places it inside his Golem.
Jacob: Now, blood for blood. This time we won't wait for God--we'll do it without him.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Angel)
Angel: Did you ever hear that the devil built a robot?
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce: El Diablo Robotico.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Later, something comes out of the shadows and murders two of the people at the bar. The busboy also comes out, worried about how he accidentally killed Jacob's father. And we soon see that the murderer isn't the Golem, but Jacob himself, wearing a black glove and stabbing people with a knife. He does the same to the busboy and returns home to the Golem, revealing that while he may have started working the Configuration, it hasn't actually opened yet, to his frustration. However, the police soon arrive and ask him to put the knife down, but he's gone crazy and starts to attack before they shoot him, reavling to each other that a witness had stepped forward and they were preparing to arrest the guys at the bar before he murdered them. However, the story ends on a somewhat happier note, as one of the people from the bar picks up the Lament Configuration and it begins sparking again, indicating that the Nazi would be in for a hell of a visit.
Linkara: And that's why there's a small Golem statue in a soup kitchen. (nods, then slaps his heads in frustration)
Linkara (v/o): With the story over, Balberith disables the statue by pulling a small bone from its base, while Atkins... continues to be Atkins, locating a dreidel, or possibly just a top.
Atkins: I saw this crap in 'Nam and I did this crap in 'Nam!
Linkara: (as Atkins, waving around machine gun) I never could win that damn chocolate!
Linkara (v/o): What he's really talking about is massacres. And I just realized that the bullet belts on him are not actually resting over his shoulders, they're arching over them like some bizarre shoulder decorations.
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching The Undead)
Mike: (as Pendragon, dressed in as a knight) There, sure glad I don't look stupid in this.
(Cut back to the comic)
Atkins: If there's gonna be killing now, I want a reason for it! That's the deal I cut with that midnight eight-sided thing down below, and I'll be saved before I let whatever's at work here screw with that!
Linkara: (as Atkins) Demons to some, angels to others, (holds up machine gun again) KILLING MACHINE TO EVERYBODY!!
Linkara (v/o): He picks up a book that was being held by one of the dead bodies and starts reading from it.
Atkins: Listen to this Winter Wonderland sh(beep)...
Linkara: (singing as Atkins) Sleigh bells ring... Are you listening... (once again holds up machine gun) TO MY GUN!!
Linkara (v/o): And thus begins our final story, "Nursery Crime". It takes place in Oxford in the present, where a father is reading some nursery rhymes to his son*.
- NOTE: The father and son are named Edward and Charles, respectively, as the comic helpfully points out.
Charles: Oh, please, Daddy... won't you read it for me again?
Charles: Why not?
Edward: Because I didn't read it for you at all. I read it for myself.
Linkara: (as Edward) Reading about this little teapot who is short and stout (puts hand over heart) brings me immense comfort, child.
Linkara (v/o): The father is being a jackass, saying how he never wanted the kid and that he's bugging him.
Edward: I am 57 years old, Charles. I've been a professor of British folklore for 25.
Linkara: (as Edward) It's starting to get weird that in all that time, you haven't aged a single day.
Edward: I'm near retirement. It's time for me to start relaxing--take sabbaticals-- spend my time reading... traveling. But then you were born, weren't you? And now I'm a damned nursemaid half the time.
Linkara: (as Edward) And my nipples don't produce nearly enough milk anymore.
Linkara (v/o): The son, undisturbed by the verbal abuse, asks what the poem he was reading is supposed to mean. For context, the poem goes: "The crows fly down to London town / Their wings as black as day / The ladies sing in dressing gowns / To chase the moon away. Oh give me please a farthing sir / Oh give me please your pay / You cannot spend your money sir / The crows are here to stay".
Linkara: The damned crows steal your cash, in a clever way, you see. Do not act at all rash; they're great at three-card Monte.
Linkara (v/o): The mother comes to take the child away, berating her husband for the abuse. He's pissed at her because he thinks she tricked him, claiming to be unable to have children. He says he's struggling under the pressure of them only having one salary, but as she points out, they're managing just fine, and, well, he is a professor at a college and has a big library full of textbooks, so... yeah, the artwork is making it clear he's kind of full of it. Anyway, he thinks to himself about how ever since he found the book, he keeps coming back to that rhyme. The "Crow" poem is the only one he doesn't recognize; the others were all standard nursery rhymes and even explains the meaning behind many of them, like how "Little Jack Horner" was likely about a steward who stole a manor deed and baked it into a pie.
