Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #1 Review
By: Rob Neil Gruszecki
Driving down a cold winter road in his Rolls-Royce Wraith, Charlie Talent Manx speaks of a magical land where every morning you can have the joy of waking up to the arctic eye, the great sleighcoaster and the ice maze. In the back seat, a frightened child pulls her knees up to her chest and quakes with fear after being abducted and driven across a highway with this maniac. Charlie regales his guest with his tale of abuse, depravity, cruelty and eventual relief in Christmasland where every morning promises joy and wonder.
A prequel mini-series to the acclaimed novel NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland is the origin story of Charlie Talent Manx, the twisted owner of a theme park filled with sick, altered children that he has taken away over the years in his Rolls-Royce Wraith and turned into freak monsters. In the first of this seven part series we see the only son of a Cripple Creek housemaid who is left to sleep in a mortuary coffin eventually snap after a traumatic event that explodes into a series of brutal murders and eventual darkness for years to come. Picking up again many years later, Charlie starts his own family and buys a stake in a proposed theme park promising Christmas every day for your loved ones. The first issue is a significantly dense and substantial read that provides an in depth, invigorating and mesmerizing story of a deeply disturbed and tortured soul. The content within this 26 page comic is staggering and practically a novella within itself, charting the nauseating trajectory of a sadistic and mystical character that’s captivating narrative completely absorbs and hypnotizes the reader. Punctuated with scenes of debilitating, suggested violence and bizarre images, Wraith is an incredible first issue that provides a lengthy and fulfilling read.
Having never read NOS4A2 is not a crutch at all for this mini-series as its nature is perfectly geared for consumption if you are brand new to the character and world. If anything, Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland made me want to immediately go out and pick up a copy of NOS4A2 as the level of adept storytelling throughout the issue was impressive, exciting and scripted masterfully.
Joe Hill, the writer and creator of the acclaimed comic series Locke & Key, is clearly a skilled and confident writer with a very scary imagination. Charlie Manx’s dialogue throughout the first issue is the main thread tying the book together and his voice is an eerie drone that fills you with unease and dread each panel. One thing should be noted is the sheer amount of narrative that runs through this first issue. Loaded with material and backstory, several boxes are laid out in each panel but never get in the way of images or offer redundant story that is already being told visually. This is pulled off incredibly well as this story is one that begs being told in a comic medium and what is written within the panels only adds and never detracts from what we see drawn. Shawn Lee & Robbie Robbins deserve accolades for their work in Wraith as their lettering of Joe Hill’s hefty wordcount is distributed expertly throughout the book and never cluttered or disruptive.
Charles Paul Wilson III’s simple, loveable storybook style is perfectly fit to tell this story of a demented child-abductor and his magical land of Christmas. His fairy tale tone is all the more haunting in instances of violence or psychological torment as his cartoon pencilwork adds layers of innocence that makes the already creepy feel all the more disturbing. Particularly in one sequence early on we are shown a vicious image of abuse that is made all the more nightmarish by its subtly and suggestion rather than full display of pure evil. Towards the end with a chapter taking place in the back of Manx’s Wraith, Wilson’s art gets to sink to depths of anguish and gore that are shocking and truly striking.
Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland is an amazing looking book that will instantly make you want to go out and pick up NOS4A2 and read more about this creation from the mind of Joe Hill and leave you asking “where can I get my ticket?”
Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician, podcaster and Wednesday Warrior
Dear Ghost Factory. What Should I Read? Comic Reviews & Weekly Comics Round-Up Podcast at www.Geekstampede.com