The Crystal Precipice: Presumably at some unspecified point in the future, four humans find themselves stranded on an alien planet, running low on supplies and always just out of walking distance of what appears to be a crystal city. One of them is exiled from the group and taken under the wing of the planet's sole other occupant--a Cenobite named Face (last seen in issue #1).
The artwork is crisp and clear, standard comic book fare with a slightly muted tone. This is the first time a character (Face) has reappeared after their introduction, lending a sense of interior continuity to the proceedings. Still, were it not for the appearance of Face, one would have difficulty even recognizing this is a Hellraiser story. As this takes place in space, I would assume that it must occur sometimes after events of Hellraiser 4.
The Blood of a Poet: In 1925, a young American poet visits Paris, looking for his muse, his voice, and success. The owner of an occult bookstore clues him to a free art commune, where he promptly moves in. The residents are strange and vile, and so are the works they create, because their work is fueled by a link to the hellish creatures known as the Cenobites.
This is a first-rate story that makes me think the series is finally hitting its stride. The artwork is suitably grotesque when needed, making even the banal seem monstrous. It is dark, philosophic, and artistic, reminiscent in many ways of the Sandman series...which is exactly what I wanted from this title. Fantastic.
Songs of Metal and Flesh: Although this sounds like the title of a Lou Reed album from the 1980s, it is actually another fantastically done tale of horror and art. The artist this time is a blind pianist, whose skill earns him the envy and ire of a less-talented contemporary. When a boobytrapped instrument ruins his future as a musician, he delves deeper into the darkness that has always been his existence and comes up with some Cenobites. This excellent story shows that there is more than one puzzle that can open up hell, and they don't always come in the form of a box.
This isn't just what I want out of this series. This is what I want out of the horror genre as a whole: Beauty, grace and intelligence.