Edward: (thinking) God, we're an odd people.
Linkara: (as Edward) Next thing you know, we'll be inventing a story about a time-traveler and a police box.
Linkara (v/o): After a little bit of prodding from his son about finding the meaning of the poem, he sets about trying to uncover its origins, his colleagues saying that they'd never seen it before either. Suspecting that it might be a previously undiscovered work, he hopes it'll lead him to some financial success writing a paper on it and subsequently a folklore book that he can spring into a bigger career. Throughout, his son encourages him to keep working on it, despite him continually telling the kid to stay out of his way. At night, he dreams of a fantasy setting, full of a sun in the sky with a face on it, pigs in top hats, satyrs blowing flowers like horns, even fairies dancing, but a dark figure approaches that he can't identify. After oversleeping, he notices that the illustration in the book seems to have changed. The moon in it was facing the crows before, but now it's facing towards him. He finally consults with an historian in the college about it, in particular noting the figure in his dream, which of course the historian identifies as a plague doctor, and since plague doctors somewhat resemble birds, he thinks he has a working theory as to the nursery rhyme.
Linkara: (as Edward, stroking chin) Yes, of course! The crows are carrying the plague doctor to the moon to treat it for an infection and asking it to turn and cough, and it costs a farthing because of their lack of health insurance! (raises fist and looks up) Brilliant!
Linkara (v/o): No, of course, the whole thing is meant to be symbolic for the plague: the crows are plague doctors, the ladies aren't singing, they're wailing for the dead in mourning clothes, and the money thing is suggesting they give up their cash because it's useless in the afterlife. He doesn't understand what the moon represents...
Linkara: I'm just gonna throw it out there: probably Communist Russia.
Linkara (v/o): ...but he figures he'll deduce it later, instead focusing on writing up his paper.
Edward: (thinking) After all these years, all these disappointments, all those shackles put on me by my wife and that hideous child...
Linkara: (sarcastically) Yeah, I can see how they really undermined your efforts to... (becomes confused) decipher the historical context of a nursery rhyme. Truly, you are now free as a bird!
Linkara (v/o): Later, emerging from his study, holding a bottle of booze, presumably drunk after writing about how the crows are phallic symbols or something, everything around him seems misty and hazy, his wife frozen in a chair. He finds his son surrounded by candles and with him, two Cenobites.
Charles: I'm glad you solved the puzzle, Daddy. That makes me so happy.
Linkara: (as Charles) Now I can send that answer in to the cereal box company and get my decoder ring!
Linkara (v/o): The Cenobites are... Crow and Moonface.
Linkara: Holy crap! Mac Tonight was a Cenobite?!
Linkara (v/o): Edward of course is horrified, especially as his son continues.
Charles: Only they're not people anymore. They used to be people, Daddy... just like you...!
Linkara: (as Charles) And then, well, they made a bet with Pinhead over who can shove more inanimate objects in their faces and... well, you can see that didn't end well for them.
Linkara (v/o): And thus, the story ends with Edward having transformed into a sun like in his dream, the same images from his dream now showing off more mutations and grotesqueries.
Text: The man in the moon / Died too soon / All in a summer's day. / The man in the sun / He rose for his son / He's with us now to stay.
Linkara (v/o): And that poem was written by Leviathan itself.
Linkara: The truth of Leviathan revealed: it's actually just a giant pen tip.
Linkara (v/o): Face, apparently caught up in all of this, starts destroying the book frantically, as if chaos was overwhelming him. Balberith hits him with a book to calm him down and he thanks her for that. He realizes that the three configurations they've been dealing with were actually tools of anarchy. The puzzle box was a last-minute addition to something that would have otherwise stolen souls, the Golem was out of step with the rules and couldn't bring about a Cenobite, and the storybook obsession consumed both the father and son, but the son was allowed to escape that fate for no reason, regardless of the order of things. And thus, with the three objects so close together, it created a field of chaos so large that it led to the soup kitchen slaughtering... somehow. Balberith says that this isn't how Leviathan wants the war on flesh to be won, but isn't sure how they can make things right. Atkins has the answer: a skull-shaped grenade.
