Infernal Parade is the second volume compiling stories created by Clive Barker to accompany figures created in conjunction with Todd McFarlane. The first, Tortured Souls, benefited because it began life as a novella that was broken up to go along with the packaging of the various figures. Infernal Parade is a series of character sketches meant to lend a little backstory to the figures, making it feel incomplete when pulled together in one volume.
The collection starts strong with “Tom Requiem,” the story of a man whose carefully constructed facade as a powerful fighter and premier lover is torn about in a court of law after he strangles a fellow pick-pocket to death. The night before his death sentence is to be carried out, Requiem is approached by a mysterious figure who promises he will survive his hanging so that he can fulfill an important task—the creation of an “Infernal Parade” that will be used to once again strike fear in the hearts of arrogant mankind.
The rest of the stories introduce the various entrants Requiem recruits to fill out this Parade, including a lonely Golem, a mad scientist and his homemade freakshow, and the very woman Requiem strangled. These are all slight but well-written, filled with Barker’s trademark imagery and macabre elegance.
The problem is, there’s no payoff. There’s no Parade. We don’t see any interaction among the characters; Requiem himself barely peeks in on most of the subsequent stories, and he’s supposed to be the one pulling the strings. It’s not a question of talent; it’s a question of packaging. As individual character sketches introducing new creatures, the stories are miles above the copy generated by most toy companies. As a new book from Clive Barker, it just feels incomplete.
I know Subterranean Press will do its typical fantastic job with the finished product, and I know die-hard fans of Clive Barker will enjoy the chance to read more of his prose. But Infernal Parade is definitely one for Barker completists only.