A truly gripping sense of dread, “Wraith: Welcome To Christmasland” #1 delivers an unforgettable character who basks in his dark side. Readers should take a chance and feast their eyes on this prequel to Joe Hill’s vampire epic novel, “NOS4A2.” The first installment lets readers see what lurks inside the mind of a terrifying madman.
WRITTEN BY: Joe Hill
ART BY: Charles Paul Wilson III
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
RELEASE: November 13th, 2013
Trapped in the backseat of a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, a little girl is unable to free herself from the claw-like fingers of her kidnapper, Charlie Manx. Though she is crying in the back, Charlie tries to soothe her frightened soul, promising the riches and rewards of Christmasland. If she promises not to cry, Charlie will tell her how he ended up himself in Christmasland. What the little girl doesn’t know is that Charlie is a unique kind of vampire. Charlie isn’t interested in sucking the blood out of her neck. He wants to feed off her innocence, turning her into something different and evil.
What I really loved about Joe Hill’s writing is how he keeps readers inside the untrustworthy mind of the antagonist, Charlie Manx. As an unreliable narrator, Charlie twists and changes his own story, even while narrating the events. Interestingly, Charlie does not once think he is the bad guy, even though he is kidnapping innocent children. Charlie thinks he is doing something wonderful for the children as he whisks them away to Christmasland, taking them far away from their horrible parents and terrible lifestyle. Charlie though is still stuck in the past, reeling from the pain of his childhood.
We are watching how Charlie, an ordinary man with nothing special about him, slowly becoming a monster. Through the good and bad times, Hill lets readers see Charlie struggling to hold onto his humanity. After being tested by his family, the economy, and society, Charlie has no other choice but to succumb to his primal urges. He After falling on hard times, Charlie doesn’t want the same thing to happen to the children.
In the opening pages, artist Charles Paul Wilson III heightens the fear of the kidnapped child through the cold and western backdrop. Through wide shots of open roads and the desert landscape, readers get a sense the cavalry won’t be coming in for the little girl. Though Charlie doesn’t do anything physically to hurt the child, Wilson illustrates the tension with the little girl’s facial expressions. We then see her hitting the window with her hand, crying out for help. Wilson adds to the suspense as Charlie swerves all of a sudden and runs over a rabbit crossing the road.
Wilson adds a lot of detail to the character design of Charlie Manx, especially his wardrobe. Aided by Jay Fotos’ colors, Charlie’s sagging white skin tone resembles a combination of Count Orlock from “Nosferatu” and Barlow from “Salem’s Lot.” Highlighting the yellow teeth when he smiles maniacally, it almost looks like Charlie is biting his bottom lip. Fotos adds a glow effect to the headlights of the Wraith as the car drives across the empty highways.
Terrifying at its core, horror fans should definitely pick up, “Wraith: Welcome To Christmasland” #1. What’s great about this comic book adaptation is that it makes you want to get the novel as well. If you have read the book, you’re getting an untold chapter of an epic story.
Reviewed by – Jorge Solis