Atkins: I got just what the trio a'crap configurations need right here! C-4 explosive...with modifications! Let's blow 'em all straight to hell!
Linkara: (as Atkins) We're explorers in the further regions of experience! (holds up skul) SO LET'S EXPERIENCE THIS GRENADE!! (shakes skull around)
Linkara (v/o): And so they plant the explosive amongst the debris of the objects and set it off... somehow resetting the soup kitchen back to the way it was before the massacre, minus the objects themselves. The soup kitchen is full of people, with the workers there handing out presents.
Linkara: So like all great Christmas stories, the situation is resolved with explosives! (gives a thumbs-up while grinning)
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with the workers throwing some wrapping paper and trash into the fireplace to dispose of it, including a little Christmas card featuring the three Cenobites. (reads text on card) "Bloody Piece On Earth – Strong Will To Men".
Linkara: This is why we don't let Atkins write the Christmas cards. (closes comic and holds it up) This comic is... a mixed bag, best judged with each story dealt with differently.
Linkara (v/o): The framing story sucks. Aside from the fact that there's no reason why these three Cenobites in particular need to investigate this random slaughter, Atkins continues to prove to be the worst idea in the comics and possibly the franchise as a whole. Who thought some random, gravely, over-the-top, EXTREEEEME soldier guy would be a good addition to the mythos? The concept of configurations designed to promote chaos and anarchy as opposed to order is interesting, but it's a flimsy pretense to get to the stories. After all, why would some random plastic Lament Configuration knockoff cause this when even in the story, it couldn't actually do anything? Where did the Golem statue come from, considering it wasn't in the Shedim story? And they already physically destroyed each of the objects, so why would blowing them up make everything reset? The artwork for the story is fine, but only just fine, especially when compared to the detailed painted artwork in "Shedim" and "Nursery Crime". Speaking of, let's move into the individual stories. "Child's Play" also has pretty basic artwork, but it's serviceable, especially as a story that's a bit more of a comedy. And despite that, the gruesome parts are still effectively gruesome. As a dark comedy, it works pretty well: a jackass thinking he can outmaneuver the Cenobites, who of course get the better of him by the end. It's fun. "Shedim", however, is just a bit depressing. I like the idea of someone failing to summon the Cenobites, with the Lament Configuration acting as more of a red herring, but it's just a big tragedy: good people murdered, no moral redemption for the busboy who was questioning stuff, and poor Jacob going mad with grief until his own death. The artwork is pretty, and there's a gem of a good story in there, but I feel it needed another draft. "Nursery Crime", though, is really good. The artwork is nicely realistic, with great atmospheric haze when appropriate, and full of cool imagery. The story itself showed off how the anthology utilized puzzle mechanisms outside of just the Lament Configuration to craft original tales. It's beautifully dark and enjoyable.
Linkara: Here's the problme with them, though: for a book called "Dark Holiday Special", only the framing story has anything to do with the holidays!
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, the connection to the holidays is tenuous at best, with "Child's Play" at least having to do with toys, but "Shedim" and "Nursery Crime" have nothing at all to do with the season! Hell, you'd think maybe "Shedim" would be Hanukkah-related, but nope! It's like they wanted to feature a story outside of Chirstmas to justify it being a holiday book, maybe thinking about Hanukkah, but then just got bored and made an unrelated story concerning Jewish people. But hey, the one thing I'll grant it is that the book ends happily, with people in a soup kitchen celebrating the season, so it's at least got that going for it over, say, "Punisher: Silent Night".
Linkara: Next time, the holiday season shenanigans continue as we go back to the Golden Age for a Wonder Woman holiday story. So... yeah, like "Hellraiser", it'll probably still involve BDSM theme somehow. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
What's funny is I CAN see how you make a cartoon out of the Rubik's Cube. Make the cube some kind of magical device that has different effects depending on how you solve it.
Speaking of, the Lament Configuration Rubik's Cube belongs to a friend of mine. I've seen them on Amazon, but otherwise don't ask me where to get one.
(Stinger: The panel showing Atkins shooting the knockoff puzzle box is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): (as Atkins) Rip and tear! Rip and tear open boxes! You are HUGE! That means you're a HUGE present!