Review: Wraith #1

When I first read this issue, I had no idea of what it was about or what to expect. I simply came in completely green with no expectations whatsoever.  Since then, I have discovered all kinds of interesting things: 1) Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland is a graphic novel written by Joe Hill (whose father is rather well known in the horror fiction…Hell, the writing world period). 2) Joe Hill has received high praise for his work on the graphic story Locke and Key, a haunted house tale of family secrets and darkness. 3) Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland is a back story regarding the origin of one Mr. Charles Talent Manx, a villain from  Joe Hill’s bestselling novel NOS4R2 (Nosferatu, get it?). 4) Charles Talent Manx is a vampire, but a vampire in a different way, substituting the souls of children for blood. 5) Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland is creepy…No I mean CREEPY… real CREEPY… feeling something cold on your shoulder, skin crawling, impending doom, sinister evil kind of CREEPY. 6) It may be CREEPY, but it’s CREEPY COOL.

This story is perfectly timed for release here right after Halloween and right before the Christmas season as these are the two emotions that resonate throughout this issue; fear and joy. The story, masterfully written by Hill and incredibly drawn by Charles Paul Wilson III, plays around with perfectly happy childish things (love of Christmas, sleds, snowmen, etc.), and it covers them with a cold and heinous reality (abuse, rape, misery). It then takes it to the next level, another, CREEPY and deformed dream/nightmare level that words are very hard to describe the feelings that you will have when you read it and see it. I know that I will never look at snowmen in the same way again (Thank you, C.P Wilson III).

Wraith-01-pr_Page_1Hill and Wilson III do for creepy guys in old luxury sedans (in this case, a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith) what Hill’s well known writing father did for clowns in his novel, IT. Manx is horrific and scary with his demonic features and sharp poetic tongue, yet his pull to children and his offering of an “out” of their brutal harsh realities to a place where it is Christmas every day is undeniable. You want to go, even though everything around you says no. It is the “stranger with candy” notion. You know it’s wrong, but he has got candy.

The additional item that I found alluring/unnerving is when Manx tells of his own tale. It shows him to be entirely human as one who lived in an existence that can only be described as hellish with just a small bit of happiness as he would fall back on those lovely dreams that children have to keep them going and away from the bitter reality that was life. It is written in a way that you wonder if it is “that” wrong to want to go to a place of dreamlike joy than to suffer through a place of nightmarish sorrow. If it wasn’t for the horrific nature of Manx himself in look and tone, I don’t think anyone would refuse that offer (Which is creepy unto itself).

My final impression of this story is that it should be read alone, late at night with the lights dim. The artwork has a surreal demonic quality that is truly horrifying, yet appealing at the same time. The writing is beautiful, yet terrifying. It’s like you have entered into conversation with the boogeyman, but you find seduction in his speech. You know you shouldn’t but you believe him regardless of what you see around you. Then, you begin to see all those wonderful things he speaks of, and it’s within your grasp (CREEPY). I suggest that you buy this issue and the future ones and if you want more (which you will), go out and buy NOS4R2 to read. A new talent has emerged in the horror fiction world and he shares the genes of the horror fiction master.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Joe Hill Artist: Charles Paul Wilson III Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/13/13